Workshops on Electoral Laws and the Moroccan Country Report

ARI member institute, the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches en Sciences Sociales (CERSS) based in Rabat, Morocco held two workshops in the city of Tetouan on July 13 to 16, 2006 with massive participation of scholars, students, representatives of a broad range civil society organizations, (advocacy groups, human rights and women’s rights organizations), grassroots and social movements, political parties and the media from across the country. The workshops were part of the 5th session of the open university of the CERSS, held twice every year by the Centre.

The first workshop launched the ARI Thematic Study on Electoral Laws and their Role in Transition Processes in the Arab World. Participants focused on defining the function of elections and agreed that in Morocco as in most Arab countries, elections served to reproduce the ruling elites, re-legitimize regimes and prevent violent protests but rarely affected the core functioning of the political systems and failed so far to introduce checks and balances on the power of the executive branch. Discussions revolved around campaign financing, monitoring commissions and the struggle of civil society organizations to ensure independent monitoring of elections, the various reforms of election laws that have occurred in many countries and the lack of institutionalization of some progressive initiatives, leaving any progress in reform fragile and the process liable to setbacks.

The second workshop discussed the intermediary draft of the ARI Country Report on Reform in Morocco and provided an opportunity for a broad discussion and comprehensive assessment of the reform process in both content and mechanisms. The guest speaker of the workshop was former president of Portugal Mario Suarez who described the democratization processes in Spain and Portugal. Moroccans are particularly attentive to the experience of monarchical Spain. Issues covered by the report include the organization of the political sphere with the role of political parties, the legal framework, constitutional changes, administrative reforms and the role of civil society institutions; women’s status and role in the reform process and in social modernization; the debate on religious reform and the position of the various social and political movements on this issue, as well as the link between economic reforms and social and political issues. The report emphasizes the consensual character of the reform process instigated by the monarchy and respected by the large majority of social and political actors in Morocco. Morocco is arguably the Arab country where civil society is most organized, vocal and strategic in its mobilization towards influencing governance and imposing itself as a true player in the transition process, alongside political parties.