Local Elections in Morocco: The Challenge of Abstention

The local elections scheduled for June 12th, 2009 face the same challenge as those of September 2007. Two years ago, the elections were marked by significant levels of abstention, as reflected in the voter turnout rate, which, at just 37%, was the lowest since Morocco achieved independence in 1956. This low level of participation reflects a crisis of confidence in the political and electoral process as well as in the political forces involved. Strategizing and alliance-making revolves around how to overcome this danger, which threatens to weaken the legitimacy of the entire political process. Thus the regime and political parties alike view abstention as a threat. These elections are the second to be held during the reign of King Mohammed VI, and the ninth communal elections since 1956. They constitute a test for the ten years of reform efforts (1999 – 2009), and will provide an opportunity for debating development at the local level and how local democracy has evolved, in the era of the new King. Another key feature of the election is the sudden emergence of the new “Authenticity and Modernity” party founded by Fouad Ali el Himma known for his links to the royal court. The emergence of this new player might well provide the incentive for other political forces to seek to stand in its face, possibly by uniting to confront it, thus giving the elections unexpected attractiveness for the voters.