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“The Economist” est un magazine conservateur du Royaume-Uni. Cet article avait été publié suite aux résultats des élections au Maroc.

La conclusion de l'article a été:
"The regime cannot deny the fact that the public’s political disaffection can only be allayed by stripping the monarchy of some of its power; the low turnout was actually a collective vote for political reform."

Roots of apathy
There are a number of root causes of Morocco’s endemic political apathy. In many respects, the collective lack of interest is a throwback to the past, when elections under the previous king, Hassan II, were seen as highly rigged affairs. The architect was Driss Basri, for long the country’s eminence grise, who reportedly falsified election results by manipulating electoral lists and ballots. Under Mr Basri, elections in Morocco lost all credibility, and his death in Paris just a month before this year’s poll, served as a reminder of the legacy he bequeathed. This legacy lives on in the widespread public mistrust of politicians, with most voters believing them to be corrupt and merely out for personal gain. The perceived powerlessness of the parliament compounds this entrenched political lassitude and suspicion. There is a well-founded conviction amongst the populace that parliament is an ineffectual institution owing to constitutional constraints, which ensure that real power resides with the king. He is the executive head of state, military commander-in-chief and as “commander of the faithful”, the country’s spiritual and religious leader. He appoints the prime minister and four key cabinet ministers, with no obligation to fill the posts from political parties. Indeed, the current prime minister, Driss Jettou, has no party affiliations.

Spoilt for choice
The electoral system also serves to undermine parliament’s authority. Elections are held under a complicated system of proportional representation, which allows for a highly fragmented political landscape; some 33 parties contested this year’s polls. The electoral system ultimately ensures that parliamentary seats are spread thinly, denying any one party a large power base. Consequently, governments tend to be strongly diluted coalitions, which often struggle to reach consensus. This serves the monarchical regime, known as the makhzen, well, since the government is never sufficiently powerful to challenge its authority. Even the run-up to the elections offered all the signs that turn out would be low. There was little evidence of public interest during the election campaign and coverage in the media was subdued, despite the presentation by the leading parties of their most detailed manifestos to date. The government launched an awareness campaign to try to foster voter enthusiasm, and in the end managed to entice 15.5m voters—around 79% of the total—to register.

PJD blues

Security concerns may well have also dampened any political fervour. The government was determined to ensure that the polls passed peacefully, particularly following a failed suicide bombing attempt in Meknes in mid-August. Security in the run up to the poll was tight and the day before the election a car bomb killed numerous people in neighbouring Algeria, serving as a reminder of the ever-present militant threat. Deepening political apathy meant that many Moroccans weren’t even interested in the result, which they believe to be of little consequence. The makhzen, however, will be quietly pleased about the relatively poor performance of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which only managed to improve on its existing mandate by 5 seats, increasing its representation from 42 seats to 47. Prior to the poll, there was widespread expectation that the PJD could double the number of seats they held, thereby possibly forcing the king to appoint a PJD prime minister. This would have proved awkward for the makhzen, who have been spared their blushes, with the Istiqlal party—Morocco’s oldest—winning the most number of seats, 52, in the country’s 295 seat assembly. Istiqlal has said it will form a coalition government with the Union of Socialist Popular Forces (USFP), which previously held the most seats, but which lost considerable ground this time round, winning only 36 seats. The PJD’s poor showing highlighted its political immaturity; with most voters opting for personalities rather than parties, the PJD had relied too heavily on its anti-corruption, pro-political reform agenda, rather than well-known, locally selected candidates. While the electorate supported the PJD’s stance, it lacked the belief in its ability to force change. Furthermore, both the Istiqlal and USFP parties are slick electoral machines which understand their constituents well. The PJD claimed, however, that they were disadvantaged by corrupt practices, such as vote buying. “Money from our rivals was changing hands all over the place,” claimed PJD deputy leader, Lahcen Daoudi. Such practice has been known in the past and indeed, just prior to the poll, the ministry of justice announced that 74 cases of vote-buying had been uncovered.

However, the European Union praised the running of the election, stating that “the democratic conditions in which the elections took place show Morocco's commitment to the process of political, economic, and social reforms, undertaken at the highest state levels in recent years”. In reality, the government may well be committed, but as the elections show quite clearly, the voters aren’t. What the Interior Minister, Chakib Benmoussa, tried to pass off as the country's growing “political maturity”, in effect demonstrates its growing political cynicism. The regime cannot deny the fact that the public’s political disaffection can only be allayed by stripping the monarchy of some of its power; the low turnout was actually a collective vote for political reform.
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