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Moroccans called to a triple ballot amidst the Covid pandemic, have risen to important challenges

The legislative elections held in Morocco on 8 September alongside the local and regional elections were successfully run, defying many challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

These elections coincided with marking a decade of fruitful co-operation between the Moroccan Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Moroccan Parliament having been the first non-European legislative body to obtain the status of “Partner for Democracy” with PACE in 2011.

The PACE delegation welcomes the professionalism of the responsible state authorities and the courtesy of the members of the polling stations, who helped organise the poll with integrity and transparently. Holding these complex elections as planned, amid the third wave of the pandemic, is a testament to Morocco’s commitment to maintaining openness and to pursuing higher standards of democracy and the rule of law. The efforts by the state to push for a broader, more inclusive and more representative participation, merit recognition.

The delegation welcomes the increased voter turnout of over 50 per cent, seven points up compared to the previous parliamentary elections. However, it notes that this figure only refers to registered voters and not to the overall number of Moroccan citizens having the right to vote. Despite the brevity of the official campaign, the main political players managed to motivate the electorate, which was one of the major issues at stake in this poll. Further efforts should nevertheless be made to restore trust in the political system.

Although the campaign was carried out mostly online through social media, which raised some concern over the accessibility of the campaign to all categories of the population, the delegation observed higher mobilisation of voters in rural areas. Some allegations were made of excessive campaign expenses on social media; the authorities are therefore encouraged to define a proper legal framework to improve the transparency of campaign financing. The creation of an independent Central Electoral Commission could be considered to further facilitate election administration.

The PACE observers hail the introduction of the new regional list, which paves the way to higher representation of women in the parliament. On the other hand, it notes that the amendments to the electoral legislation were adopted late, only a few months before the launch of the official campaign, which is not fully in line with the Council of Europe’s recommendations on electoral practices. Among remaining concerns are: the introduction of a new electoral quotient, which may trigger a prejudicial effect on the competitivity of the different political parties, and the need for a new redisctricting of local constituencies to better reflect changes in demographic distribution in the country.

The delegation notes, as it did in 2016, that the procedure for voting by proxy, aimed at Moroccan citizens living abroad, does not facilitate the exercise of their constitutional right to vote and it should be reconsidered. As one of the main contributors to Morocco’s foreign currency reserves and an important economic actor, the diaspora could further positively impact voter turnout – and possibly trigger a broader participation of voters in Morocco.

The PACE observers regret that in some places access to polling stations is difficult for persons with disabilities. It also regrets that the exercise of the right to vote remains denied to several categories of the Moroccan population, including the police, the military, people in hospitals or in pre-trial detention. It urges the Moroccan authorities to make further improvements to ensure the right to vote of all its citizens.

The delegation encourages the newly elected parliament to further intensify collaboration with PACE and the Venice Commission to improve the legal framework and electoral practices in the country, and to contribute to their implementation.

Contacts:

Ivi-Triin Odrats, ivi-triin.odrats@coe.int, +33 607 06 77 73

Hafsa Mekouar, hafsa.mekouar@coe.int, +212 (0)6 61 38 07 30