Friday, 25 November 2011

Election Fever?

Following the implemetation of the new constitution born of the Arab Spring there are elections today for the new lower house. These have been brought forward from next year to meet the demands for democratic reform. The constitution gives more power to the Prime Minister ,although the King retains control of most important decisions, and guarantees women social and civil rights in addition to their existing political rights. It also recognises the Berber language for the first time although it is unclear what this will amount to. Not I think as yet the equivalent of the Welsh Language Act. (See links below for details of the new constitution.)

Although there had been some discussion on news programmes prior to the holiday the campaign did not officially launch until November 12 after the Eid holiday. There was no sign of it here in Taroudant until November 18 (also a public holiday). Suddenly there were leaflets through the door .On going into town it was clear that there had been recent poster and leafleting activity. Posters had been put up for a number of parties and some leaflets were being scrutinised. We saw evidence of parties whose emblems were a pigeon, a book, a yacht and a prancing pony. There were also more general posters  exhorting the populace to vote.

The next day all sign of these had disappeared apart from some of the general "vote" posters (those on the inside of shop windows and the backs of caleches; presumably paid for sites) and one proper plastic hung banner for the yacht party. On Tuesday huge banners appeared on the town walls with the "Vote" message. When we went into Agadir on Wednesday they were raised at the major roundabouts and on the backs of buses.

Other leaflets for an ear of wheat and a scales party appeared. The ear of wheat and scales parties each included one woman in their four candiates but the other parties only had male candidates. To try and counteract this selection bias there are 60 seats (out of 395) reserved for women (elected by proportional representation from a list).

The February 20 movement which demonstrated for the reforms is calling on voters to boycott the election. I am not sure that is necessary. Everybody we have spoken to in our admittedly limited circle seems anything but enraptured by the prospect of a new government. They politely explain that the person on television is a politician setting out their programme;(the word manifesto is never used - perhaps it it is too like "manifestation" their word for a demonstration); and this is immediately and vehemently followed by "AND IT'S ALL LIES".
In general they seem to have achieved a level of cynicsm reached in Britain only after the duckhouse expenses revelations and  the demand MPs debate that they should be excluded from millionaire Chancellor  George "we're all in it together" Osbourne's depradations on other public sector pensions.

There are over 20 political parties in Morocco. They band together in 3 main groupings but it is the party that is voted for not its coalition group. Given recent experience of coalition politics in Britain I am not surprised that the view is that politicians are "all lies" as it would appear from the con/lib government that they need not do anything in their manifestos and excuse this by explaining that the coalition is a separate entity to the party.

Nevertheless the elections have some interest as a source of income. It is said that some politicians "who you never see between elections" may deliver concrete benefits to secure votes and those who have quite reasonable cars can earn 500 Dh plus a tank of petrol from various parties by ferrying people to the polls.

The contrast with British elections is that the posters are dominated by the government "Vote" campaign. Obviously I can't read the leaflets but they are quite short and I would be surprised if they contained much negative campaigning. There is certainly a complete absence of the  commercial billboards with party posters of the "Labour isn't working", "13 years of Tory misrule", "Demoneyes" variety.

It usually takes up to 3 days for the votes to be counted so it will be some time before we know the outcome.

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