Moroc­can elec­tion over­all fair, but turnout low

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Vot­ing in Morocco last week was largely free and fair, the coun­try’s elec­tion ob­server body said yes­ter­day, but it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing some cases of vote-buy­ing and ex­pressed con­cern about low turnout.

The mod­er­ate Is­lamist Party of Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment won Fri­day’s leg­isla­tive elec­tion, beat­ing out a party with close ties to the royal palace af­ter an un­usu­ally hos­tile cam­paign. The PJD, which has led a coali­tion gov­ern­ment since it first won elec­tions in 2011 on a wave of Arab Spring protests, is now work­ing on build­ing a new coali­tion with ri­val par­ties.

The In­te­rior Min­istry said the PJD won 125 of the 395 seats in the Cham­ber of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, while the Party of Authen­tic­ity and Moder­nity, founded by an ad­viser to the king, came sec­ond with 102 seats.

The Na­tional Coun­cil of Hu­man Rights, which over­sees elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing, re­leased a pre­lim­i­nary re­port Sun­day not­ing spo­radic ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. They in­cluded 37 cases of vote buy­ing by peo­ple dis­tribut­ing bags of wheat or up to 500 Dirhams ($51) in cash. Ab­der­razak El Hanouchi, chief of staff to the coun­cil’s pres­i­dent, would not di­vulge the names of the par­ties in­volved, say­ing that would be re­leased later in a full re­port. Such cases ap­peared rare. Coun­cil pres­i­dent Driss El Yazami told re­porters the elec­tions took place in a “serene and trans­par­ent cli­mate.”

How­ever, he ex­pressed con­cern about the 43 per­cent turnout rate. The re­port rec­om­mended a study into why most Moroc­cans don’t vote. Ex­perts see the re­sult as a gen­er­ally pos­i­tive sign for Morocco’s democ­racy and re­form move­ment, which was un­leashed in 2011. The move­ment is push­ing for less cen­tral­ized con­trol by the royal palace and more gen­uine political de­bate.

De­spite a new con­sti­tu­tion, many Moroc­cans still see elec­tions as fu­tile be­cause ma­jor pol­icy de­ci­sions rest with King Mo­hammed VI and the royal palace. A pop­u­lar Is­lamist move­ment, Adl Wal Ih­san (Jus­tice and Char­ity), was among those boy­cotting Fri­day’s vote.

The re­port also rec­om­mended in­creas­ing the num­ber of women elec­tion work­ers, make vot­ing sta­tions more ac­ces­si­ble to the dis­abled and al­low­ing Moroc­cans liv­ing abroad to take part. — AP

RA­BAT: The pres­i­dent of a polling sta­tion shows a bal­lot as of­fi­cials and political party’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives count the bal­lots in the polling sta­tion on Fri­day. — AP

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