North Africa

Latest News



Morocco goes to the polls in test of king's reform promises

Turnout could be low as many say they don't believe elections will lead to real reform in monarchy dominated nation
Moroccans stand inside voting booths before casting their votes at a voting station in Rabat
Moroccans inside voting booths at a polling station in Rabat. Photograph: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters
Moroccans voted on Friday in elections inspired by the Arab spring that are facing a boycott by campaigners who say the monarchy is not committed to change.
A moderate Islamist party and a royalist coalition led by the finance minister are competing for power, but a test for authorities will be how many cast their votes.
The king amended the constitution over the summer giving the prime minister new powers, including the ability to dissolve parliament and make certain appointments, in response to pro-democracy protests. But the ultimate authority remains with the king.
The election result will be closely watched by Morocco's US and other western allies as the north African kingdom navigates its own Arab spring.
In the affluent Agdal neighbourhood of Rabat, a steady stream of professionals lined up early in the morning at a polling station to vote before work.
"I've always voted, but this time it is more important," said Dr Muhammad Ennabli. "Before it was the king who chose, now it is the people who choose."
Many people, however, scorned a process they say has been going on for decades without any tangible effect on their lives.
"I won't vote, the promises are never kept. With or without the new constitution, it is the same," said Abdallah Cherachaoui, an unemployed 45-year-old in the poorer district of Akkari. "They are laughing at us."
In the working class city of Sale, across the river from the capital Rabat, there was a steady trickle of voters to the school acting as a polling station, but some stayed outside.
"I voted in 2007 because the candidate was a member of my family, but he also disappointed me and as soon as the elections were over, I never saw him again, so I'm not making that mistake again," said Brahim Errami, 25, from his seat in a nearby cafe. "I pity the people going in and out of that school."
Morocco's reputation as a stable kingdom has taken a hit with this year's protests over government corruption and heavy-handed security forces. And its once-steady economy is creaking from the amount of money the government has pumped into raising salaries and subsidies to keep people calm amid the Arab world turmoil.
The election campaign has been strangely subdued, unlike the lively politicking in nearby Tunisia when it held the first elections prompted by the Arab uprisings last month.
Don't Miss