Morocco World News
Morocco World News
Ifrane, Morocco, June 29, 2012
The 2002 Parliamentary Elections
The Moroccan Kingdom held parliamentary elections on September 27, 2002. These elections were of particular importance because they took place at a critical juncture for both the domestic and international political arenas. Internationally, the elections were conducted in a tumultuous political context after the terrorist attacks of New York, London and Madrid, the escalation of violence in the Middle East, and the mounting probability of a US- led assault on Iraq and an international war launched against terrorism.
At the domestic level, these elections marked the end of the alternance experience, the emergence of the Islamist as new center of power, the terrorist attacks of 16th May in Casablanca. This was also the first electoral contest held under the sovereignty of Hassan II’s successor the King Mohammed VI, who portrayed himself as a modern and reformist king. Also, Mohammed VI’s emphasis on the electoral fairness appeared “to become a new basis for the new monarchy’s legitimacy.” Most significantly, the official participation of the Islamist party–the PJD–in these elections was an important event for the Kingdom, where Islamists were long denied political representation.
Since the 1997 parliamentary elections, the political trail of the moderate Islamists proved to be promising and constructive. They succeeded under the control and guideline of the makhzen in imposing themselves as a significant opposition force in the midst of a complex political backdrop. Many political analysts forecasted a massive win of the emerging Islamist party in the 2002 elections, especially after the discrediting of the powerful USFP in the aftermath of the alternance experience.
Under that sudden and unexpected rising of the Islamist domination in the political scene of the kingdom, the new king–in a reaction to contain the Islamist party and reinforce his political hegemony and mirroring his father’s actions when he called for constitutional amendment of 1996–called for the amendment of the electoral system that was drafted and approved in the spring of 2002. The new election law substituted the existing “single-member electoral districts” with “multi-member districts.” This implicated that the candidates would be selected from parties’ lists. In this respect, the electorate voted for a list and not a particular candidate. The allocation of seats depended on the number of votes individual parties could receive, applying the ranking order in the electoral lists.
James Sater explains the principle of seats distribution by stating: “In each constituency, an electoral quotient was calculated, which became the basis for the distribution of one seat. If the strongest party obtained one seat, it was given a second (or third) seat only if ‘the rest’ of its votes were still superior to the number of votes that the next list was able to obtain.”
To enhance women’s parliamentary representation, the amended law stipulated that the design of a national list that included 30 female candidates, which permits a 10 percent quota system.Officially speaking, the reform of the electoral system targeted the reinforcement of the inner organization and structure of political parties and their role to shape well-developed political agendas. By eliminating the direct vote on individual candidates, parties could no longer rely on personnel connections and were, hence, exposed to a competitive political environment, where they were required to perform exceptionally well. Furthermore, the new law aimed at limiting electoral frauds such as buying votes– an unlawful practice that had been prevalent in the former parliamentary elections. It was intended that by forming larger electoral districts and reducing their number, it would be financially more difficult to corrupt a sufficient number of electors across the extended electoral districts
The new law was, in practice, a strategic move to favor the fragmentation of the political scene and prevent the emergence of a dominant winner, either the anticipated PJD or another party. Expectedly, the system of the party-list proportional representation on districts basis succeeded in averting that no individual party could gain an outright majority of seats on its own in the parliamentary body. In this respect, the king could safeguard his authority over parliament by preventing the emergence of a significant political challenger that may compellingly endorse an extension of Parliament’s competences or a better use of its current powers.
To further undermine the authority of political parties, Mohammed VI appointed the nonpartisan technocrat, Driss Jettu, as prime minister on October 9, 2002. Sater emphasizes this idea by stating: “The unexpected choice of Driss Jettou marked the final blow to the ambitions of Morocco’s political parties.” The royal decision disregarded the election results that slightly favored the Istiqlal with 48 seats, which represented 15.4 percent of the seats. The USFP came next with 50 seats and the PJD emerged in the third place with 42 seats.
Because of ideological differences and bad-tempered relations, coalitions between these parties seemed difficult. Accordingly, the King decided to overlook the popular vote, making use of his constitutional prerogatives. In this respect, the declared fairness of elections became an end in itself since the king remained the supreme authority in Moroccan politics no matter what the election outcomes were to be. In such a retrained political framework, the political participation of the emerging Islamist party, the PJD, in a weakened parliamentary body and in a political context fully orchestrastrated by the King remained a safe option to the monarchy that could promote its image internationally while still hampering the emergence of a challenging political force as the case of the Islamists of the RUM/PJD
The PJD Strategy of Self-Restraint.
The PJD overtly praised the amended electoral system and described it as advantageous for containing electoral frauds and boosting parties to develop constructive political programs, instead of relying on member’s connections. Significantly, the Islamist party had even alleged a note to the authorities to recommend an electoral revision, one year before the 2002 parliamentary elections. The PJD support for the new law was also due to pragmatic and strategic considerations. The party recognized that the amended system, with its emphasis on political parties, would prove advantageous to the well-structured parties, such as the PJD. Most importantly, the Islamist party discerned itself by projecting a clearly-defined Islamic identity, while the majority of political parties missed the chance to create an ideological platform.In this respect Benkirane said:
La différence qui existe entre nous et les autres, est que nous ne limitons pas l’islam a des seules obligations culturelles,…C’est un system de vie politique …Ce qui nous différencie des autre partis, c’est le grand intérêt que nous accordons a l’islam et l’effectivité de la religion dans notre programme. 
Additionally, the party-list proportional representation matched with the PJD self-restraint policy according to a contract signed previously with the system.
“The outlines of the contract between the government and the pragmatic Islamist movements represented by the PJD are clear: these movements support the throne in return for a share in the power and some influence over policy. Raissouni’s resignation can be easily understood in this light he exceeded the limits of this understanding and was forced to resign”.
The popular PJD and the authorities were highly concerned about a landslide victory that may be perceived as threatening both domestically and internationally. The outbreak of the Algerian Civil Qar in 1991 was a result of the massive win of the Islamic Front Action (FIS) and of the system canceling elections which roused general fear over a crushing Islamist majority. To prevent such a dramatic plot, the PJD with the recommendation of the authorities preferred to restrain its representation by running candidates in only local electoral districts out of the 91 districts, where it was allowed to compete.
Nonetheless, despite all these dictated preventive measures, the Islamist party succeeded in spectacularly increasing its parliamentary representation from 12 parliamentary seats to 42, becoming “The third strongest political force in the country.”In statistical terms, the PJD succeeded in multiplying four-fold the number of seats it had gained in the 1997 elections. The party, hence, drew almost ten percent of the popular vote. The leadership of the PJD denied the state’s interference in the party decision to restraint its participation, asserting that this resolution was made within the party and was free from external pressure. This idea was explicitly stated by the leader of the PJD parliamentary group, Mustapha Ramid, who declared: “It is perhaps true that this (self-restraint policy) was also the wish of the authorities,”
The party’s credibility and high sense of organization paved the way to its significant victory. The figures may have been more significant for the PJD if the influential Islamist movement, Justice and Charity, have not called for a general boycott to protest the governmental manipulation of elections. More importantly, the 2002 amended law had further fragmented the Moroccan ‘political map,’ preventing the PJD or any other party to win a majority of seats. Aware of the cost of taking part of a coalition government, the Islamist party preferred to enter the camp of opposition occupied by the UFPS for more than three decades. This choice was based on pragmatic considerations. The governmental participation of the PJD may have undermined its credibility and popularity in case of governmental failures as it will be predicted from leading the recent government.
Additionally, the party’s authority will be constrained to ‘a few ministerial portfolios.’ In the light of these considerations, the party judged safer to remain the main opposition force and a potential substitute authority for the upcoming 2007 elections.
To be continued …
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 James N. Sater, “Morocco after the Parliamentary Elections of 2002” Mediterranean Politics 8, no.1 (2003): 135
 Michael Willis, “Morocco’s Islamists and the Legislative Elections of 2002: the Strange Case of the Party That Did Not Want to Win” Mediterranean Politics 9, no. 1 (2004),P59.
 James N. Sater, “Morocco after the Parliamentary Elections of 2002” Mediterranean Politics 8, no.1 (2003), 135-36.
 Democracy Reporting International “Assessment of the Electoral Framework of Morocco,” DRI,(2007), www.democracy-reporting.org
 James N. Sater, “Morocco after the Parliamentary Elections of 2002” Mediterranean Politics 8, no.1 (2003),P139.
 Michael Willis, “Morocco’s Islamists and the Legislative Elections of 2002: the Strange Case of the Party That Did Not Want to Win” Mediterranean Politics 9, no. 1 (2004),P67-70.
 Ibid, 62-63
Benkirane Enterview with AL ‘sr in Chihab mobamed Himeur 2008 Le Paradoxe de l’Islamisation et de la Sécurisation dans le Maroc Contemporaine, Harmattan :Paris,p 157)
 Jack Kalpakian “Tag of War over Islam: Religious Faith ,Politics and the Moroccan Response “ published in Journal of Church and State
 Jack Kalpakian “Tag of War over Islam: Religious Faith ,Politics and the Moroccan Response “ published in Journal of Church and State, 2OO8, P 15
 Michael Willis, “Morocco’s Islamists and the Legislative Elections of 2002: the Strange Case of the Party That Did Not Want to Win” Mediterranean Politics 9, no. 1 (2004)63..
 James N. Sater, “Morocco after the Parliamentary Elections of 2002” Mediterranean Politics 8, no.1 (2003), P137.
 Michael Willis, “Morocco’s Islamists and the Legislative Elections of 2002: the Strange Case of the Party That Did Not Want to Win” Mediterranean Politics 9, no. 1 (2004)
 Florence Beaugé, “ Au Maroc, Les Islamistes du Parti de la Justcie et du Développement Croient en Leur Victoire,” Le Monde, 5 September, 2007, 1A. p.2