Morocco World News
Morocco World News
Ifran, Morocco, July 5, 2012
The 2007 Parliamentary Election: Another Turning-Point
On September 7, 2007, the Moroccan voters were called to the polls to elect representatives to their 325-member lower house parliament. These elections were particularly significant because they were held under the second reign of the king Mohammed VI, who pledged to guarantee fair and transparent elections. The massive victory of the PJD in the previous parliamentary contest– in spite of its restraint representation–roused uncertainly over the upcoming political developments in the kingdom.
The situation in Morocco garnered domestic and international attention especially after various opinion polls which anticipated a landslide Islamist victory. The modest electoral performance of the PJD dispelled expectations that the Islamist party would emerge as the strongest political actor and would earn at least 70 parliamentary seats in the election.
The PJD yielded a slight increase in its tally; it succeeded only in counting four extra seats, rising from 42 in 2002 to 47 in 2007. The party came second after the Istiqlal which gained 52 seats, rising to inhabit almost 16% of the seats. The unpretentious parliamentary performance of the PJD may be related to complex dynamics.
The most striking factor may be the very low voter turnout, the lowest in Moroccan recent political history and the effect of the international war against terrorism as well as the makhzen restraints which forced the party not to make any recourse to Islam in their literatures. According to Rachid Moktadir, the PJD party used five Koranic verses and one saying of the Prophet Mohamed in its program for the parliamentary election of2002, yet in its electoral program of 2007 there was no implication of Islam in their program.
This change came as a result of pressures and attacks from different political organs and in particular from the current makhzen which wanted to monopolize the Islamist discourse alone. Those informal and formal politicians exploited that era of war against terrorism to start another war against the party and its ideologies to the extent that some of them linked terrorism with the PJD:
“Group of people accused us unjustly for the moral responsibility of the terrorist attacks of 16th Mai. Accordingly, we took our precautions and measurements so as this period passed safely. Also, they were some political actors, who asked for the dissolution of the party. On the light of this, we decided under the pressure of ministry of Interior to compete only for 40% of the general electoral lists”.
Yet, these verbal attacks remained only a tool to tame the PJD’s discourse and make it similar to the other political parties. The declaration below of Saad Eddin Othmani, the general secretary of the party, revealed two things. It revealed first, that there had been tough criticism to the Islamic discourse of the party and second, that the party accommodated his discourse with that criticism. On the other hand, it indicates the victory of the authorities -over the Islamists- to tame the party ideologically and discourse:
“…que la séparation entre le domaine de la politique et le domaine de la religion existe déjà dans la pensé de l’islam. C’est le prophète lui-même qui aopéré cette distinction“
Despite authorities’ attempts to boost political participation, the decreasing voter turnout persisted. This popular reluctance may be attributable to the limited prerogatives enacted to the parliamentary institution and its inability to effectively influence the decision-making process.More significantly, the electoral system proved prejudicial to the Islamist party. Whereas the Istiqlal succeeded to get hold of the largest seats’ portion in the House of Representatives after a good showing in the national and local lists, the PJD obtained a superior share of votes than its counterpart.
However, while considering the electoral local lists, the Islamist party gained 10.9% of the valid votes whereas the Istiqlal won only 10.7%. Nevertheless, the Istiqlal was granted 15.59% of the seats shared by the local districts; the PJD, one the other hand, was given a mere 13.56%. In the same vein, the PJD obtained 13.4% of the valid votes cast for the national lists, whereas the Istiqlal acquired 11.8%. Despite these different figures, both parties were allocated equally 20% of the seats shared out by the national lists; prejudicing the PJD once more. Mustafa al-Khalfi, the editor of the newspaper “At-Tajdid,” emphasized this idea by stating that in the 2007 election contest “The PJD still gained the largest number of votes, more than 520,000, though not seats.”
Additionally, competing in a highly fragmented party system enacted by the authorities under the pressure of rising Islamist activity makes it impossible for the PJD or any other party to achieve the 40% share of vote projected by the International Republican Institute (IRI) survey. The modest showing of the Islamist party altered the political path it planned to follow, which was to move away from opposition to the integration of the new government. The party shifted from a strategy of limited representation to full representation, by filing candidates in all electoral districts.
To pave the way for such a shift, the party proved political “pragmatism” and “flexibility” on many occasions toward the system as a sign of their cave in to the system. It accepted, for instance, to lower its profile in the aftermath of the 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca to avoid feeding tensions. The party limited its representation in the 2003 local councils. Additionally, the party appointed the moderate and well educated, Sa’ad Dine Othmani, as its secretary-general in 2004. In the same vein, the PJD leadership decided to support the implementation of the Mudawana, after expressing in public its criticism to that it described as “anti-Islamic” law.However, the “unpretentious” election results of the PJD compelled it to remain an opposition party in parliament.
The question that imposes itself –after that long process of manipulation for the sake of defusing the Islamist movement and its political representative PJD– is whether the Islamists activists can keep their political fame or will they lose that reputation and influence after being the head of the state as the case of the USFP? To what extent they can resist makhzen’s strategic plan presented by the new born party of PAM?
To be continued …
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