Rabat - Youth and political science studies have both produced extensive research on youth participation in politics.
Rabat – Youth and political science studies have both produced extensive research on youth participation in politics.
The classical approach to youth participation arises from the socialization theories of the 1950s and 1960s, namely those of Eisenstadt (1956), Coleman (1961) and Parsons (1952). These authors define the political participation of young people as the process of their assimilation into the structure of society through internalizing dominant social norms. Youth participation is ensured through their involvement in existing institutions and arrangements. Participation is then seen not as the process of controlling young people and their activities in accordance with the requirements of the state system but is rather about their autonomy or self-fulfillment. However, this theory has been criticized for being biased for perceiving youth as passive recipients of the society’s values.
In the 1990s, a radical shift occurred in youth and political science studies. Youth participation trends differed from those of the 1970s and 1980s. Inglehart (1997) argues that younger generations are participating in politics but in “loose, less hierarchical informal networks and various lifestyle-related sporadic mobilization efforts.” Stolle, Hooghe and Micheletti (2003) also stress young people’s inclination to participate in less bureaucratic and hierarchical organizations.
A study carried out by the British Council (2013) on youth participation in politics in the Arab world showed that young people are disenchanted with and disengaged from the current political structure. The study revealed that the youth voter turnout is very low and does not come close to representing actual youth populations.
Figures of Moroccan youth participation in political parties are far below the global average. Just 1 percent of young people are active in political parties in Morocco. This figure could be explained by the fact that Moroccan youth often associate political parties with corruption and favoritism. Parties are seen as having lost their moral values and forfeited public trust. Another reason for this low participation rate is historical: in the past political participation often meant persecution and jail.
Moroccan young people’s disenchantment with political outlets can be attributed to three main factors: the widespread lack of trust in the structure of established political parties, youths’ frustration at limited chances to engage as key actors in public life and the recent availability of new alternatives of self-expression and political participation.
Political science literature outlines three basic forms of political participation (Chisholm & Kovacheva 2002): traditional participation in institutional politics through elections and political party membership, demonstration activities through street protests and new social movements and civic engagement expressed through involvement in associations and volunteer work.
However, it seems that new political participation patterns are taking place through the use of communication technologies due to young people’s frustration with their limited opportunities to meaningfully engage in public life.
Alternative Patterns of Youth Participation in Morocco
A huge shift has occurred in youth participation in political life. Youth participation has drifted away from traditional forms of participation, such as elections, campaigns and political party membership, that were common in the 1970s and 1980s. Young people are participating in politics but in less bureaucratic and hierarchical organizations. The new patterns of political participation defined by Inglehart (1997) are motivated by many factors in the Moroccan context.
Frustrated with older generations’ dominance in politics and with the corrupt political parties in their country, younger generations in Morocco are breaking down traditional models of participation and are instead establishing new patterns of political participation.
New Patterns of Youth Political Participation
Digital Media: With the availability of new communication technologies and readily accessible media tools, Moroccan young people increasingly rely on new digital media to express themselves and voice their ideas, thus creating new spheres and forms of political and civic participation. Some patterns of public participation that once took place on the street are now occurring in the virtual realm (via social networks); digital activism has also proven capable of mobilizing large numbers of people to demonstrate in the streets.
Religious groups: Increasingly distancing themselves from traditional political establishments and?institutions,?some categories of Moroccan youth have found?alternative?mechanisms, often?with a?religious?dimension, for self expression. Participation in religious groups often takes place in the private sphere and frequently includes the formation of small groups to discuss different societal issues and give youth participants a sense of belonging.
Political self-expression through arts: There is a new tendency for young people to express themselves through graffiti on school walls and public institutions’ external façades. Graffiti is seen as a channel for the youth to voice their opinions often unheard by the political elite, political parties and traditional public institutions.
Social entrepreneurship: Practiced widely in Morocco, social entrepreneurship is becoming a new means for young people to work to solve societal problems. It is one of the fastest growing sectors in NGOs and youth activism, with new programs that aim to achieve social benefits throughout society on a sustainable basis.
Additionally, young people are responding to appeals from organizations with environmental concerns, calling for consumer boycotts and combating sexual abuse of children without necessarily becoming members of relevant organizations or involved in any political outlets.
In the case of Morocco, these patterns are a reflection of the inaccessibility of the existing political process. Moroccan young people, if given the opportunities to be meaningfully involved with political parties, would likely demonstrate high degrees of commitment and engagement in the political process.
Political participation is a fundamental democratic right. Traditional political institutions should help remove existing barriers to youth political participation. From a pragmatic perspective, if young people have the perception that formal political processes are not attractive or accessible, this can shape their attitudes for a lifetime, with potentially long-lasting negative impacts on Morocco’s political culture.
Edited by Kelsey Fish