Rabat – Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad told the Committee of the Interior on Tuesday that it would be impossible for Moroccan citizens living abroad to vote directly in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Minister Hassad cited multiple factors precluding Moroccans abroad from voting directly. First, he noted that Morocco could not establish a voting office in every country where diaspora citizens live.
Secondly, he held that it would be “problematic” to provide ballots to citizens in their new communities. Thirdly, the Constitution forbids the creation of a constituency specifically for Moroccans living abroad, so the government would have to ensure that ballots of voters abroad are counted in the correct districts at home. Therefore, according to the Minister, the right to vote must be limited to those living within the country.
His stance is particularly controversial since the 2011 constitution explicitly gives Moroccans living abroad full citizenship rights, including the right to vote and run in elections.
Currently, five million of Morocco’s 33 million citizens live abroad. Morocco briefly allowed citizens living abroad to vote directly in the 1984 parliamentary elections, but canceled the process until 2011. When the country voted on constitutional amendments that summer in a referendum, Moroccans living abroad were able to vote directly at embassies or consulates.
However, following the referendum, diaspora Moroccans could only vote through a complex proxy system. The Council of Europe noted in a report on the elections that “the procedure for voting by proxy for Moroccan citizens residing abroad does not facilitate the exercise of the constitutional right to vote.”
In March, Minister for Moroccans Residing Abroad and Migration Affairs Anis Birou attempted to secure direct voting rights for citizens abroad for the elections this fall. However, he announced in May that direct participation was impossible, and that diaspora citizens must use the proxy system to vote.
Critics of out-of-country voting processes cite the expense, the difficulty of getting ballots to diaspora citizens, the implications of allowing citizens abroad who will not directly bear the impact of the policies to vote, and the higher potential for fraud.
Nonetheless, at least 115 territories and countries around the world have guaranteed their citizens abroad the right to vote.