Washington DC - More than 15 million Moroccans are expected to go to the polls to cast their vote to elect a new Parliament on October 7, 2016.
Washington DC – More than 15 million Moroccans are expected to go to the polls to cast their vote to elect a new Parliament on October 7, 2016.
Amidst heated electoral campaigns between about 30 political parties, many Moroccans in the diaspora are following closely these elections with a strong disappointment and a loud protest for two major reasons. First, none of the 2011 constitutional rights committed for the diaspora have been enacted, especially the right for voting. Second, proxy voting (Tasweet Bilwakala), as the only mechanism in place to allow Moroccans living abroad to vote, is considered to be as unconstitutional and undemocratic for a number of reasons to be detailed later.
The 2016 elections have a special importance as they are the second to be conducted after the 2011 constitutional reform that came to respond to the demands of February 20th Movement protests that took place in Morocco; in line with the Arab Spring Uprisings; calling for freedom, dignity, and social justice; and mobilized around the slogan “Iskat Alfassad” (Down with Corruption) rather than (Down with the Regime.) As a response, Morocco introduced a constitutional reform to respond to Moroccans’ demands and devoted a number of articles for Moroccans living abroad to guarantee the protection of their rights and ensure their political and civic participation as well as their contribution in the country’s development. Particularly:
1 – Article 16: addresses specifically Moroccans living abroad and Morocco’s great well to protect their rights under international laws as well as under those of their host countries.
2 – Article 17: enshrines the right of Moroccans living abroad to enjoy full citizenship, including the right to vote and to run for office.
3 – Article 18: guarantees Moroccans living abroad representation in consultative national institutions of governance.
4 – Article 30: asserts that voting is a personal and national right.
5 – Article 163: addresses the advisory role of the National Council for Moroccans Living Abroad (CCME) on diaspora’s related public policies to retain strong ties with its Moroccan identity, to guarantee and protect its rights, and to contribute to a sustainable human development in Morocco.
Five years later, the outgoing government and Parliament has clearly failed to deliver on this constitutional commitment and did not enact any of the needed laws and procedures that would allow the diaspora to enjoy its full right to vote.
Additionally, other than the protested proxy voting, the 2016 Electoral Code in Morocco completely failed to address this issue and the Minister of Interior, in charge of preparing this law, justified this decision by technical reasons whereas many analysts have alluded to political motivations. More interesting, the National Council of Human Rights as a consultative institution, shied away from providing any recommendations related to the participation of Moroccans living abroad in the elections in the report that it published on March 2015 entitled “45 Recommendations for Inclusive Elections and Proximity to Citizens.”
On the other hand, many Moroccans in the diaspora are protesting proxy voting and announced that they are going to boycott the elections because this mechanism is unconstitutional and undemocratic clarifying that:
1 – It is not in conformity with Article 17 of the Constitution that guarantees the right to vote.
2 – It is undemocratic because it is against the fundamental principle of voting: secrecy”
3 – It is not reliable as it opens the door for election fraud and results manipulation.
4 – It violates article 30 of the constitution which asserts that voting is a personal and national right.
5 – Proxy voting was introduced in 2011 as a temporary solution, to allow for the diaspora to vote at that exceptional time with the expectation that the newly elected Parliament and government will pass needed laws and introduce procedures to facilitate the process for participation in future elections.
As a new parliament will be seated and a new government will be formed in Morocco, many Moroccans living abroad strongly call on them to genuinely engage with the diaspora and translate Morocco’s constitutional commitments into laws and public policies that would guarantee the right for civic and political participation. In view of the national and international context, Morocco can no longer afford to miss on opportunities where its diaspora can play a stronger role in the political, economic, and social development in the country as well as its role in public diplomacy when it comes to Morocco’s interests at the international level.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.