Tunis - One of the most fallacious misconceptions subsisting in the human mind all the way through the course of history has been a belief in the inherent rivalry governing the relationship between the forces of modernity and those of tradition.
Tunis – One of the most fallacious misconceptions subsisting in the human mind all the way through the course of history has been a belief in the inherent rivalry governing the relationship between the forces of modernity and those of tradition.
It is often accepted as a true fact of human history that when such two forces meet on the same ground, conflict can seem like the most inescapable of all fates.
The Moroccan Sahara issue, or what is often referred to as the Morocco-Western Sahara conflict, has been frequently cited as one of the living examples of the above presumption.
As soon as one sifts through news outlets and historical material in search of the truth, one is overwhelmed by the countless divergences of standpoints vis-à-vis the matter, with many observers supporting Polisario’s right to self-determination and many others speaking up for the Moroccan-ess of the Sahara.
October 7 elections, a historical event of a momentous nature in the North African region, destabilizes the propaganda of the marginalization of the Sahrawi people in Morocco.
A few days before the voting day kicked off in Morocco, member of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), Ahmad Lakhrif, told he Fourth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations that the fact of several Sahrawis registering to vote is an “irrefutable proof” of their commitment to Morocco’s territorial integrity.
Forecasting what was yet to come soon, he added: “The fact that Sahrawis participated, of their own accord, in the ballot is a proof of the genuine commitment of the Sahrawi folks to the establishment of powerful national institutions.”
According to North African observers, October 7 elections represent a new stage in Morocco’s journey towards democracy, despite the low 43-percent-turnout marking the ballot day.
High voter turnout in the Sahara
Sahrawi’s participation in Morocco’s 10th parliamentary elections has reportedly seen a remarkable leap compared to previous election events.
Data released by the Alaraby al-Jadeed newspaper found out that turnout in the Sahara provinces has gone up as high as 42 percent. In some of the Sahrawi polling centers voter turnout has reportedly reached 72 percent and 68 in others—percentages that were not recorded elsewhere in the Kingdom.
Commenting on the upsurge in voter turnout among the Sahrawis, political science professor at Fez University, Dr. Ahmad Mufeed, attributed the growing presence of Morocco’s Sahrawis in voting centers to the earnest endeavors by competing political parties to mobilize the southerners to have a share in the voting.
Over recent years, Sahrawi’s political awareness has been nurtured by political forums and campaigns staged on the field by political parties and government officials in an attempt to boost voter turnout both in parliamentary and local elections.
Despite their controversial efficiency, such attempts have been read as a proof of Morocco’s serious intent to engage the Sharawis in national politics.
“The fact that many Sahrawis cast their votes in parliamentary elections is an outspoken translation of that deep-seated belief among the male and female citizens in the southern provinces in the Moroccan-ness of the desert,” said Dr. Mufeed.
The rise in the number of voters in southern regions has also been regarded as a message to the opponents of Morocco’s territorial integrity, reminding them that Morocco is just undividable.
“How dare people talk about the north/south divide in Morocco as if the Kingdom were a rolling stone having neither roots nor history? It is high time we closed the division chapter irretrievably and joined forces for a democratic future in which every body takes part,” a Tunisian analyst told Morocco World News.
Another scoop marking the October 7 ballot day lies in the fact that for the first time in its history the Justice and Development Party (PJD), led by current Moroccan Premier Abdelilah Benkirane, won three seats in the southern Sahara provinces, as the party’s leader Abdul Haq al-Arabi, announced just a few hours after the poll counting.
However, for activists like the Polisario opponent Mustapha Salma Oueld Sidi Mouloud, the turnout in Morocco’s southern regions was not up to scratch.
Sahrawi descendants eligible to run elections
As maintained by a plethora of observers, over the course of electoral events in Morocco, descendants of Sahrawi tribes have not only been the ones to run the race on a sequential basis but also the ones who end up winning.
“There exists no discriminatory law in Morocco that bars the northerners, who flocked to the desert and set up roots there since 1975, from running elections and being in the lead,” Salma said in an email send to Morocco World News.
It is a proven fact of Morocco’s recent that the elections held since 2011 were conducted in line with international standards.
“Is not the triumph of the Sahraouis in the October 7 elections a proof of the chivalry and magnanimity of northerners who make up the bulk of the electoral committee in the Sahara, as proponents of the Polisario both at home and overseas often claim?” wondered Salma.
“Aren’t these results that repeat themselves upon more than one occasion the reflection of the desire of ordinary Moroccans to coexist in peace and harmony with all components of society?” he added.
Salma went on to add that the October 7 elections constitute a practical implementation of the autonomy plan on the ground.
The Saharwi activist was forcibly deported from the Tindouf camps by the Polisario after he declared that the Autonomy Plan presented by Morocco in 2007 was “the ideal solution” to the conflict.
As he is desperately seeking to return to the camps to join his family, Mustapha Salma, like many Moroccans, hope the elections would herald a beacon light of hope to millions who had been seared in the flames of a self-inflicted division.
Salma’s dream is not so much dissimilar to the one longed for by Martin Luther King in his historic “I have a Dream” Speech delivered before the American crowds more than 43 years ago.
When Morocco becomes a place where the northerners and the southerners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood, only then will it be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
Meanwhile, a mountainous journey is lying ahead of Morocco to make Salma’s dream come true.