Moroccan politicians discuss postponing next year’s general elections as COVID-19 cases surge across the country.
Rabat – The resurgence of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Morocco have become a major preoccupation for local authorities and may lead them to postpone the country’s general elections scheduled for 2021.
Citing “well informed” political sources, Morocco’s Arab-speaking news outlet Assabah reported in its weekend coverage, on August 8-9, that the government and political leaders may agree to postpone next year’s elections.
Many in the political landscape want the country’s efforts to focus instead on curbing the “worrying spread” of the new coronavirus.
COVID-19 ‘more urgent’
The political leaders in favor of a postponement have reportedly argued that organizing a series of local, communal regional, and parliamentary elections is usually a long and excruciating process.
The general elections would require political meetings and many campaign-related activities. The concern is that these gatherings could make it easier for COVID-19 to spread and create numerous viral hotspots across Morocco.
Additionally, the elections are estimated to cost MAD 3 billion ($300 million). This could pose an increased economic concern in a year that has already been fiscally challenging. All of this should be an argument against going ahead with the normal schedule, they say.
According to Asabah, those calling for a rescheduling have even addressed a letter to the government. In it, they asked for the MAD 3 billion budget to be repurposed as part of the COVID-19 relief fund to help the country win its fight against the pandemic.
Their leading argument is that the country’s “worrying epidemiologic situation is more urgent” than the urgency of replacing the current political leadership.
According to the Assabah report, this thinking–that dealing with COVID-19 should be the country’s number one priority and everything else, including next year’s general elections, can wait–prevails among the political class.
Morocco needs a new political leadership
But there are some dissenting voices, especially from the left-leaning, liberal fringe of the Moroccan political arena.
For those marginal voices opposing any moves to postpone next year’s elections, the report noted, getting rid of the ruling party and what they see as a cycle of failed promises and “ineffective governance” is just as important–and urgent–as effectively dealing with the pandemic.
For them, rather than providing a pretext for postponing the elections, the COVID-19 crisis is actually a reason why the general elections are needed: the urgency of electing a new political leadership. They argue that the current crisis calls for a legitimate, elected political class the country can trust.
The news comes amid a resurgence of COVID-19 infections across Morocco. With 8 cities already under lockdown, there are further debates about whether the country needs to extend the lockdown to other cities and regions in order to halt what many are calling a “second wave” of infections.
Morocco was, by most standards, among the world’s COVID-19 success stories in its first months of dealing with the virus.
As they reminisce over those early reassuring–even if painful– pandemic months, many are calling for the authorities to reimpose some kind of partial lockdown.
Their argument, widely believed among Moroccans and observers, is that the rush to lift the early restrictions and “get life back to normal” explains a lot of what has happened in the past two to three weeks since.
As opinions diverge, and occasionally converge, on whether to reimpose total or partial lockdown across Morocco, it remains to be seen what both the electors and the political class will make of the calls to postpone next year’s general elections in Morocco.