Parties campaign ahead of major Moroccan elections

Parties campaign ahead of major Moroccan elections

Candidates have had to comply with preventive measures during campaigning, which began Aug. 27 and ends at midnight Tuesday. Among restrictions are a ban on distribution of leaflets and a limit of a maximum of 25 people at political gatherings. Morocco has registered more than 13,000 COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Moroccan Health Ministry. Job creation, boosting Morocco’s economy, education and health rank at the top of parliamentary contenders’ campaign agendas. However, the role of lawmakers is limited by the powers of King Mohamed VI, who oversees strategic decision-making.

Strict safety guidelines in place as the North African kingdom grapples with a new wave of COVID-19 have restricted campaigning, and candidates’ ability to reach the 18 million eligible voters, half the country’s population. On Wednesday, voters will choose among candidates from 31 political parties and coalitions that are competing for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament. They will also be selecting representatives for 678 seats in regional councils. The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, at the helm of the government since 2011, is seeking a third term. With Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the party has campaigned on raising the competitiveness of Morocco’s economy, increasing the budget for the health sector by 6% annually and wants the country’s education budget upped by 5%.

Nizar Baraka, secretary general of the conservative Istiqlal (Independence), another major party in the running, said his team has strengthened its social media presence to compensate for limits on campaigning. “Today, the situation of citizens is difficult because of the pandemic and so voters have expressed many expectations to alleviate their hardships,” Baraka said. “There is a will for change, and the Independence Party is the alternative in this context.”

As voting day approached, competition intensified between the major four parties, which also include the center-left Party of Authenticity and Modernity, or PAM, and the liberal National Rally of Independents. The Justice and Development Party, or the PJD, faces a major hurdle following the adoption in March of a new voting law that will make it hard for any one party to secure a large number of seats in the House of Representatives. The reform introduced multiple changes to how parliamentary seats are granted, now based on the number of registered voters rather than the number of those who cast a ballot. Some analysts contend the new method of allocating seats could further fracture the diverse Moroccan political landscape, and the lower house. For many citizens, hopes are oversized. They want the elections to produce an up-close personal impact once a new government takes office.

Reda Azzouzi, who has owned a gym in Rabat for three years and seen it closed twice because of the coronavirus, wants compensation. “Everyone knows the expenses we have to pay,” he said in a interview. “We have received nothing in financial compensation from the state or from anyone.” Azzouzi said that after the elections, “we hope .. they reopen our gym as soon as possible.”

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