The Moroccan government managed to rally a majority in the House of Representatives to amend three election laws and a new organizational law for the House of Representatives. On December 5, 2006,the House of Representatives approved the laws after fierce discussions that moved from closed rooms inside parliament to public halls and headquarters of the political parties. The new elections laws drew the attention of the public opinion, especially after a group of opposition parties decided to form a national coalition to confront the new laws and drafted a protesting program according to which they took to streets and staged many protests and rallies in several Moroccan cities.
The new laws have been referred to the upper chamber of parliament, and are expected to be discussed within the coming few days; the opposition is expected to escalate its moves to prevent a final ratification, even if this required- according to some opposition sources- demanding a royal intervention.
Ongoing discussion over election laws
It all started when the government referred to parliament an organizational bill law for the House of Representatives that states some items which the opposition considered as unjust towards it, and accused the majority parties led by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, of attempting to tailor an election law which is suitable only for them to ensure that they maintain power; this is through imposing conditions that the small parties can"t meet.
Thus, the organizational bill law included a package of new items that reconsider the rules of the preliminary stages of the election process, under the pretext of " controlling and rationalizing the nomination to the elections", according to a statement by the Interior Minister, Mr. Shakib Bin Mousa.
Accordingly, the law conditioned- to accept the nominations tabled by the nominees:
- That the parties that handed over the nominations garnered during the last public elections in the House of Representatives at least 3 % of the votes.
- As for the local constituencies, the bill states that the party slate must be enclosed with a list of at least 100 signatures from every seat in the concerned local constituency, including 80 % of the signatures of the constituency"s voters listed in the general elections rolls, and 20 % of the signatures of the voters in the institution that belong to the constituency, from among members of parliament, members of municipalities, members of professional chambers or all of them.
- As for the nominations fielded constituency-wide (women"s slate), the bill law requires that the party nominations must be enclosed with a list of 1000 signatures of voters in the general election rolls. These voters should be affiliated to at least half the number of the kingdom"s bodies ( Morocco has 16 bodies), and that the number of signatories from every body is no less than about 5 % of the number of the required signatures.
The opposition considered that raising the ceiling of representation in the House of Representatives from 3 % to 7 % as a condition for giving any national or local slate access to the process of seat distribution, so that the slates which garner voters up to or more than 7% are the only ones counted, this means practically excluding 75% of the political parties from a direct participation in the elections; we have more that 40 parties in Morocco, 26 of them participated in 2002 elections; only 9 parties will be allowed to participate in the elections while other parties which didn"t garner 3% in 2002 elections, will be forced to collect 100 signatures of voters including 20 signatures of voters on the level of the bodies, something the opposition sees as impossible conditions to prevent them from participating in the elections; this is because a party can"t ask supporters of another party to give it signatures.
For his part, Saaduddin Al othmani, the Secretary-General of the Justice and Development Party, told Ikhwanweb that " the Justice and Development Party which is considered the strongest opposition party in Morocco and has got 42 MPs, decided to oppose the new election laws, although it has a comfortable status that qualifies it for getting a leading position under the latest laws.
Al othmani added that the party"s attitude is based on considerations related to respecting conditions of party competition and providing equal opportunities for all.
Al othmani called on " all parties to be well prepared for the coming elections so as to be a distinguished stop to establish the option of free and fair elections and to face the political and election corruption", pointing out that the Justice and Development party voted against the election bill laws, considering that " the government and its majority passed excluding bill laws that do not address the aspirations for developing the Moroccan political scene".
Al othmani stressed that " the current centuries old electoral rolls must be rescinded to give room to new rolls, because the current ones are marred by several defects including repetitions, registering those unqualified and dead persons in addition to other defects that may make it prone to political challenge. this is instead of just organizing an exceptional review, demanding " that an automatic and direct registery of the adult 18 years old young men must be adopted and seize all opportunities to motivate them to register in the election rolls, so that the registry measures meet the desire of making young men participate in the political life through decreasing the vote age to 18".
Also, some opposition voices pointed that the government ignored the royal request for including the Moroccan community living abroad in the nomination and vote in the next elections, especially that the Moroccans living abroad are about 2800 000 in Europe and 290000 in Arab countries and 180000 in America and 5400 in Africa and 5200 in Asia; the economic weight of the Moroccan community abroad had a considerable presence; from 1996 to 2005, 500 companies were founded in Morocco by Moroccan contractors living abroad, providing about 70 thousand stable jobs.