Rabat, Morocco – The one sure thing about Morocco’s
national election on Friday is that it will become a historic milestone. If the
ruling PDK party wins, it will mark the first time a party has been returned to
power democratically. If it loses it will mark the first time an Islamist
government in the Arab World could be voted out of office, rather than losing
power through a coup, revolution or invasion.
“This is an important election, it is the only time an Arab
Islamist party has completed its mandate,” Nasser Bourita, a senior advisor to
the Moroccan Foreign Minister, told AMI Newswire in his office on the edge of
Rabat’s historic walls. “In Egypt and Tunisia, this democratic experiment was
As the North African kingdom heads to the polls to choose a
new parliament, the rest of the Arab World awaits the outcome.
The Justice and Development Party (PJD) is a moderate
Islamist party modeled on Turkey’s ruling AKP party. It has held power since the elections held in November 2011, the first following constitutional reforms adopted in response to the Arab Spring.
More than 30 parties will contest the Friday election. Of
these, observers believe the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) has the
best chance to forge a winning coalition and unseat PJD. PAM – which has
traditionally had close ties to the nation’s king, Mohammad VI – won local
elections in 2015 and hoped to benefit from dissatisfaction with the PJD’s
coalition government. In August, two PJD politicians Moulay Omar Benhammad and
Fatima Nejjar were found in a sexual position in a parked car on the beach 60
miles south of Rabat. Mr. Benhammad who is married to another woman and Nejjar
were both suspended from the party. The scandal tarnished the party’s image and
the economy is sagging.
Earlier this week Moroccan security forces uncovered an
all-female ISIS cell with members in Rabat. The cell planned to launch strikes
to disrupt the elections. The mood in Rabat night before the election was calm.
Mohammed El-Mouni, a chief researcher with Morocco’s National Council of Human
Rights, does not think the terror threat will impact the election
“Security worries will not have an impact on electoral
behavior, despite the arrests. Moroccans don’t associate elections with
violence this isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan” he said.
Morocco has a stable voting system but, one that is still
developing. Unlike states in the region, Morocco does not conduct overseas
polling at its embassies and consulates for expatriates. Instead, they must
vote by the use of a proxy in Morocco. “In the last elections in 2015, only
seven citizens elected to vote by proxy.” Mouni said
Morocco is an important U.S ally in the region. The Moroccan
military has fought in both the U.S led campaign against ISIS, and the Saud led
a military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Brahim Benjelloun Touimi, chairman of the Bank of Africa, believes
that the peaceful political process in Morocco is an example of “Moroccan
exceptionalism…our system has allowed our country to remain stable and continue
to grow despite turmoil elsewhere in the Arab world” he said while enjoying a
traditional meal chicken tagine cooked with lemon and olives an elegant
Moroccan restaurant in Rabat. The restaurant is located in La Tour Hassan, a
former palace turned hotel. Its English menus and traditional Moroccan arched
doorways are aimed at attracting international tourists. The tourism sector is
the second only to phosphate production as a foreign exchange earner for the
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