Morocco Elections - Morocco News Agency: Analysis

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The lack of any protests in Morocco based on allegations of voter or official fraud post-election was indicative — as with the 2009 elections — of the transparency with which the process was viewed by citizens and political parties alike, confirming the legitimacy of the elections. The entire process reflected a new high-point for the conduct of elections worldwide, and should be seen as a template for other nations.

The Morocco News Agency (MNA) reports that the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) deployed a team of experienced election monitors to key areas throughout the Kingdom of Morocco to monitor the conduct of the November 25, 2011, Parliamentary elections.

These elections followed the guidelines laid down in the new Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco and approved overwhelmingly by the July 2011 Referendum. The ISSA told the Morocco News Agency that there was considerable evidence of an open and community-driven process in which the following highlights should be noted.

Voter lists had been reviewed and scrutinized to ensure that all eligible voters were recognized and verified. This was exemplified, additionally, by the fact that ISSA researchers in Morocco did not see a single challenge to the electoral lists based on exclusion; nor did the ISSA witness any instance of persons attempting to double-vote. This demonstrated a painstaking attention to ensuring that the underlying fairness of the election was beyond dispute.

"The organization of actual polling day activities was meticulous in detail, ensuring that polling facilities were readily accessible to voters," the ISSA told the Morocco News Agency.

"Security was consistent but light; there was no sense of a coercive official presence, but there was sufficient evidence to voters that polling stations would be secure. Within the polling areas, local volunteers ensured that there was a significant sense that this was a process governed at grass roots.

"Moreover, the fact that, without exception, these volunteer polling station officials followed exactly the same procedures for dealing with voters, highlighted the reality that training and documentation for election procedures would be consistent nationally. The Government and the Moroccan monitoring organization, the National Human Rights Council (Conseil national des droits de l’Homme), ensured that election information was available in Arabic, French, and Berber script, in accordance with the provisions of the new Constitution."

The ISSA said that the arrangement of polling station procedures was undertaken to ensure maximum confidentiality and transparency of process. Voter identification was able to be undertaken with efficiency because of the fact that voters had national identification (ID) certificates — which verified that they were, indeed, bona fide citizens — as well as valid and current voter registration numbers.

This combination of voter documents ensured that election officials could readily verify and check off voter participation. Significantly, all voters’ qualifications were checked by two separate officials working from identical local voter registration lists. The process was under the scrutiny of a panel of monitors from the political parties present in every polling room.

The Morocco News Agency says that weather for election day was optimal for full voter participation; temperatures were mild. Voting stations opened at 8am (08:00 GMT) and closed at 7pm (19:00 GMT). Average age of the voter population is young: 57 percent of Morocco’s 13.6-million eligible voters are 35 or younger. Indicative of the importance of the elections to the Moroccan political establishment is that 5,873 candidates from 31 parties were seeking to fill the 395 seats of Parliament; 70 of them earmarked for young and woman candidates.

According to the Morocco News Agency and the ISSA, initial results, as announced by Morocco Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui on the evening of November 25, 2011, indicated that voter turnout in the 2011 Parliamentary elections stood at around 45 percent nationwide.

This turnout thus exceeded the 37 percent of the 2007 Parliamentary elections. Data collected and analyzed by the Moroccan Interior Ministry pointed to a building voters’ momentum toward the closing of the elections. Voting started slow. By noontime, voter turnout stood at 11.5 percent. However, by 3 p.m. (15:00 GMT), voter turnout stood at 22.4 percent, and at 5pm (17:00 GMT), voter turnout reached 34 percent. By 7 p.m. (19:00 GMT) when the polling stations closed down, the voters’ turnout stood at 45 percent. Voter turnout, while still below the 50 percent mark, pointed to a growing confidence in the role of Parliament and democracy in charting the nation’s course.

ISSA researchers were able, on a random basis, to monitor the counting of votes at a local level after polling stations closed, says the MNA. Again, under the monitoring of a range of officials from different parties and volunteer management, there was little or no opportunity for, and no evidence of, attempts to interfere with or distort the counting process.

Logistical arrangements for the conduct of the elections by the Morocco Ministry of Interior reflected a painstaking demonstration of the Government’s clear desire to be seen to avoid interference with, or influence over, the processes the ISSA told the Morocco News Agency.

At the same time, however, the Morocco Ministry of Interior ensured that there was at no time any lack of appropriate numbers of ballot papers, ballot boxes, secure voting booths, and processing officials and voter lists. Within this framework, quite apart from the extensive preparations by a large number of public officials, the devotion to preparation and conduct of the polling day activities by volunteers was remarkable for the seriousness with which the process was addressed.

To reiterate, the attention to the preparation of new voter lists for this election, the broad delivery into the populace of secure national ID cards, and the delivery to voters of voter registration cards, coupled with the on-site polling station scrutiny and the physical marking of each voter’s hand with indelible dye after voting, ensured that voting fraud was difficult, if not, in practice, impossible. This reflected an improved level of preparation and security from even the impressively-organized parliamentary election in Morocco in September 2007 and local elections of July 2009.

"Moreover, the lack of any protests based on allegations of voter, or official, fraud post-election was indicative — as with the 2009 elections — of the transparency with which the process was viewed by citizens and political parties alike, confirming the legitimacy of the elections," the ISSA told the Morocco News Agency.

"The entire process reflected a new high-point for the conduct of elections worldwide, and should be seen as a template for other nations. As a result of a review of the pre-election preparations and the conduct of the elections, the ISSA considers the constitutional reform process in Morocco to be of strategic significance."


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Hassan Saad
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