A hereditary monarch and a prime minister and Council of Ministers appointed by the King form the executive branch of the Kingdom of Morocco. King Mohammed VI succeeded his father, King Hassan II in July 1999. The Moroccan Constitution provides universal suffrage for all elections. The last elections for Morocco’s lower house took place on September 7, 2007. The most recent municipal elections took place on 12 June 2009.
Election Laws, Systems and Processes
The legislative branch of Morocco underwent a significant transformation from a unicameral to a bicameral institution in 1996. King Hassan II supported the change, as well as other changes made in an attempt at political reform and modernization. The last elections of the unicameral body took place in June and September of 1996. The parliament was then composed of 333 members, 222 of whom were directly elected and 111 indirectly elected. After the September round of elections, a popular referendum approved a constitutional amendment to adopt a bicameral legislature. In August 1997 the existing parliament passed laws concerning the organization and election for the two new bodies, and later in the same year King Hassan II announced that elections for the two new chambers would be held in the last months of 1997.
The two legislative units are the House of Representatives (Majlis al-Nawab) and the House of Counselors (Majlis al-Mustasharin). The 270 members of the latter chamber are indirectly elected by members of electoral colleges for nine-year terms. Members of local and regional councils elect 162 members and representatives from industry, agriculture, and trade unions elect the remaining 108 members. One-third of the membership of the House of Counselors is renewed every three years. The first elections for the new House of Counselors took place in December 1997. In all, 16 parties fielded a total of 2,391 candidates in the elections. Right and center-right parties captured a majority of the seats.
The House of Representatives is composed of 325 members who are popularly elected for five-year terms. Candidates compete in 325 single-member constituencies. A candidate must receive a simple majority of the votes to win. Voting rights are granted to all Moroccan citizens of at least 20 years of age. Voting is not compulsory. Candidates must be at least 23 years of age and Moroccan citizens. Seats that are vacated in between elections are filled through by-elections within six months from the time vacated. Until the 1996 elections, no Islamist party was allowed to participate in elections. In the 1996 elections, candidates from the newly created and moderate Islamic party, Al-Islah wa-l-Tajdid, participated while candidates from the radical Al-Adl-wa-l-Ihsan were prohibited. Al-Islah wa-l-Tajdid has since transformed into the Party for Justice and Development, and now plays a major role in Moroccan politics.
The Ministry of the Interior oversees the election process.
The most recent legislative elections in Morocco took place on September 7, 2007. A total of 15.5 million citizens were invited to elect the 325 members of the new parliament in 95 electoral districts and 38000 voting centers across the country. 295 deputies were elected in the electoral districts, while 30 deputies were elected from a separate female “national list” allocated to secure women’s representation in parliament. The elections were conducted on the basis of the proportional list system which makes it almost impossible for any single political party to hold an absolute majority in parliament. The elections were contested by 33 political parties and 13 independent lists. The “Justice and Benevolence” group (the largest Islamist association in Morocco) boycotted elections. The election campaign was monotonous and characterized in general by citizens’ lack of interest and apathy.
Political parties that contested elections were of three main tendencies: Islamists, the government coalition, and leftists outside the government coalition. Major political parties were: the Independence Party (nationalist); the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (socialist); the Progressive and Socialist Party (ex-communist). These 3 parties constituted the government coalition. Others were the Justice and Development Party (moderate Islamist); the Constitutional Union (liberal opposition); the National Rally of Liberals (center party, close to the Palace, representing the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie); the Popular Movement Party (center right, supports the rights of Amazeeq – Berber); the Front of Democratic Forces (leftist); and the Leftist Alliance of 3 Marxist and Socialist parties, namely: The Democratic Socialist Vanguard, the United Socialist Party and the National Democratic Conference.
The participation rate was low. Only 37% of eligible voters cast their votes. Very low participation was observed among the youth. Final results showed the following distribution of parliamentary seats among political blocks and parties: the Independence Party came on top with 52 seats, followed by the Justice and Development Party (46 seats of which 7 seats were won from the “national list” for women). The Popular Movement came third with 41 seats, then the National Rally of Liberals (39 seats) and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces in fifth place (38 seats). Then came the Constitutional Union (27 seats); the Progressive and Socialist Party (17 seats); the Front of Democratic Forces (9 seats); and the Leftist Alliance (5 seats). Independent candidates won 5 seats, while the remaining 46 seats went to several small parties.
The results of the Election were at odds with several expected outcomes. The Justice and Development Party was very disappointed, especially after its leaders were confident that their party would won no less than 80 seats in parliament. The Socialist Union of People’s Forces was shocked by its retreat to fifth from first place in the 2002 elections, when it occupied 50 seats in parliament. The Independence Party proved its resilience and popular support. However, the government coalition will not hold an absolute majority as its 3 parties together control 107 seats only. The government coalition needs the support of 2 other parties who are close to it (National Rally of Liberals and the Popular Movement) to achieve an absolute majority in parliament with 180 seats. Moreover, 9 political parties that contested elections were unable to capture any parliamentary seat. Another unexpected election result was the defeat of 3 government ministers, namely: the minister of culture Mohammad Ashari, the minister of migrant communities Mrs. Nazha Al-Shaqrouni, and the minister of information Nabeel bin Abdullah.
The elections were monitored for the first time by 52 international observers from 19 countries, in addition, to the American National Democratic Institute (NDI). Observers said that the elections were transparent, organized and professional. They spoke of individual and isolated violations.
The previous elections for the House of Representatives took place on September 27, 2002 in a peaceful atmosphere. The French President Jacques Chirac and the Spanish minister of foreign affairs publicly praised the honesty and transparency of the elections. Moreover, political parties of the Moroccan opposition recognized that the elections were fair and honest
to a far extent. Voters had to elect 325 representatives, 295 of whom are elected by party lists distributed over 26 political parties. The remaining 30 representatives were elected from a national list reserved for women. The number of eligible voters was 24 million, however those who registered and obtained an election card were 14.4 million voters. The rate of participation in the elections was 52%. The election results, including men and women, were as follows: The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) won the largest number of parliamentary seats, 50 seats. The Independence Party came in second place with 48 seats. The Justice and Development Party (Islamic) won 42 seats, just above the National Rally of Independents with 41 seats. The Popular Movement Party that won 27 seats occupied fourth place. The other 17 political parties shared the remaining parliamentary seats. The result of the women's list was: the USFP and the Independence Party each won 4 seats; the National Rally of Liberals and the Justice and Development Party won 3 seats each; and the Popular Movement Party won 2
female seats. The Left-leaning block kept its domination of the House of Representatives. However, the big surprise was in the rise achieved by the Islamic Justice and Development Party that was able to increase the number of seats held by its representatives more than four times as compared to the 1997 elections when it held 9 parliamentary seats only. Exercising his
discretionary powers, the King appointed as Prime Minister a generally unknown government minister with no party affiliation, Driss Jettou, who had been responsible for overseeing the elections.
The latest local elections in Morocco were held on 12 June 2009 with a voter turnout of 52.4% or the equivalent of 7.5 million voters from a total of 13.36 million voters registered on the electoral lists. Eight political parties were able to secure 89.3% of the seats by winning 84% of the vote. The distribution of seats was as follows: The Originality and Moderness won 6015 seats or 21.69% of seats, followed by the Independence Party with 5292 seats or 19% and the National Rally of Liberals with 4112 seats or 14.8% of seats. The Socialist Union Party of Popular Forces obtained 3226 seats or 11.63%, the Popular Movement Party won 2213 seats or 7.98%, the Justice and Development Party obtained 1513 seats or 5.45%, the Constitutional Union Party with 1307 seats or 4.7%, and the Party for Socialism and Progress with 1102 seats or 3.97% of seats. On the national level, women won 3406 seats or 12.3% of total seats.
Previous municipal election took place in September 2003 with no political party gaining a majority of seats in the local councils. The two parties in the ruling coalition won the largest representation. The Nationalist Istiqlal Party took 3890 out of 23,689 seats, and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces won 3373. The National Rally of Liberals was next with 2871; two ethnic Berber parties also performed well. Notably, the Party for Justice and Development, Morocco’s only Islamist political party permitted to contest the elections, won 593 seats, despite the fact that it put up candidates in just 18% of the municipalities. Voter turnout was approximately 54%, down from 75% in the 1997 municipal elections. Opposition parties acknowledged that the elections were generally fair, particularly by comparison with the 1997 elections, when accusations of vote-buying abounded.