Morocco is divided into 16 regions and into 26 urban prefectures and 45 provinces. There are 1547 local districts in Morocco; 249 are urban municipalities and 1298 are rural communes.
Municipal and Local Government Budgets
The regional and local governments receive about 15 per cent of the national budget. Local financing relies largely on transfers, 30 per cent of the VAT to the municipalities and communes, 1 per cent of the direct income and corporate taxes to the regions. Local government finances are dictated by the national government, which sets taxes and controls budgeting for all government institutions. The lack of financial autonomy has given local governments little bargaining ability in negotiating the distribution of power in Moroccan government. Taxes account for 60% of local revenues, composed of major taxes levied by the national government (29%) and local taxes collected by municipalities (32%). The remaining 40% of funds comes from subsidies the central government distributes based on projected VAT revenues. Fund transfers from the central government compose 35-40% of local operating budgets, and this number has increased in recent years. The central government’s distribution system benefits poorer municipalities by correcting differences in fiscal potential between jurisdictions. The Ministry of the Interior controls the civil service and resources that are allocated to all government institutions.
Local Government Budgetary Reform
As part of Morocco’s efforts to join the International Monetary Fund’s Special Data Dissemination Standard in 2005, local and regional government budgets were being integrated into a more transparent general government budget.
Reform: Fiscal Decentralization
The Moroccan government has sought to increase local community involvement in social development programs. Working in coordination with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, the national government has initiated several anti-poverty and human development programs with regional focuses.
The Moroccan government negotiated over decentralization in the ongoing dispute over the Western Sahara. The failure to successfully conduct a referendum on the region’s status had caused the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to advocate devolution as an alternative settlement arrangement. The Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy stated that the devolution of government would be necessary to achieve a political solution to the conflict, but the Special Envoy resigned in June 2004 over Morocco's opposition to his latest peace plan.
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.