Morocco set for early parliamentary elections

Government announcement follows constitutional reforms endorsed by 98 per cent of voters in last month’s referendum.

Morocco protest against referendum
Under the new constitution, the king will remain head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco[REUTERS]

Morocco’s government has proposed that a parliamentary election take place early in November instead of the scheduled date of September next year.

During long overnight negotiations with the interior ministry, officials from some 20 political parties agreed in principle on Sunday, for the election to be held in mid-November.

Moroccan ruler King Mohammed said he wanted early elections to follow through on a package of constitutional reforms that were designed to reduce the risk of an “Arab Spring”-style uprising in the country.

Setting the new date has involved delicate negotiations between the interior ministry, which oversees elections, and some political parties who say more time is needed to prepare fraud-proof elections.

“The (interior) ministry has proposed to political parties that November 11 be the tentative date for early parliamentary polls,” said Khalid Naciri, the government’s chief spokesman and communications minister.

“Now the parties and the ministry will need to agree on the election system that needs to be adopted, the election laws and whether we should have separate national lists for (electing) women and young people.”

Date set

“The date of November 11 was agreed but the election could be shifted by a few days because of its proximity to the Eid al-Adha religious holiday,” Lahcen Daoudi, the deputy secretary general of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, said.

Officials in two left-wing parties, the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) and the Labour Party, confirmed the date had been set for November 11.

Under the constitutional reforms, approved in a referendum last month, the king will hand over some of his powers to elected officials but retain a decisive say on strategic decisions.

In a July 30 television address, the 47-year old monarch said the constitutional changes should be implemented swiftly. 

“Any delay may jeopardise this dynamic of trust and squander opportunities offered by the new reform,” King Mohammed said. 

“It’s important to start with the election of a new parliament so that we can proceed … with the appointment of a head of the government.”

New constitution

Under the new constitution, the king will remain head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco.

The prime minister, chosen from the largest party elected to parliament, will take over as the head of government.

Other changes would grant more power to parliament, introduce an independent judiciary and provide new guarantees of civil liberties.

More than 98 per cent of voters endorsed the reforms in the referendum. But critics denounced the reforms as window-dressing and called for further limits on the powers of the king and his entourage.

They also accused authorities of doing little to tackle corruption and have complained of a lack of economic opportunities, especially for youth.

The main group behind the protest, the February 20 Movement, has continued to hold regular demonstrations to call for further reforms.

Authorities in Morocco have been more tolerant of demonstrations than in some other Arab states and have largely allowed protests to go ahead without interference.

Source: News Agencies