domingo, 17 de maio de 2009

Morocco: The Municipal Elections As a Test

The upcoming Moroccan municipal elections scheduled for next June face a big challenge. The latter does not only have to do with the competition among the political partners to win the largest number of seats possible, but also with securing a broad participation that befits an event directly related to running public affairs.

Despite forecasts of a 50% turnout rate in social strata of more than 13 million voters, a previous experience of abstention during the 2007 parliamentary elections dominated the political scene, at least as some political groups - to whom the low turnout participation was a punishment - embarked on self-criticism.

The method [of conducting elections] was not very palatable. Failure to conduct fair and transparent elections reflective of the true partisan and political maps dominated the struggle for power, a period during which the political elites were tamed and their projects undermined. In the meantime, and given the numerous setbacks, the gap widened between the government and the opposition. However, ever since these relations, marred by precaution and lack of trust, were redressed when the political transition took shape in 1998, hopes were revived and assessments diverged, with political realism gaining upper hand and coexistence endorsed as an alternative to time-consuming struggles in the framework of an imposed pluralism.

Succumbing to the de facto situation was a consensual choice dictated by data of future dimensions. The political forces that barricaded behind the wall of the opposition mustered a courage no less aggressive than conjuring up the missing understandings between the palace and the opposition. However, this belated attempt did not help answer all the questions. Nor did it meet all aspirations. Hence, the huge abstention was a mere spontaneous expression of a different kind of chasm that was getting deeper between the street and the political elites.

Between the boycotted practices that have proven their inability to absorb the genuine concerns related to the present challenges - with the emergence of many demands and aspirations tailored to the measure of the prevailing social, economic and cultural developments - and the ongoing behaviors and mentalities that overlooked these developments, the political scene stood at a standstill. After all, the reforms, regardless of their legal, political and procedural importance, are measured by how likely they are to bring about realistic approaches to change the prevailing structures, whether at the level of determining the role of the state, activating the political parties and benefiting from the experiences and aspirations of the civil society, or in terms of addressing and promoting reality. The coming municipal elections will be a mere test for willpower and capacity.

In such competitions that focus on running public affairs, political backgrounds will certainly come into play. Bygone is the time when the state was an economic actor and a key driver of the development cycles. However, to lift the burdens off the concept of the central state does not necessarily mean absolving it from its responsibilities in comprehensive rehabilitation which gives a space for the private sector and local producers and consecrates the decentralization of administrative decisions. Nevertheless, the global economic and financial crisis can not be overcome if roles are not redistributed. In this sense, new lessons must be learnt vis-à-vis the challenges of local development.

Just like other emerging democracies, Morocco has tried many recipes for state welfare and role of parties. It has also tried to reconcile economic and commercial privatization, benefiting from its revenues. This had taken place to the rhythm of questioned new developments. The importance of the forthcoming elections does not lie in their competitive aspect which is likely to redraw a semi-fixed map, but rather in the opportunity they present for contemplation and revision. Measured by the momentum of popular participation, advanced democracies gain their credibility first and foremost from renewing the ideas and elites and leading change.

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