Morocco’s Elections Hit by Claims of Unfairness
RABAT, Morocco (AP) _ The series of elections held by King Hassan II were supposed to create a season of strides toward democracy. Instead, it is a winter of discontent.
Two months after nationwide elections for local assemblies, bitterness runs deep among opposition politicians who say their defeat was brought about by coercion, vote-buying and ballot-stuffing.
Claims of fraud also tarnished a constitutional referendum in September to retain the monarchy while strengthening parliament. Some opposition leader urged for a boycott of the vote, but authorities reported a 98 percent voter turnout and 99.6 percent approval.
Few are optimistic about the more important parliamentary election on April 30.
″The elections are certain to be faked once again,″ said Abdelrazak Afilal, who lost his seat for local assembly president in the Casablanca suburb of Ain Sbai. ″The political map is entirely cooked up by the government.″
Political resentment has added to discontent over poor social conditions. A prolonged drought is driving rural Moroccans toward the cities, where unemployment has soared to 20 percent.
At a recent rally in Casablanca, the country’s manufacturing center and a hotbed of leftist activism, Afilal hinted at a general strike. General strikes incited rioting and bloody crackdowns in 1981, 1984 and 1991.
Activists say that Afilal, president of the Moroccan General Workers’ Union, was blatantly robbed of his post by a pro-government independent.
″The results were totally overturned. The candidate who won 400 votes came in last, and the fifth-place candidate with 62 votes was declared the winner,″ said Lahsen Chanfouri of the Socialist Union for Popular Forces in Casablanca.
Pro-government candidates won nearly 80 percent of the local elections. The government denies it was involved in any electoral fraud, and say any cheating took place between individual candidates.
While the Socialist Union nearly doubled its local assembly seats, Abdelmajid Bouzoubaa, acting president of a party-backed labor federation, said the government’s promises of democracy were false.
″There was rampant cheating and ferocious repression of the working class,″ said Bouzoubaa.
Opposition activists believe Hassan’s government will engineer another win in the April legislative election to prolong its control of the Islamic world’s oldest monarchy. Hassan II took power in 1961 on the death of his father, Mohammed V, who reigned from 1927.
Bouzoubaa, who served a year in jail for opposing the government, looks ahead with resignation.
″It’s only deceptive to think there will be truly free elections,″ he said. ″When you’re caught under an avalanche you can’t just wriggle out.″
The parliamentary election was to have been held in 1990, but was repeatedly postponed in order to hold a referendum on the disputed Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory to the south claimed by Morocco.
The referendum still has not been held, but the government has promised to go ahead with elections anyway.
Amid the frustration, there was some optimism. Saudi Zemrag, who lost his race for a city council seat in Rabat by only three votes, said he was happy.
″I had a friend monitoring the ballot counting and I lost fair and square,″ said Zemrag, as 39-year-old neurologist.