Moroccan activists call for election boycott

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2011 5:33 PM
Moroccan activists call for election boycott

Thousands of pro-democracy activists demonstrated in Morocco's largest city calling for a boycott of parliamentary elections less than two weeks away.

The demonstrations comes as a parliamentary delegation from the Council of Europe noted there was little enthusiasm in the country just two weeks before the election and said there was worry about the level of participation.

"I'm boycotting, how about you?" said stickers carried by many of the activists as they marched through a working class district in Casablanca.

Morocco's parliamentary elections will be held early as part of a government-initiated reform process in the North African kingdom, which is a close U.S. ally.

In response to pro-democracy demonstrations, part of a wave of uprisings that swept the Middle East earlier this year, the king amended the constitution to give up some of his powers and moved elections to Nov. 25.

The pro-democracy February 20 movement which organized the demonstrations, however, has dismissed the king's reforms and the upcoming elections as more of the same "facade democracy" that they say has long been practiced in the kingdom.

"Moroccans, these elections are a piece of theater!" said the movement's statement for the demonstration.

Morocco has always had a degree of pluralism that was once lacking elsewhere in North Africa, with several parties competing for seats in a national assembly.

The king, however, holds supreme power and often plays one party against another. In 2007, participation in elections was only 37 percent as many saw little point in voting for a body that has few real powers.

The Council of Europe delegation spent a week in Morocco talking with politicians and party officials and found that many were worried that these elections would see similarly low levels of participation.

"The delegation noted that the electoral campaign, which officially begins Nov. 12, has not evoked much excitement among voters," according to Sunday's statement.

There has been no outward sign on the streets, such as campaign posters, that elections are imminent.

Around 3,000 activists from the February 20 movement marched through the lower income neighborhood as thousands watched from their homes _ some even joining in.

"I don't demonstrate with them because I have a young child, but I am 100 percent with what they are saying," Emad Khayri said as he watched the demonstrators march by. "I have no reason to go vote."

Another bystander said he saw little point in joining the demonstration because he didn't think they would achieve their goals, but agreed with the demands for an end to corruption, better schooling and health care and an end to police brutality.

He also said he had no plans to vote either.

"If you vote or don't, it's all the same," Khaled Bougrine said.