Activists make last boycott call for Morocco polls

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2011 4:27 PM
Activists make last boycott call for Morocco polls

Thousands of Moroccans from the pro-democracy movement made a final call Sunday to boycott upcoming elections with protests across the country.

At least 3,000 people marched through the capital Rabat and another 4,000 chanted demonstrated in Casablanca, the country's largest city. Demonstrations took place in other cities across the country as well.

"Long live the Tunisian, Egyptian, Syrian and Libyan revolutions, now we want a Moroccan one," said one banner carried by protesters in Casablanca.

Protesters also chanted the slogan heard all around the region during the Arab Spring: "The people want the downfall of the regime."

Under pressure from pro-democracy demonstrations that swept Morocco, along with the other countries in the Middle East, the king modified the constitution and brought forward parliamentary elections by a year.

Activists, however, maintain that the fundamental political structures of a corrupt system that keeps all power in the hands of the king hasn't changed, so the new elections are pointless.

"These elections and the new constitution just confirm the absolute power of the king," said Hassan Ait Ali, an activist with the banned Islamist Adl wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity) movement that has joined democracy activists in their demonstrations.

Though demonstrations were not as large as their heyday in March, protests have still taken place every week, focusing in the month in particular on boycotting the elections.

The government is hoping for a high turnout to bolster its legitimacy following weak levels of participation in previous elections.

Over the past weeks, several activists have been arrested for passing out literature calling for a boycott. Security, however, was light at the Casablanca and Rabat demonstrations.

"It's not a bad turnout out considering the rain and the fear," said Abadila Maaelaynine, a veteran activist at the march in Rabat. "It's certainly more than any political party can do."

Morocco has more than a dozen political parties that compete in elections and hold seats in the parliament, but many are seen as just trying to curry favor with the palace in return for power.

While the king remains popular, his entourage is viewed as corrupt and most people have little confidence in the parliament.

Unemployment, especially among the youth and educated is high and there is widespread poverty, which has led to deep dissatisfaction.

While elections are held at regular intervals, no party ever wins a majority and most power resides in the hands of the king, despite recent amendments to the constitution.