|The ‘February 20 Movement’ maintains that Morocco’s political system is corrupt and elections are only for show [AFP]|
Thousands of Moroccans have protested in cities across the country to call for a boycott of elections next week that they allege will not be truly democratic.
At least 3,000 people marched through downtown Rabat on Sunday, chanting slogans against the vote. A witness in Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial hub, said at least 6,000 people had turned up for a parallel protest, despite heavy rain.
The Reuters news agency estimated that 10,000 protesters had gathered in the city of Tangier, across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. The Tangier demonstrators chanted “We are not voting because we are not cattle” as about
200 police officers, equipped with metal riot shields, helmets and truncheons, cordoned off the demonstration site.
The parliamentary elections, scheduled for Friday, are a test of reforms made by Morocco’s ruler, King Mohammed, to try to defuse pressure for change in the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty after the uprisings this year across the Middle East.
Protesters, however, maintain that the political system is corrupt and elections are pointless when the king and his court hold the real power. Past parliamentary elections in Morocco were marred by low turnouts.
Faced earlier this year with protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprising, King Mohammed backed constitutional reforms
which handed over some of his powers to elected officials.
He retained the right to a final say on issues of defence, national security and religion.
The palace wants the election to remove a government associated in the minds of many Moroccans with graft and replace it with new faces who will implement the king’s reforms.
The vote has pitted a party of moderate Islamists, who swear loyalty to the king, against a coalition of mainly liberal
parties also with close ties to the palace.
The movement in support of the boycott is unlikely to derail the election because it does not resonate with the majority of
the population, who are not politically engaged and revere the king.