In July 2007, FRIDE published a background document on the Moroccan legislative election of September 7th (‘An Islamist Government in Morocco?’), analysing the prospects of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) to form part of the next government, and the possible implications this might have for Moroccan democracy.
Many of the concerns identified in this backgrounder were borne out when the elections were held. No Moroccan election before has generated such excitement and international attention as the 2007 legislative elections.
Election observers, foreign correspondents and analysts alike headed to Rabat to witness what was expected to become the day that would seal Morocco’s shift to an ‘Islamist government’.
But polls and forecasts were proven wrong: while the PJD did gain a few seats, it achieved anything but a ‘raz de marée’ and did not see its expectations of becoming the strongest political force in the country come to fruition.
No less surprising, the old, established Istiqlal (Independence) Party overtook the PJD in a leap of popularity that analysts are having trouble explaining.
The most striking feature of this election, however, has been neither the PJD’s relative failure nor Istiqlal’s sudden boost, but the miserably low voter turnout of 37 per cent, according to the official figures.
Real participation, however, is estimated to have been even lower (around 24 per cent), given that the offi cial fi gures refer to registered voters and still include void and blank votes, which account for 19 per cent of the vote cast.
In other words, at least two-thirds of Moroccans abstained, and of those who did cast the ballot, one out of every five was blank or void. In addition, Moroccan media report that many of the blank votes were adorned with protest messages blatantly expressing disenchantment with the governing elite.