Moroccans started voting on Wednesday in a parliamentary election under new rules that were expected to make it much harder for the moderate Islamist PJD to remain as the biggest party.
Though election polls are banned, analysts expect the PJD to lose ground to its more pro-establishment rivals, the RNI and PAM parties, which define themselves as social democrats.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy where the king holds sweeping powers. He picks the prime minister from the party that wins most seats in parliament and appoints key ministers.
The palace also sets the economic agenda for the country of 37 million people and has commissioned a new development model that the new government is asked to implement.
The monarchy’s dominant role means political parties espouse similar platforms focusing on education, health, employment and social welfare.
Turnout in parliamentary elections has generally been low. This year the vote will be held on the same day as municipal and regional elections, which usually have higher participation, in a bid to improve turnout. “Why should I vote? I do not expect voting to improve my situation because politicians care only about themselves,” said a worker at a hotel in Rabat who said his name was Khalid.
“I voted for a young man from a party that offers realistic promises to develop this country,” Ibrahim, a pensioner, said as he was leaving an election office in Rabat.
Despite having been the largest party since 2011, the PJD has failed to stop laws it opposes, including one to bolster the French language in education and another to allow cannabis for medical use.
The new voting rules, seen by PJD leaders as having been introduced specifically to target their majority, change the way seats are allocated, making it harder for large parties to gain many seats.
Morocco’s economy is expected to grow 5.8% this year after it contracted by 6.8% last year under the combined impact of the pandemic and drought.