Moroccans go to legislative, local elections

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Moroccans elect a new parliament and new local leaders on Wednesday in elections transformed by the pandemic. Candidates promise to create jobs and strengthen Morocco’s economy, education and health care. The country has been hit hard by the pandemic but has Africa’s highest vaccination rate to date.

There are 17,983,490 eligible voters, out of the country’s 36 million inhabitants, who will cast their votes in 92 constituencies spread across the kingdom’s 12 provinces. The Justice and Development Party (PJD), which leads the current government, and the National Rally of Independents (RNI), a coalition led by Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch, are the two main parties vying for 395 seats in the country’s first parliament.

The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), the largest opposition party and the Istiqlal opposition party, also emerged as an electoral force in the country. The result of Wednesday’s vote is difficult to predict as opinion polls on elections are banned. King Mohammed VI will appoint a prime minister from the party who will lead the parliamentary inquiry to rule the nation for the next five years.

The race is likely to be close and regardless of which party gets the most seats, it will probably need to gather a coalition with other parties to form the government. Many voters hope the election provides solutions to local problems, from jobs to viruses. While Morocco has one of the region’s strongest economies and a thriving business district in Casablanca, poverty and unemployment are also widespread, especially in rural areas. Morocco has seen thousands of desperate young people make risky, often fatal, trips in small boats to Spain’s Canary Islands or reach the Spanish mainland via the Strait of Gibraltar.

Strict security guidelines in place when the UK struggles with a new increase in COVID-19 cases have limited the campaigns, so candidates intensified their efforts on social media instead. Voters choose from candidates from 31 political parties and coalitions.

They will also elect representatives to 678 seats on regional councils. Candidates were not allowed to hand out brochures and had to limit campaign collections to a maximum of 25 people. Morocco has registered more than 13,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to figures from the Moroccan Ministry of Health.

The PJD has been at the helm of the government since 2011 and is now seeking a third term. Together with Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the party has fought to increase Morocco’s economy’s competitiveness.

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