On September 8, Morocco held parliamentary and local elections. Experts predicted that the elections would not catalyze significant change in the North African country. However, Morocco’s long-standing ruling party found it had lost most of its popular support in the aftermath of the election. As the country’s liberal parties transition to power, Moroccans are celebrating. In particular, Moroccan women are pleased with the outcome as the latest transformation reflects a significant step forward for women’s rights and political representation.
Between February 2011 and 2012, Moroccans took to the streets to protest the country’s ailing economy and demand political reform. Since the Arab Spring movement, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), a conservative Islamic party, has been in power. This year, PJD officials were hoping to secure a third term for their coalition. The election results, however, delivered a sharp blow to their aspirations. According to election results, the party went from holding 125 parliamentary seats to just 12. Morocco’s liberal parties, on the other hand, garnered significantly more support. The National Rally of Independents (RNI) gained 97 seats, and the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) obtained 82 seats. Meanwhile, the center-right Istiqlal Party won 78 seats out of Morocco’s 395-seat assembly.
Turnout for the recent elections was 50.35%, up from 43% during legislative elections in 2016. Some experts credit this increase in voter turnout to recent changes in voting procedures and systems, which allowed Morocco’s 18 million voters to vote for the country’s 395 parliamentary seats and 31,000 local and regional positions on the same day.
The PJD’s landslide loss was unexpected. For many years, Moroccans have supported the PJD and its conservative Islamist values. However, Moroccans have increasingly pushed to establish a more liberal and modern society over the past few years, advocating for personal freedoms, often via social media. The election results, therefore, reflect a significant shift in Morocco’s political consciousness. The recent election results are significant for women’s rights in Morocco.
Over the past few decades, Morocco’s electoral guidelines have made it challenging for female politicians to compete on an equal footing with their male counterparts. However, the electoral laws were recently amended, establishing quotas for local councils, which require one-third of all seats to go to female officials. This year, female ballot representation has also increased markedly. In 2015, 12% of candidates in local and regional elections were women. This year, this figure jumped to 27%. However, there is still room for improvement. Although female ballot representation increased this year, the number of districts led by female participation is still 1%. Nonetheless, the latest election signals a drastic change in the structure and leadership of Morocco’s traditionally patriarchal society.
Morocco’s recent parliamentary and local elections resulted in the ousting of the country’s long-standing ruling coalition in favor of more liberally-minded groups. This shift will have numerous ramifications for the country’s future. Additionally, this transition represents a major advancement for female political participation and representation in the North African country. Morocco has traditionally been a patriarchal society dominated by conservative Islamist views. However, the recent election results demonstrate the country is gradually advancing women’s rights.