Since the elections in Tunisia all eyes are now on both Egypt and Morocco. The legislative elections that took place on November 25th in Morocco are noteworthy because they are the first in the history of the country.
These legislative elections represent the first step in a new political landscape with which his Royal Highness is not guaranteed a position. It will test and define the democratic transition of Morocco since the adoption of a new constitution in July 2011.
Women first became part of the Moroccan government in 1997, when one was made Secretary of State. Since that time, however, the number of women ministers has remained limited. While the initial Moroccan Constitution asserted the right for equality and explicitly recognized women’s political rights (Article 8); the reformed constitution (2011) on the other hand recognizes that women--in addition to having equal civil and political rights should have equal economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (article 19#). The new constitution offers huge hopes for gender equality, by combating the problem of domestic violence and encouraging the creation of women's rights organizations to help institutionalize change.
A number of other measures have been taken to improve the status of women in Morocco in recent years. Women Rights groups and human rights activists took a rather unique approach to tackling gender parity on the political stage by first addressing inequality within the household through the framework of family law (October 2004) and the code of personal status (CSP). The CSP, also known as the Mudawana is based on the Malikite School of Islamic law, and governs the status of women under civil law. The revised CSP now proclaims the equality of men and women and confirms joint responsibility for the family. The recent constitutional reform has increased the number of seats reserved to women from 30 out of 325 to 60 out of the 395 seats (15%) in 2011. Though still well below the 30% quota claimed by women’s movements” it is an improvement from the initial quotas implemented in 2008.
The electoral code has also undergone significant changes to increase the political participation of women. Starting with a reform of the ballot system and electoral code in 2002, through the introduction of a proportional list system. Followed by the institution of a positive discriminatory act in the form of a quota act, in the form of a national list of 30 seats reserved for women in the House of Representatives for the parliamentary elections.
Partially as a result of these measures and the active role of civil society and women’ groups Moroccan women's representation in decision-making positions has improved and at government level 7 portfolios were assigned to women in 2007 including 5 full title-ministers for the first time. September 2007 marked the election of 34 women to the House of Deputies 10.77% in contrast to 0.66% in the previous legislature (2002). The political participation of women grew from 0.6% in 1997 to 10.7% in 2002, while women’s rates in local councils multiplied by 22, increasing from 0.56% to 12%” in 2009.
These measures endorse the need for equal political participation and have had a positive impact but parity could not be further from the reality, women presently make up only 10.46% of the parliament, no women has ever been appointed Wali, President of a Regional Council or governor. As observed by a study done by CAWTAR women’s candidatures on electoral lists in 2007 were limited in spite of the introduction of quotas. “The political representativeness of women in the House of Representatives depends more on respecting the moral engagements of political leaders, than on observing ballot mode.” Political parties have not put forward enough female candidates in the past, when they have made it they were not granted ministerial positions.
Fighting for a Voice
With 13, 626 375 Moroccans officially registered two vote, the competing parties and candidates will be vying for a place in the 395-seat chamber of representatives# in which a number of seats are reserved to youth candidates and women. This parliamentary election will determine whether the countries new constitutional provisions for women go “beyond paper gains.” The next parliament has the chance, through legislation, to decide the reach of constitutional reforms approved by a landslide popular vote in July 2011.
The reformed constitution and legislation have put in place judicial and legal mechanism that seek to encourage and defend the political participation of women. Moroccan political parties play an important role in “propelling” women in elected political bodies and have a responsibility under the constitution to equally represent women in line with the quotas. In this context it will be interesting to see how many women candidates are elected to office outside of and in addition to the national list reserved for women!
Amidst a call for boycott by the “pro-reform February 20 movement” election campaigning, which began on November 12, has remained rather low key. The impact of this boycott on the election appears to be mixed. According to one observer the impact of the “anti-vote” demonstrations on the candidate’s election campaign has been significant. While another source claims that the “boycott is unlikely to derail the election because it does not resonate with the majority of the population which is politically active.”
Although the National Human Rights Council of Morocco encouraged the population to use their “personal right to vote” as a political tool to initiate change in the old regime, many people expressed dismay prior to the elections and refused to vote on the principal that they did not foresee any changes in the future.
According to the Interior Ministry although voter turnout was low (45.4%) as expected, with 4 out of 10 Moroccans not registered to vote voter turnout improved by 8% since the last legislative elections in 2007. Over 31 parties competed for a share of the Chamber of Representatives, but despite the number of parties that partook in these year’s legislative election the main battle took place between the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party and the Coalition for Democracy (an eight party bloc loyal to the King Muhammed VI)#. Internal observers claim the Islamist Opposition Justice and Development Party won the largest number of seats in Morocco’s parliamentary election on Friday. A success confirmed by government officials and in line with the reformed constitution the king retains the last word in all issues concerning defence, national security and religion. The King , who has always played a key role in the promotion of women in the public sphere, has yet to elect a prime minister from the party with the most seats.
In the words of university lecturer Mohamed Tozy the results are unsure and the game is open to all “one thing is sure is that the future government will have to take a completely different approach “the country wants new ideas, and new faces.” The new members of parliament elected on November 25, alongside the King will determine the actual change.
Positive legislative changes, however, will only become truly significant if they are incorporated into the day-to-day lives of Morocco's millions of women and girls. This remains a major challenge for a society in the middle of an incomplete transition toward democratization, integration into the global economy, and urbanization-not to mention a country torn between the forces of regression and the forces of progress. A gender perspective has yet to be incorporated into all areas of governance, law and society in general ensuring women equal access to state resources and equal opportunities. There appears to be no mechanisms or sanctions that ensure the complete institutionalisation of list voting system and police the implementation of the quota system.
Moreover information on women's participation in political parties is scarce, many Moroccan women do not have full access to information or resources with which to empower their civic or political lives. Some female candidates such as Kakon a Social Party Candidate have broken the media blackout on female participation by running for this year’s election. When asked if her Jewish nationality would present an obstacle, Kankon answered “ not because I am Jewish but because I a woman. Moroccan women, however, are present in all walks of life and I think I should try#”
NGOs and local women’s organizations have played a major role in increasing the number of radio campaigns, posters, meetings, and training sessions for women, to encourage them to stand for office in elections and to vote for candidates who are likely to consider women's agendas. It is essential that the future leaders of Morocco recognize the importance of a growing civil society allowing it to play a role in holding the government accountable for it’s promises and electoral mandate.
Souad Belhorna (WNN) summerizes the situation as such “as a member of a human rights association, I believe what is needed is more collaboration between the government and women’s associations to create a strong network of services for women. The network should offer support to women in reporting violence to the police, obtaining medical service and achieve justice–helping so women gain self-esteem, autonomy and feel empowered to be active in society. The state should bolster the work of NGOs, especially in providing access to these services for women living in smaller towns.”
His majesty the King has appointed a Prime Minister from the Justice and Development Party (PJD) that won the elections. The PJD will now be charged with forming a new governing coalition and implementing the reforms it lobbied during the electoral campaign.
Only three women out of 295 locally elected representatives suceeded in obtaining enough votes to compete for a seat in 2007. Today the list system is a positive step in recognising women's political participation and provides an affirmative display of gender equality.
The final make up of Morocco's government will be revealed in the coming few days including the number of women elected to leadership positions.
Women Political Representation Statistics
|Political Representation||Prior-to the election||After-the elections|
|Bicameral Parliament: Chamber of Counselors (Majlis al- Mustacharin||6/270 seats or 2.2% (2009)||N/A|
|Chamber of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwab)||30 /325 seats or 9.2% (2002)||67/395 seats or 17%|
|Total percentage (%) of women in parliament||10.46% (2002)||15%
|Total Percentage (%) of candidate lists headed by a female candidate||269/6691 or 4.91 % (2007)||N/A|
Data on women in local governance (2003)
-Participation rate: 51.55%
-Women representation in local councils: 12% (2009)
1 Country Profile available from iKnow politics
3 Jeune Afrique, 24: 2011 accessed from: http://fr.allafrica.com/stories/printable/201111221557.html
4 CAWTAR Study NB
5 Jeune Afrique 2011
6 Ewing, M. (2011, 11 21). Moroccan Vote Puts Women's Gains to Crucial Test. Retrieved 11 21, 2011 from Women
Benmehdi, H. (2011, 11 22). Moroccans Protest Elections. Retrieved 11 23, 2011 from Magharebia.com: http://
8 Aljazeera.net. (2011, 11 20). Thousands in Morocco Call for Poll Boycott. Retrieved 11 20, 2011 from Aljazeera
9 Magharebia News. (2011, 11 25). Morocco Holds Legislative Elections. Retrieved 11 25, 2011 from Magharebia
10 El Amraoui, A. (2011, 11 25). Jewish Woman in Morocco Poll Fray. Retrieved 11 25, 2011 from