Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.3
The Boycott Option:
Has the boycott been of some significant over general elections since 1963? Beforehand, I have been admonished for my use of official data on the last 50 years or so. And I agree: half a century of ballot-stuffing, gerrymandering, administrative parties mushrooming whose sole aim is to prevent opposition from reaching power through regular electoral processes. Driss Basri, Interior Minister since 1983 (and Secretary of State since 1993) has performed wonders in shaping majorities, weakening parties, elevating others, and systematically delivering high turnout and Soviet-style results in constitutional referendums. And so, why study past results, since all figures have been twisted? Indirectly, this has been -and still is, to this day- one of the main pro-boycott set of arguments: if authorities can temper with supposedly free and fair elections, why bother to vote? (incidentally, this is also a good argument for not caring about past elections…)
The Boycott Party has had a rather strong showing since 1963: of 4.7 Million registered voters, 1.2Million cast blank or invalidated votes, and some 1.3 Million did not bother to turnout to vote at all. The “Boycott Party” (if indeed it was a boycott) had carried a similar number of votes to that of pro-regime FDIC. When non-cast ballots are accrued, it turns out only one elector out of two bothered to express an interest in UNFP, or Istiqlal or FDIC candidates.
If non-voting electors represented a sizeable population, that was taken care of with the next 1977 elections, where turnout climbed as high as 82.36%, which means some 1.1 Million voters did not go to polling stations, and 541,000 others had their votes annulled. 1977 elections observed high turnouts in, say Casablanca (88.75%) and Rabat (83.46%) but equally, their annulled ballots percentage was higher than nationwide mean, respectively 16.93% and 9.49%. An explanation one might venture would be that since ballots in urban areas are easier to check and staff -from opposition parties’ point of view- any perceived risk of ballot-stuffing or tampering with election results in these boroughs is significantly reduced, and even when the mistake is in good faith, chances are it will not be registered properly.
Then again, urban areas have had historically high boycott and blank ballot rates throughout: the 1977 and 1963 elections have been retained as specific examples to prove the existence of a strong sense of civics, albeit a particularly deviant one. The talks of referendum or elections these last couple of months are not particularly new: there has always been a significant population that does not trust ballot results, either because it does not trust the political field, or the process itself, or has great doubts over the actual impact on their everyday lives.
In any case, this population, theoretically a large one ever since 2007 (by some 9.7 Million disaffected voters, in addition to 1 Million blank votes) is indeed our very own “Silent Majority“, albeit a heterogeneous one: it gathers the academic sick and tired of partisan politics and more concerned with their standards of living, the high-school or college graduate youth with no clue about the whole she bang, but also the human rights and charity activist disappointed by the political process and convinced other means are more effective into bettering Morocco;
This silent majority of about half of the potential electorate embodies a blatant reproach to the failure of political parties to take charge of their constitutional duty. Not that they did not always want to, but because they have failed, up to date, in their large majority, to devise strategies to circumvent the ordinary obstacles to reach out for these voters. Taking to the street might be one, but the risk is to alienate many of those in the process…
The “Silent Majority” concept was coined by Richard M. Nixon as a generic word to designate voters fed up with and confused by the deep changes the United States were undergoing at the time (Vietnam War, civil rights, city riots, Hippies, students’ protests…) and adjunct to the sense that somehow, the society was falling apart.