Debate heats up in Morocco before elections

Friday 04/09/2015
Noureddine Lazrak (C) a candidate of the National Rally of Independents party (RNI) greets supporters during a regional campaign in the old Medina of Salé on August 29, 2015.

Casablanca - Morocco’s political parties are taking their battle to social media in their cam­paign ahead of re­gional and local elections.
The virtual battle on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networks is heating up and they could prove to be the key to de­ciding Morocco’s political future. Facebook is the most popular bat­tlefield for political parties as hun­dreds of thousands of Moroccans turn to the internet to find out the latest about the campaign.
With more than 480,000 likes on its Facebook page, the ruling Islamist party of Justice and De­velopment (PJD) by far outclasses all rivals. The main opposition Party of Authenticity and Moder­nity (PAM), which opposes the rise of Islamist parties, comes second with 264,534 likes.
PJD has been banking on its young “e-army” to disseminate its message with videos of its achievements in municipalities across Morocco and speeches of its leaders and election hopefuls during the campaign.
But the war of words has heated up as party leaders trade accusa­tions and insults.
The head of the conservative In­dependence Party, Hamid Chabat, has repeatedly attacked Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Ben­kirane and the PJD.
“I think Benkirane is not a nor­mal personality. I can describe him as someone worse than crazy,” Chabat said in an interview with YouTube channel Chouf TV.
“Instead of presenting a sum­mary of what his government has achieved so far, Benkirane swears in all his appearances, which low­ers the political level in Morocco,” said Chabat, whose party moved into opposition after quitting the PJD-led government two years ago.
“We consider what he is doing as a conspiracy against democracy, the nation and Moroccans. I see all his statements as lies and hypoc­risy,” he added.
Benkirane hit back at Chabat, saying his government wanted a serious opposition that exposed its mistakes rather than a fail­ing opposition, which he accused of sending troublemakers to his meetings.
The prime minister slammed Chabat in a speech before a packed football stadium in Fez, the heart of Chabat’s constituency. Ben­kirane called for the Independence Party leader to quit politics and ac­cusing him of bribing voters.
“I have some information that Chabat is knocking at every door to buy each vote for 350 dirhams ($36),” Benkirane told the crowd.
The prime minister also accused PAM leader Mustapha Bakkoury of using money from drug trafficking to fund the party’s campaign.
While the Moroccan govern­ment has spent a large amount promoting the elections, the focus on personal attacks rather than policy has disenchanted many voters.
“I just can’t believe the intel­lectual level of these party lead­ers. How on Earth can we go and vote after this circus?” said Nasser Faouzi, a 44-year-old trader.
“I lost interest in the elections since we see campaigners only in the run-up to the polls.”
Moroccan King Mohammed VI called on his citizens to vote for competent, credible candidates who are committed to serving the public good.
“Voting is a right and a national duty, a major responsibility that has to be shouldered. It is a tool in your hands; you either use it to change the daily management of your affairs or to maintain the status quo, good or bad,” the king said in a statement televised on August 20th.
“Make a conscientious, respon­sible choice, for tomorrow you will have no right to complain of mis­management or poor services,” he said. But many Moroccans doubt that much will change as a result of the king’s speech.
“I think his majesty’s speech is falling on deaf ears. Many candi­dates are buying votes,” banker Zakariya Badr said.
“How are we going to see real change if corrupt candidates win?”