People have not exactly flocked to the polls in Morocco’s general election that is seen as a key test of democratic reform. But neither do calls for a mass boycott seem to have been heeded.
By mid-afternoon, after Friday prayers, turnout was 22.4 percent according to official figures, higher than four years ago. Polls have now closed.
As in Tunisia, a moderate Islamist party is hoping to gain office and benefit from new powers relinquished by the king under a new constitution.
“Normally, the next government should have more freedom in its work to put its programme into practice despite powers which remain in the hands of the king, (such as) for example, defence and religious affairs,” said Abdelilah Benkirane, leader of Morocco’s Justice and Development Party, or PJD.
But the outcome is uncertain. Opinion polls have been banned in the run-up to the vote, but a coalition of liberals with links to the palace is also expected to do well.
It includes parties already in government and is led by the finance minister, Salaheddine Mezouar:
“Modernity and openness are fundamental choices if we want our country and our society to be in tune with reality in the world today,” he said.
Coming in the wake of the Arab spring protest movements, the vote’s being seen as a test of Morocco’s democratic credentials that will reverberate around other countries too.
euronews correspondent in Rabat, Kawtar Wakil
“National and international observers have come in large numbers to monitor these parliamentary elections which will bring the first government under the new constitution.”
Parliament will get more power; the king will have to choose a prime minister from the leading party. But amid widespread poverty and high unemployment especially among the young, many Moroccans are sceptical real change is on the horizon.