2021 Moroccan general election
Morocco
← 2016 8 September 2021

All 395 seats in the House of Representatives
198 seats needed for a majority
Turnout50.35% Increase 7.35pp[1]
Party Leader % Seats ±
RNI Aziz Akhannouch 102 +65
PAM Abdellatif Ouahbi 87 -15
Istiqlal Nizar Baraka 81 +35
USFP Driss Lachgar 34 +14
MP Mohand Laenser 28 +1
PPS Nabil Benabdallah 22 +10
UC Mohammed Sajid 18 -1
PJD Saadeddine Othmani 13 -112
MDS Abdessamad Archane 5 +2
FFD Mustapha Benali 3 +3
FGD 1 -1
PSU Nabila Mounib 1 New
This lists parties that won seats. See the complete results below.
Prime Minister before Prime Minister after
Saadeddine Othmani no Brasil.jpg Saadeddine Othmani
PJD
Aziz Akhannouch
RNI
Aziz Akhannouch (cropped).jpg

The 2021 Moroccan general election was held on 8 September 2021 to elect 395 members of the House of Representatives. The National Rally of Independents led by Aziz Akhannouch won the most seats (102), a gain of 65 seats from the prior election. The liberal Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) took second place with 87 seats, a net loss of 15 seats. The centre-right Istiqlal Party gained 35 seats and took third place with 81 seats total. The governing Justice and Development Party won only 13 seats, a net loss of 112 seats for the party.

Background

King Mohammed VI in 2016

July 2020 marked the 21st year of King Mohammed VI's reign in Morocco.[2] The first two decades of the 21st century saw civil and political reforms, as well as "popular disillusionment" with the socioeconomic and political state of the nation.[2] In response to the 2011 protests that occurred as part of the Arab Spring, King Mohammed VI announced a series of constitutional reforms, passed through a national referendum in July 2011.[3] The reforms were described by the BBC as "expanding the powers of parliament and the prime minister but leaving the king with broad authority over the government".[4] The Islamic State's presence in the region also posed a threat to Morocco throughout the 2010s.[2]

In 2014, the Freedom of the Press report gave Morocco a rating of "not free".[5]

After the 2016 elections, protests continued to occur; in 2016 and 2017, a movement known as Hirak Rif demonstrated in the streets of northern Morocco against corruption and unemployment.[4] In 2017, the Freedom of the Press report upgraded Morocco's rating to "partly free".[6] By June 2019, the BBC reported that "almost half of Moroccans [were] considering emigrating" to other countries.[4] The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Morocco a "hybrid regime" in 2019.[7][needs update]

2020 saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, a law was passed to outlaw many forms of making posts online.[8] The government claimed the bill was written "without prejudice to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of digital communications", and shortly began arresting people for posting information it deemed to be false.[8] Morocco's initial response to the pandemic put it "among the world's COVID-19 success stories" in the first months of the pandemic;[9] lockdown measures first implemented on 20 March began to be eased after several months, and a third phase of gradually lifting the lockdown had begun on 19 July. However, the reduction in cases came at a cost: by late July, the government's actions during the pandemic would be described as a "reversal of democratic reforms", with Parliament being "sidelined, its duties increasingly usurped by the Makhzen".[10] The Interior Ministry suspended local council meetings (even remote meetings held online), an action the Constitution reserved exclusively for Parliament.[10] While a restriction on visitation from foreign business visitors was lifted on 10 September, a sharp increase in cases (and the possibility of a second wave of infections) prompted the restrictions to be reinstated.[11]

In November 2020, the Polisario Front ended a 29-year ceasefire agreement with Morocco in Western Sahara, blaming Morocco for breaking the terms of the agreement.[12][13] In December, the Israel–Morocco normalization agreement established diplomatic relations between the two nations; Morocco became the sixth Arab League member to do so, and the fourth in the space of four months (along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan).[14][15] In exchange, the Donald Trump administration announced that the United States would recognize Morocco's claim over Western Sahara.[16]

Parties confirmed to be contesting the election included the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD), the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), and the Istiqlal Party (PI).[17]

Electoral system

Morocco has a bicameral legislature, whose two chambers are the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives has 395 seats, which are elected by proportional representation and consist of two tiers: 305 seats are elected from 92 multi-member constituencies (with the electoral threshold set at 6%) and the remaining 90 are elected from a single nationwide constituency (with no electoral threshold according to new law[18]). Nationwide seats are reserved; 60 are set aside for women and 30 are set aside for people under the age of 40, of which 15 must be women.[19]

An amendment to electoral law assigned an additional 15 reserved seats for female representatives in the 2021 parliament.[20] Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said in September 2020 that the political representation of women in Morocco had "not yet reached the required level", but that concerted efforts would ensure a "significant and fair" representation of women in the 2021 elections.[20] The new law calculates the allocations of seats based on the number of registered voters, rather than the number of those who actually cast a ballot.[21] This means the party that received the largest number of votes in the district will not be able to obtain more than one electoral seat.[22]

All citizens who were at least 18 years old, or have reached the age of 18 by March 2021, were eligible to vote. The period for submitting voter registration requests ended on 31 December 2020.[23]

Campaign

The electoral calendar was unveiled on 10 May 2021.[24] While the municipal, regional and legislative elections traditionally took place on different days, in 2021, a new electoral law was passed under which all three would be held on the same day, in a bid to increase voter turnout[25] (the 2016 elections had a turnout of less than 50%).[26][17] [27] However, a high level of abstention was expected due to a loss of confidence in the institutions, with the government's sidelining of parliament leading to a lack of real issues at stake in the elections.[28]

On 15 August 2021, the minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs issued a communiqué signed by Minister Ahmed Toufiq calling on all imams and preachers in the country to remain neutral, and warning that religious rectors who do so would be removed from their administrative duties. This request was also addressed to the delegates and representatives of the ministry.[29]

The election campaign began on 26 August.[30]

The Justice and Development Party (PJD) of Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani hoped to repeat for the third time in a row the lead in the vote that brought it to power in 2011. In particular, the moderate Islamists hoped to gain sufficiently clear-cut control of key ministries, which they have traditionally lacked. The PJD trailed in particular by two-thirds in the polls,[31] behind the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), led by Abdellatif Ouahbi and known for its royalist stance in a country where public attachment to the monarch is already strong.[31]

The Istiqlal party (PI), led by Nizar Baraka, came third in 2016 and has an economic development program that focuses on reducing inequalities, but also on environmental issues, particularly in terms of water resource management, biodiversity, and the fight against pollution.[31]

The National Rally of Independents (RNI) of minister Aziz Akhannouch presented a program focused on five commitments and 25 actions valued at 275 billion dirhams, or more than 25 billion euros.[31]

COVID-19 measures

The election was organized in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. By July 2020, rumors had started to circulate that the elections would be postponed due to the virus. While Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit launched political consultations for the 2021 elections on 8 July,[32] on 8 August it was reported that the government was considering postponing the elections due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The difficulty of carrying out election activities while limiting transmission of the virus, as well as the economic challenges of carrying out an election during the concomitant economic recession, were cited as motivating factors.[9] Meanwhile, some parties voiced opposition to the proposal, claiming it was a ploy by the incumbent government to prolong its control over the nation.[9][33]

On 9 November, however, it was announced that general elections had been scheduled to take place in September 2021.[26][17] The organization of the electoral campaign was under significant health restrictions, including a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people nor of big political rallies.[31]

Results

Turnout rose sharply from 43% in 2016 to 50.35% in 2021, the highest since the 2002 elections.[34][35]

The elections were won by the National Rally of Independents (RNI), led by Aziz Akhannouch, which won 102 seats, gaining 65. It was followed by the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which won 87 seats, losing 15. In third place, the Istiqlal Party won 81, gaining 35 seats. The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) won 34; the Popular Movement (MP), 28; the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), 22; the Constitutional Union (UC), 18; the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS), 5; the Front of Democratic Forces (FFD), 3 and the Alliance of the Left Federation (FGD), 1. The historic defeat of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) led the ruling party to win only 13 seats, thus losing 112, more than 90% of its seats and placing it in eighth place after winning the three previous elections. Saadeddine Othmani also failed to win re-election in his constituency of Rabat.[36] Two new parties entered: FFD with 3 deputies and PSU with one. The PUD and the PSGV lost one seat each, thus remaining outside the House of Representatives.[37][38][39]

At the request of the Moroccan authorities, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe deployed four groups of congress observers in and around Rabat and Casablanca to make an electoral assessment between 7 and 9 September.[40] A total of 4,500 observers were accredited, 70 of which were international and 14 from NGOs.[41]

National