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Cablegate: Morocco: Election Date Set, Redistricting Plan

VZCZCXYZ0004
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0360/01 0541809
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231809Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5918
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 4331
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 3430
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 9217
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 5657
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3235
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 4544
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 2712

UNCLAS RABAT 000360

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR NEA/MAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM MO
SUBJECT: MOROCCO: ELECTION DATE SET, REDISTRICTING PLAN
MOVES FORWARD

REF: RABAT 266

1. (U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Please
protect accordingly.

2. (SBU) Summary: The GOM announced on February 22 that
elections for the lower house of parliament will be staged on
September 7. Most political parties, including those from
the majority who supported a July ballot, have been generally
supportive of the government's decision, citing the potential
for increased voter participation. The Islamist PJD and
mainly Berber UMP, who have advocated for a September vote
all along, have been predictably pleased with the chosen
date. The MOI has also announced it will revise voter rolls,
thought to be riddled with bad entries, in April and May. At
the same time, the council of government adopted an
MOI-drafted electoral districting plan, which increases the
total number of voting constituencies from 91 to 95. No
consensus has yet emerged on the political implications of
the new district boundaries. The plan, however, must still
be passed by the council of ministers and parliament before
being finalized. The September election date extends
opportunities for the U.S. Mission to pursue election-related
advocacy, assistance, and programming. End Summary.

Government Nails Down Election Date
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) After months of speculation and rumor surrounding
the date for Morocco,s next legislative election, Minister
of Interior Chakib Benmoussa , following the February 22
council of government meeting, publicly announced that
Moroccans will head to the polls on September 7 to elect 325
members to the chamber or representatives, the lower house of
parliament. (Note: Members of the lower house of parliament
are elected to five-year terms. 295 representatives are
elected from local party lists, while 30 representatives are
elected from a national list -- informally reserved for
women. End Note.) Nabil Benabdallah, government spokesperson
and Minister of Communication, explained that the
government's decision to hold election in September was the
direct result of consultations and consensus among the MOI
and the full range of political parties. Although widely
debated in the local press and among political observers for
the past several months, the reactions from political
parties, members of parliament, and the press to the
government's decision have been generally supportive.

4. (SBU) Despite initially favoring a July date, (reftel)
because of the impending start of Ramadan and the beginning
of the school year in September, the Socialist Union of
Popular Forces (USFP) and other ruling coalition parties have
not publicly criticized the government's decision. Several
leaders of smaller parties who also favored a July election,
including Abdellah Kadiri of the National Democratic Party
(PND) and Thami El Khyari of the Democratic Forces Front
(FFD), have implicitly expressed their support for the
September date arguing that it could allow for greater voter
participation. Nonetheless, other political parties, such as
the ruling coalition's Party for Progress and Socialism
(PPS), still contend that a July date is more advantageous
for Morocco because it will increase voter turnout.
Similarly, the Islamist Party for Justice and Development
(PJD) and the mainly Berber Popular Movement Union (UMP),
have advocated for a September election all along. PJD
Secretary General Saadeddine Ohtmani was quoted February 23

SIPDIS
in the French-language daily Aujourd'hui Le Maroc as saying
that the September 7 date is most appropriate because it
provides more time for political parties to mobilize voters.

5. (SBU) According to French-language accounts of the
council of government decisions, an exceptional revision of
the electoral lists (voter rolls) to be used in this year's
elections will take place between April 5 and May 24. (NB:
There is widespread belief among political observers that the
electoral lists are out of date and rampant with double
listings, deceased voters, and false registrations.) The MOI
also released several key dates relating to the procedural
framework of the elections. Official submissions of
candidacies will take place between August 17 and August 24,
while the official election campaign period will start August
25 and will run through September 6, according to press

reports.

Electoral Districting Plan Adopted
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) At the same time, the February 22 council of
government meeting also passed a new plan that revises the
electoral districts relating to September's election. The
new plan increases the total number of voting constituencies
from 91 to 95. This change ostensibly reflects shifts in
demographics since the 2002 elections, as well as the
remapping of Morocco's administrative map since 2002, which
includes mergers of some provinces and the creation of
others. No consensus has yet emerged on the political
implications of the new district boundaries. (NOTE: The 30
national list seats are not affected by the government's
districting plan. End Note.) Although passed by the council
of government, the districting plan must still be approved by
the council of ministers (chaired by the king), then pass
through both houses of parliament before being finalized.
With that in mind, there is still space for amendments to the
current plan (though none are currently expected).


COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) The government's decision for a September ballot,
while providing political parties more time to prepare, also
provides a greater opportunity for the Mission's
election-related advocacy, assistance and programming to
resonate with political parties and voters. With the date of
the lower house elections now decided, political parties can
refocus their attention internally on preparing effective
campaigns platforms, developing strategies to increase voter
participation, and improving party image among perspective
voters. End Comment.

******************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
******************************************

Riley

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