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Cablegate: Parliament: Upper House Elections Set For


DE RUEHRB #1641/01 2481642
R 051642Z SEP 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. RABAT 1506
B. RABAT 1415

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

2. (SBU) Summary: On September 8, Morocco will hold
indirect elections for 90 of the 270 seats in the Chamber
of Councilors, the upper house of parliament. The official
campaign period started September 1 and runs through
midnight on September 7. In late August, the Minister of
Interior outlined to the Parliament measures adopted by the
MOI to ensure transparency in the upcoming elections.
Several lower house parliamentarians, however, called the
steps "absolutely insufficient." Several political parties
have also openly questioned the upper house's mandate, and
the very existence of two parliamentary chambers. While a
topic of conversation among Morocco's elite, upper house
elections do not resonate with the population at large.
End Summary.

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3. (SBU) Indirect elections for one-third of the 270 seats
in Morocco's Chamber of Councilors, the upper house of
parliament, will take place on September 8. Building on
the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Ministry of Interior
(MOI) August 4 joint communiqu (ref A), the MOI on August
27 issued a statement detailing official procedures for the
upcoming elections. According to the MOI, the official
submission of candidacies took place between August 28 and
August 31, while the official election campaign period
started September 1 and runs through midnight on September
7. In the complex formula spelled out by the law, of the
90 seats to be elected on September 8, municipal councils
will elect 54 seats, chambers of agriculture will elect 11
seats, chambers of commerce, industry and service will
elect 8 seats, chambers of handicraft industries will elect
7 seats, chambers of maritime fishing will elect 1 seat,
and labor unions will elect 9 seats.

Background On The Upper House

4. (SBU) Morocco's 1996 constitution established a
bicameral legislature consisting of a lower house - the
Chamber of Representatives, and an upper house - the
Chamber of Councilors. The upper house's 270 members serve
nine-year terms, with one-third (90) of the chamber's
membership elected every three years. Members of the upper
house are elected by regional electoral colleges. In a
given regional electoral college, those eligible to vote
include: members of municipal councils, professional
chambers, and labor unions. (Note: Municipal councils and
the lower house of parliament are the only directly elected
representative political institutions. End Note.) In
1997, all 270 seats of the upper house were elected for the
first time. Elections were held in 2000 to renew one-third
of the councilors elected in 1997, as was the case in
2003. (NB: In 2000 and 2003, a lottery system determined
which councilors would be part of the one-third up for
renewal.) The remaining 90 seats up for election this year
are those of members who have served full nine-year terms.

MOI at Parliament, Lower House Reacts

5. (SBU) On August 24, Minister of Interior Chakib
Benmoussa appeared before the lower house's Interior
Commission, his first appearance before parliament since
becoming the Minister of Interior in February, to discuss
the measures the MOI has put in place to limit the number
of irregularities in this year's elections. His visit came
at the request of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces
(USFP), Istiqlal, Justice and Development Party (PJD), and
Popular Movement Union (UMP) parliamentary caucuses.
According to French-language daily L'Economiste, Benmoussa
explained to parliament that the MOI is determined to check
corruption and guarantee transparency in the September 8
election, and outlined that the MOI has met with political
parties, issued a joint communiqu with the MOJ, and
created an office to centralize election-related


6. (SBU) Several lower house representatives, led by USFP
caucus leader Driss Lachgar, expressed their displeasure
with the steps taken by the MOI. According to several
media outlets, Lachgar termed the phenomenon of nine
representatives resigning from the lower house to run for
an upper house seat (ref B) "an act of treason," and
pressed Benmoussa to explain why the MOI has not taken
tougher measures to prevent these resignations. Lachgar's
sentiments were echoed by other lower house
parliamentarians, including Ahmed Moufdi (Istiqlal) and
Abdelilah Benkirane (PJD). Ahmed Benjelloun, secretary
general of the Socialist Democratic Vanguard Party (PADS),
was quoted dismissing the MOI's measures as "absolutely
insufficient." (Note: PADS has boycotted all elections for
the past two decades, but earlier this year announced it
would participate in next year's lower house elections.
End Note.)

7. (SBU) The Koutla, the "democratic bloc" alliance
between the USFP, Istiqlal, and the Party of Progress and
Socialism (PPS), publicly questions the merits of a
bicameral parliamentary system. On August 29, Lachgar said
in his party's French-language daily Liberation, "in
democratic transitions, a country only needs one strong
Chamber with a homogeneous majority and a real opposition,"
adding "currently we have two parliaments with exactly the
same prerogatives."

8. (SBU) Other political parties have also joined the fray
and have openly questioned the upper house's mandate,
calling into question the advantages of a two chamber
legislative system, and hinting at the benefits of a
potential return to one chamber. PADS secretary general
Ahmed Benjelloun said, in an August 28 interview with
French-language daily Aujourd'hui Le Maroc, that PADS has
"always rejected the idea of creating an upper house."
Benjelloun added that the upper house in its current
configuration is "useless" and is "redundant with the lower

Allegations of Irregularities

9. (SBU) According to L'Economiste, from July 23 to August
24, the press exposed and reported to the MOI 47 cases of
irregularities related to the upper house elections. The
47 infractions were grouped into the following four
categories: organizing campaigns before the official start
date (21 reported cases), vote buying (17 reported cases),
officials showing favor to a candidate (2 reported cases),
or using state resources for electoral purposes (3 reported
cases). The remaining 4 reported cases were activities
that did not fit into these categories. As of August 24,
Benmoussa reported that only one infraction, from an
unknown source, had been proved. "The allegations reported
by the press were too general and lacked proof, making the
verification of facts very difficult," Benmoussa explained
before parliament.

Not Elections for The People

10. (SBU) Upper house elections, although a hot topic of
conversation among the elite, do not appear to be
resonating with the population at large. With election day
less than a week away, most Moroccans have yet to focus on
the elections and anecdotal information suggest this apathy
is unlikely to change. Semi-private TV channel 2M on
August 29 aired the results of an informal survey on
Moroccan attitudes on the role of the upper house. Those
interviewed shared responses ranging from total
unfamiliarity with the upper house to indifference on the
matter. (Note: The upper house has traditionally been
viewed as an institution for the elite, whereas the lower
house, because its members are directly elected, is seen as
being closer to the citizens. End Note.)

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