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Parliamentary Elections and Authoritarian Rule in Morocco

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Regular elections have become a common feature in Moroccan politics. While elections were "contested" as an instrument of control until the mid-1990s, starting with the 1997 parliamentary elections — and followed by those in 2002 and 2007 — Morocco established an electoral system as the keystone of royal power based on limited political participation. At the same time, since 1997 the Moroccan political system has witnessed the arrival of a "newcomer," the Islamist Hizb al-'Adl wa al-Tanmiyya (Justice and Development Party), which the Kingdom integrated into the electoral process. Based on Joseph Schumpeter's intrinsic-value theory of electoral politics, this article will analyze this unique electoral process and the potential that it holds for Morocco's democratization. Evidence from public opinion research is used to argue that the electorate's de-politicization has engendered a shaky alliance in favor of electoral politics. The consequence of this is a contradiction that may be typical of elections in authoritarian states. On one hand, the indirect values of elections are a push towards greater debate about the meaning of democracy. On the other, the electoral process also results in the reproduction of patron-client relations, which undermine any indirect, abstract values that are produced in the very same process. This, in turn, can be considered an inherent weakness of the process for political parties that aim at establishing a democratic force for change.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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