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06RABAT1481 2006-08-04 10:07:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

TRANSFORMATIONAL DIPLOMACY: THE GOM AND POLITICAL

Tags:   PGOV PREL MO 
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1. (U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Please
protect accordingly.



2. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Ambassador, accompanied by Sarah
Johnson, resident country director of the International
Republican Institute (IRI), and Emboffs met with Abdelaziz
Meziane Belfkih, one of the king's advisors, on July 24 and
with Youssef Amrani, MFA Director of Bilateral Affairs, on
July 31, to preview the second IRI political opinion poll to
the GOM. As the first IRI poll (reftel A) had garnered
extensive media coverage and criticism, the Ambassador
requested these meetings to ensure that Moroccan officials
received a first-hand appreciation of IRI's objectives, which
are to promote democratic techniques, and to describe
scientific approaches to polling, as well as to discuss
specific results of the second poll. These meetings with key
GOM officials served as an initial step in the Mission's 2007
parliamentary election strategy. The Ambassador expressed
the USG's continuing support for Morocco's democratic
evolution and highlighted the importance, as well as
normalcy, of scientifically valid polling as a tool for
political parties in their attempts to gain votes. Polling,
said the Ambassador, is a common instrument in the arsenal of
tools used in election preparation. End Summary.



3. (SBU) Responding to the GOM's stated commitment to a more
democratic Morocco, meetings with Belfkih and Amrani were
arranged in order to ensure a clear understanding of IRI's
objectives, and to kick off engagement with the GOM in the
execution of the Mission's 2007 parliamentary election
strategy.



4. (SBU) The poll, undertaken by the independent Moroccan
polling and marketing firm, LMS-CSA, was commissioned by IRI
under its MEPI-financed cooperative agreement under USAID's
Consortium for Electoral and Political Process Strengthening
(CEPPS) in order to demonstrate polling as a political
technique which informs the development of party platforms
and establishes a basis for attracting voters. LMS-CSA was
recognized by both Belfkih and Amrani as a reputable firm.
For the discussion, IRI provided Belfkih and Amrani a set of
the slides which will be used by IRI in training sessions for
political parties. In both briefings, IRI underlined the
importance of the poll is the process or methodology, not the
actual results. The technique and methodological uses of the
poll will be communicated to the political parties during
training sessions.



--------------------------


The Belfkih Meeting


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Belfkih was clearly pleased to have been provided
an advance briefing. In discussing political party
identification, Belfkih said that, in the Moroccan context,
self-identifiers are "militants" or "activists," who follow a
party "blindly."



6. (SBU) The IRI results, according to Belfkih, track well
with the results of other polls that have been taken in
Morocco. Belfkih was not surprised by the low number of
Moroccans whose concerns were social justice (four percent)
and the protection of rights and liberties (four percent).
He pointed out that Moroccans perceived the availability of
employment as their main concern (79 percent) in the poll and
that it probably means social justice to them, i.e., social
justice and employment are linked. In the IRI presentation,
the responsibility for resolving the unemployment problem
rests with the government (38 percent) and the Minister of
Employment (43 percent).



7. (SBU) Belfkih was most interested in the prospects for
the political parties. He wanted to know the potential
strength of the Party of Justice and Development (PJD), which
received 46 percent in the hypothetical vote question (NOTE:
The poll found that of the 1071 respondents likely to be
voters, nine percent said outright they would vote for the
PJD. Of the 55 percent of voters who were undecided, 66
percent said they would "lean" toward the PJD, resulting in
the 46 percent figure. END NOTE.). Johnson informed Belfkih

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that the PJD markets itself, develops political messages that
seem to resonate with the "common man," and it defines its
political mission.



8. (SBU) The IRI poll indicated that eight percent of the
likely voters did not support any party, with one percent
likely to cast a blank ballot. Belfkih was extremely
interested in what the poll interpretation was not saying,
i.e., that further analysis of the data might reveal more
information. He suspected that the Justice and Charity
Organization (JCO) might be captured in the eight percent.



--------------------------


The Amrani Meeting


--------------------------





9. (SBU) Amrani, because of the issues covered in the poll,
suggested that IRI provide a similar presentation to the
Ministry of Interior (MOI) prior to presenting the poll to
the political parties. "It is better to have the MOI
informed of the poll and its intentions in order to avoid any
misunderstandings down the road," Amrani explained.



10. (SBU) Discussing the sample used for the poll, Amrani
was glad to hear that respondents were representative of
Morocco's population. He highlighted that 48 percent of the
1500 total respondents for this iteration of the poll were
illiterate, which he said is "the reality of Morocco."
Amrani did not appear surprised by the slide showing jobs and
unemployment as the main concern of respondents, and
explained that, although an overwhelming majority of
respondents said it is the responsibility of the "state" to
create jobs, creating public sector jobs is "anti-World Bank"
and not in the best interest of the economy. Amrani added
that "it is illogical that people think the government must
create more public sector jobs."



11. (SBU) Amrani explained that, in his view, the slide
showing the percentage of likely voters (72 percent) for the
next round of parliamentary elections may be inaccurate and
misleading. Speaking personally as a Moroccan and "not for
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Amrani said that Morocco
has a long history of citizens losing confidence in
elections, and that the high number of potential voters may
be a result of the economic situation in certain regions. As
crop production rises, so does peoples' sense that their
economic situation is doing well, which makes people more
likely to want to vote, he explained.



12. (SBU) Turning to potential prospects for the political
parties, Amrani was seized by the presentation that an
overwhelming majority of undecided voters are leaning towards
the PJD. Amrani said the results of this poll will be an
important tool for political parties to use in order to react
to the concerns of the population. Amrani asked how the
political parties were integrated into the process of the
poll. He wondered if the political parties played a role in
the crafting of the questions for the poll. Amrani was
pleased that the political parties had a chance to recommend
questions for the second poll questionnaire. Responding to
Amrani's question about the reasoning behind the
commissioning of the poll by IRI, Ambassador stressed that
public opinion polling is an important tool that provides
useful and relevant information for political parties to use
as they devise platforms and strategies.



13. (SBU) Again speaking unofficially, Amrani said,
unfortunately, should the results of the second poll reach
the press that the press will focus solely on the results
showing 46 percent of potential voters leaning towards the
PJD. Amrani said, in his view, that this will create a large
national debate and that people "will attack the poll" asking
"what is behind the poll." Continuing his "personal"
remarks, Amrani said that the timing of the polls is a
significant factor, as the Islamist position gains from
events occurring in the region. Amrani said that if a poll
was done tomorrow, the Islamist's numbers would increase
given the situation in Lebanon and Iraq. Amrani argued,
though, that the PJD does not have the expertise that more
established parties like the Socialist Union of Popular
Forces (USFP) or Istiqlal possess.



14. (SBU) Amrani emphasized that the 2007 legislative

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elections will be a "model for the region," as Morocco will
witness its freest and fairest elections to date. The king
has a vision for the country, is realizing this vision step
by step, and the 2007 elections will be an important
opportunity for the future of Morocco, Amrani said. In
closing, Amrani asked if the political parties view polling
as an important resource or as a way to manipulate
information.
******************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
******************************************

RILEY