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06RABAT2176 2006-11-27 16:48:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
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1. (C) Summary: Revisions to Morocco's electoral code passed
on November 23 include a new threshold political parties must
cross if they wish to compete in the 2007 parliamentary
elections. This threshold could exclude a half dozen, and
maybe more, of Morocco's 28 political parties, but the bill
also contains an easing of the requirements for petitions
that candidates from new parties, or parties that did not
cross the threshold, may file to be included on the ballot.
The revisions to the code are clearly intended to push the
smaller parties into the arms of the larger parties in the
governing coalition, and thus weaken, in relative electoral
terms, the position of the Islamist Justice and Development
Party. The extent to which this objective is achieved will
depend on the reaction of the small parties excluded by the
new provisions. End summary.

2. (C) On the evening of November 23, the lower house of
parliament approved a package of revisions to Morocco's
electoral code. The bill is still subject to (almost
certain) approval by the upper house and signature by the
King (again almost certain) before it becomes law. The most
significant of these revisions is the imposition of a three
percent threshold on parties wishing to participate in the
2007 parliamentary elections. That means that only those
parties that drew at least three percent of the national vote
in 2002 will be eligible to field candidates. This provision
threatens to exclude at least six of Morocco's 28 legally
registered parties, from participation in the 2007 election.
The threshold is intended to prevent "balkanization" and
compel parties to consolidate into fewer, larger party blocs
- an objective openly supported by the Palace.

3. (C) The threshold was fiercely opposed by leaders of small
left parties, such as Mohammed Moujahid of the Socialist
Unity Party, who dubbed the electoral code "the exclusion
law," and organized a small demonstration in front of
parliament on November 10. The Islamist Justice and
Development Party (PJD) also actively opposed the threshold -
even though it is comfortably above it. Observers from
across the spectrum agree that the revisions are intended to
work in favor of the ruling coalition led by the socialist
USFP and against the opposition, whether leftist or Islamist.
In this calculus, marginal left parties will be compelled to
either join forces with the USFP or other large parties in
the coalition, or else remain outside electoral politics.
The Islamist establishment, already united under the PJD
umbrella, would then become weaker in relative terms.

4. (SBU) The impact of the new three percent threshold is
partially offset by a compromise modification to the required
qualifications for new parties or parties that did not cross
the three percent threshold in 2002. In the bill passed on
November 23, candidates from either category may run for a
parliamentary seat if they submit a petition containing 100
signatures of registered voters in the constituency they
propose to compete in. Eliminated from the final draft was
the requirement that 20 of these 100 signatures come from
members of the "grand electorat" (elected officials at either
the local, provincial, or national level). The elimination
of this requirement significantly lowers, but does not
eliminate, the bar for candidates from new parties or parties
that fail to cross the three percent threshold.

6. (SBU) In addition, the bill passed on November 23 reduced
from seven to six percent the threshold imposed on parties to
have votes counted in the "ballotage" - the apportionment of
seats in the next parliament by proportion of the total
number of votes obtained by different party lists.
Parliamentary contacts and Moroccan political observers told
us they doubted this change would have a major impact on the
composition of the legislature.

7. (C) Comment: Whether the revisions actually promote the
consolidation of parties and the overall stability of the
political process will depend on the reaction of the smaller,
mainly left-leaning groups that cannot cross the three
percent threshold. If they mend fences and join forces with
the parties in the governing coalition, this objective will
be achieved. However, if they remain on the margins, it is
possible that alienated supporters could defect to the ranks
of the Islamists, if only in protest. End comment.

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