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06RABAT308 2006-02-22 16:57:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

IRI POLL SHOWS VOTERS HAVE LITTLE FAITH IN

Tags:   PREL PGOV KMPI KDEM MO 
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2. (SBU) SUMMARY: A September 2005 poll of 1500 Moroccans
administered by the International Republican Institute (IRI)
under the auspices of its MEPI/USAID program found that
Moroccans are disillusioned with their government and
elected officials. The poll shows that a lack of jobs and
low public confidence in the political system, especially in
parliament and political parties, are the largest obstacles
to increased participation of the electorate in the
political process, despite respondents' considerable
optimism about Morocco's future. The poll also found that
of the 975 respondents judged to be likely voters in the
2007 parliamentary elections, 15 percent said they would
vote for the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), 13
percent Istiqlal, 10 percent the Islamist Party for Justice
and Development (PJD), 7 percent the Popular Movement Union
(UMP) parties, and 8 percent others. Of the 43 percent of
respondents who were undecided, 83 percent said they would
"lean" toward the PJD, 8 percent the National Rally of
Independents (RNI), 6 percent USFP, and 2 percent Istiqlal.
Adjusting the results to include the choices of these
undecided respondents, the poll found that a hypothetical
vote of likely voters would result in a strong victory for
the PJD in parliamentary elections with 46 percent of the
vote (but not necessarily 46 percent of parliament's 325
seats). The poll sets the baseline for two follow-on
surveys that IRI will coordinate, assuming the continuation
of funding beyond the close of project date of February 28,


2006. END SUMMARY.



3. (SBU) On January 18, 2006, IRI presented to the
Ambassador, USAID Director, and mission officers its
analysis of the first of three planned public opinion polls
under a project funded by MEPI and administered by USAID's
Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening
(CEPPS). Working through a Moroccan polling firm, LMS-CSA
Marketing & Sondages, IRI surveyed 1500 respondents in rural
and urban areas in September 2005 to establish a baseline
for assessing Moroccan attitudes on political reform and
governing institutions and provide insight into the national
voter bases of the country's leading political parties.
(Note: Fifty-seven percent of participants came from urban
areas. End Note.)



4. (SBU) LMS-CSA conducted face-to-face interviews with
each participant in 13 of Morocco's 16 regions (not
including the Western Sahara). Interviews were conducted
mostly in Arabic but occasionally in Amazigh (Berber), in
participant homes. Respondents had no prior knowledge of
the poll and LMS-CSA offered no incentives to participate.
IRI began its second poll on January 21, 2005.

Optimistic about Future but Bearish on Government


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



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





5. (SBU) Despite showing considerable optimism about
Morocco's future -- 75 percent of respondents said they were
somewhat to very optimistic -- a majority of those surveyed
(53 percent) believed the country needed to elect a new
"government." (NB: Pollsters did not define the word
government for respondents.) Of this majority, 63 percent
were convinced that Morocco is headed in the "wrong
direction" as compred to 48 percent for the entire sample.

Respondnts' Chief Concern: Jobs and Unemployment


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



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





6. (SBU) The survey indicates that respondents' frustration
with government stems from perceptions that people in
government are "against change," that today's government is
just as "ineffective and undemocratic" as past governments,
and that the government "lacks qualified and efficient
leaders." IRI observes that the public's dissatisfaction
with elected representatives appears to be strongly
correlated with the pre-eminence that jobs play in the daily
lives of Moroccans. Out of a list that included education,
housing, illiteracy, health services, terrorism, social
justice, economy, and protection of rights and liberties, 74
percent of all respondents identified jobs and unemployment
as their top worry.




7. (SBU) Poverty and standard of living (37 and 27 percent,
respectively) were the only other choices that garnered more
than 25 percent of the responses. The results suggest that
as long as the government fails to meet voters' expectations
on jobs, perceptions of government are likely to remain
unfavorable. The findings also support the view, according
to IRI, that in order to be more effective, parties must
couch their messages to voters in more concrete terms like
jobs rather than in abstract concepts like social justice or
the economy.

Negative Views of Political Parties and Parliament


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



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





8. (SBU) The survey shows that the public has strong,
negative perceptions of political parties and parliament.
Respondents were asked to rate various institutions,
countries, and political organizations on a scale of 0 to 10
with 10 indicating a very warm, favorable feeling. They
gave parliament an average score of 3.71. The USFP and PJD
were the only political parties that received an average
score greater than 4. The PJD, however, was the sole party
for which a higher percentage of people gave it a favorable
rating (from 6 to 10) than those that rated it unfavorably.
By comparison, respondents gave France an average rating of
7.86, the United States a 5.51, and Algeria a 2.47.



9. (SBU) The public's negative image of parties and
parliament stems from a lack of confidence in politicians
and the party system, according to the poll. Eighty-four
percent of respondents said that parties are "only after
their own interests," 79 percent believed that parties are
"tarnished by bribes and corruption," and 73 percent agreed
with the statement that parties are "out of touch with
people like you." Only 22 percent believed that parties are
made up of "people you can trust" and just 14 percent agreed
that parties "understand the concerns of citizens."



10. (SBU) When asked which party -- the USFP, PJD,
Istiqlal, or a non-existent party named the New Reform Party
inserted by pollsters as an alternative choice for
respondents -- provides strong leadership, keeps its
promises, and is "on your side," a range of 17-19 percent
chose the phantom New Reform Party as compared to just 9-11
percent for the PJD; 8-9 percent for USFP; and 6-8 percent
for Istiqlal. Twenty-six to twenty-nine percent of
respondents chose neither party. According to IRI, a
voter's assessment of a party's performance on these three
principles usually correlates strongly with predicting their
vote.

Voters Unable to Differentiate Among Parties


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





11. (SBU) The poll found that Morocco's parties are
virtually indistinguishable to voters. Pollsters asked
respondents to state which of four parties -- USFP, PJD,
Istiqlal, or the New Reform Party -- would do the "best job"
on employment, education reform, fighting poverty and
illiteracy, improving infrastructure and health services,
and developing rural areas. Respondents' gave responses
ranging from 8-11 percent for the USFP and PJD, and 7-9
percent for Istiqlal, while scores for the non-existent New
Reform Party hovered around 20 percent. These low scores
not only reflect voters' lack of faith in Morocco's leading
parties, but they also show that Moroccans make few
distinctions across parties on issues.



12. (SBU) Lending further support to this finding, 68
percent of respondents said they disagreed with the
statement that it is "easy to understand the differences
between the programs of different political parties." IRI
points to these results as indicators that parties are not
talking about issues in terms that are understood by and
familiar to the voter. Parties' ideas are too broad, IRI
believes, and, consequently, voters are not able to make
distinctions across parties.

Still Hope for Parties


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





13. (SBU) Notwithstanding respondents' critical views of
party life in Morocco, the poll suggests there may be an
opening for parties to improve their image. In an open-
ended question, pollsters asked respondents what the single
most important thing a party could do to regain its
credibility; 25 percent said parties could "follow through
on promises made" while 24 percent believed parties could
"fight unemployment." In a related question, 64 percent of
respondents said they agreed with the statement that they
would have more faith in the system if political parties
passed internal reforms. Seventy-eight percent believed
parties should hold "regular elections to choose their
leadership" and 86 percent said parties "need to be more
financially transparent." (Note: The government's new law
on political parties, passed by parliament in December 2005,
requires parties to improve internal democracy and increase
financial transparency. End Note.)

Limited Political Engagement


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





14. (SBU) The poll found that few respondents defined
themselves as active participants in the political system.
Just 1 percent said they were party "activists" and only 14
percent said they "sympathized" with a particular party.
(Note: By contrast, 60-70 percent of American voters
identify with either the Democratic or Republican party,
according to IRI. End Note.) Of these two groups
(activists and sympathizers), 30 percent identified most
with the PJD, 25 percent with USFP, 23 percent with
Istiqlal, and 8 percent with the rural, Berber-based UMP.
The remaining respondents split their loyalty among centrist
RNI (4 percent), oppositionist Constitutional Union (UC) (4
percent), leftist Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS) (3
percent), and others (3 percent).



15. (SBU) These self-described activists and sympathizers
indicated that a party's ideas (37 percent), history (21
percent), and leaders (20 percent) were the factors that
most attracted them to the party. Of the 83 percent of
respondents that said they were neither an activist nor a
sympathizer and the 2 percent who refused to answer, 69
percent said they are not involved in party life because
they are "not interested in politics;" an additional 20
percent said they did "not trust any [political party]."

Candidate's Personality, Campaign Promises Draw Voters


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



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





16. (SBU) The poll corroborates the widely accepted notion
that Moroccans are mostly drawn to a candidate's personality
and campaign promises when casting their vote. For the 60
percent of respondents who claimed they voted in the 2002
elections, 43 percent said that the "personal traits" of a
candidate led to their choice of one party over another
while 27 percent said a candidate's "campaign promises" drew
them in. Seventeen percent cited a party's platform or
campaign issues as the main factor.

Higher Voter Participation Likely for 2007


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





17. (SBU) If parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, 65
percent of respondents said that it was "very likely" (53
percent) or "probable" (12 percent) that they would vote.
(Note: This would mark a significant rise in the rate of
voter participation over the 2002 legislative elections,
which barely reached 50 percent. End Note.) When pollsters
asked this subset of likely voters which party they would
vote for, 43 percent said they were undecided; 15 percent
chose USFP; 13 percent Istiqlal; 10 percent PJD; 7 percent
UMP; 4 percent the New Reform Party; 2 percent RNI; 1
percent PPS; and 1 percent UC. By comparison, USFP (50
seats) and Istiqlal (48 seats) won 15 percent of the lower
house's 325 seats in 2002, while PJD (42 seats) and RNI (41
seats) won 13 percent. The three Berber-based parties,
which ran individually in 2002, garnered 17 percent, or a
total of 55 seats.

PJD Takes the "Lean" Vote


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





18. (SBU) When pressed by pollsters, 83 percent of the 43
percent of respondents who were undecided said that if they
had to decide on a party right now, they would "lean" toward
the PJD. The remaining respondents said they would lean
toward voting RNI (8 percent), USFP (6 percent), or Istiqlal
(2 percent). Adjusting the results to include the choices
of these undecided respondents, the poll found that a
hypothetical vote of likely voters would result in a strong
victory for the PJD in parliamentary elections with 46
percent of the vote. USFP would finish in a distant second
with 17 percent, Istiqlal third at 14 percent, RNI fourth at
6 percent, UMP fifth at 4 percent, the New Reform Party
sixth at 3 percent, and PPS and UC tied for seventh at 1
percent. IRI pointed out that since 57 percent of
respondents were from urban areas, where there are fewer
parliamentary seats available per capita, the PJD's
hypothetical victory of 46 percent of the vote would be
unlikely to deliver 46 percent of seats.

IRI Presents Data to Party Leaders


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





19. (SBU) IRI briefed the results of the poll to the top
leadership of the USFP, Istiqlal, PJD, UMP, RNI, and PPS to
sensitize them to the critical need for internal reform and
constituent outreach in their parties. Based on the poll's
findings, IRI will conduct training sessions for party
activists working in communications and outreach in order to
assist parties in developing contemporary communication and
recruitment techniques. During the briefing with the PJD,
general secretariat member Lahcen Daoudi confided that the
party was "concerned" about the 83 percent "lean" vote of
currently undecided voters for the party. IRI interpreted
this to mean that the PJD fears that rapid growth of the
party may risk unsettling the palace.

Comment


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





20. (SBU) The IRI poll gives us an excellent baseline for
assessing and comparing Moroccan views and attitudes on
politics in the lead up to parliamentary elections in 2007.
It substantiates the widely held view that political parties
and parliament suffer from a large credibility gap with the
public and validates the idea that Morocco's party system
continues to be more responsive to and driven by
personalities rather than issues. The respondents' placing
of a candidate's personal traits and campaign promises above
the platform/issues of the candidate's party on the rank-
ordered list of key factors determining their vote adds
further weight to these notions; it also suggests that
parties are not reaching out actively to the population on
issues outside the election cycle.



21. (SBU) COMMENT CONT: The PJD's strong victory in the
hypothetical vote underscores the party's popularity and
name recognition at the grassroots, and especially in urban
areas; it may also reflect dividends earned as the most
recognizable member of Morocco's opposition. It does not
necessarily hand the PJD the 2007 elections, however.
Although the poll bears out the party's higher popularity
over rivals, the fact that respondents gave it scores on key
issues that were only moderately higher than the USFP and
Istiqlal means that even the PJD has a lot of work to do to
restore public confidence in the party system and elected
representatives. END COMMENT.

RILEY