Constitutional Reform, Democracy, Moroccans For Change, Morocco, Referendum

What your vote might mean #JUL1

What does your vote or abstention mean in the context of the current constitutional referendum?

“Yes”: A “Yes” vote may translate a vote accepting the constitutional reform process, or the constitutional project presented by the Mennouni Commission, or part of it, or all of the above.

A yes vote could mean:

  • A Yes for the King to maintain its political prerogatives.
  • A vote based solely on the human rights and liberties spelled out in the constitutional project, or both. Voting Yes could also be interpreted as a way to say:“I will take my rights and run.” Or as they say in French “Un tient vaut mieux que deux tu l’auras”.
  • A vote for staunch royalists or those with stakes in the status quo. But it is not necessarily exclusive to these groups.
  • The expression of a pragmatic stance, which reasons that “a little progress is better than none, and that it is up to the society to continue its pressure on the government in order to ensure that the rights and freedoms detailed in the new constitution are guaranteed and translated into real policies.”
  •  A vote from individuals who consider democracy as a process and a step by step evolution rather than an outcome. As an example, a person who holds women and men equality as a high priority may well argue that the rights given to women in the new project are like none in other Islamic countries, thus should they reject them and take the risk of a democratic system that could provide for less equality?
  • A response to a concern that an elected constitutional body may not agree on similar or better array of rights and liberties. They would argue: Would we get a preamble that is as modern and progressive as the one offered in the project (nondiscrimination principle based on handicap, minorities, gender, social origin, etc.)? Would the reference to Hebraic influence be acceptable to elected representatives with PJD affiliation?
  • A disregard to the undemocratic process through which the project was adopted.

“No”: A “No” vote could be:

  • A vote against the constitutional product, but also a vote against the process itself or both.
  • A way to say: I have the right to vote and I am not giving up on my right as a citizen to make my voice heard. It also means I choose to engage with the decision makers, and I choose to actively communicate my stance.
  • That no matter how the constitutional project was drafted, and regardless of its content, the voter is not giving up on the referendum mechanism as one of the most powerful democratic tools
  • A way to say that the changes were not enough to put the country on track for democracy.
  • A way to refute the “useless vote” argument promoted by supporters of boycotting,
  • Just like the Yes vote, the No vote translates trust in the referendum mechanism rather than skepticism.
  • A way to express the lack of satisfaction with the progress achieved in the new project, a disagreement with the process through which the changes were introduced, or a lack of satisfaction with the time devoted to appreciate the scope of the changes (the debate period).
  • A way to express the voter’s trust that the “No” might win.
  • Possibly, but less likely a fear to oppose the Yes call made by the King.

Boycott: A boycott can be interpreted in various ways:

  • It may be the choice of individuals who believe that the rules of the game are rigged from the very beginning, so why bother.
  • It reflects a frustration with the lack of political will to carry out real changes, and the refusal to engage with a political farce that is in essence undemocratic.
  • A way to indicate that this is not a legitimate nor democratic referendum therefore we will not play the game.
  • The choice of a group that believes that they have no chance of winning the referendum, and that voting is a useless act.
  • An aim for a low turnout which would de facto delegitimize the whole process; Or at least help the boycotters “save face” since they believe that the winner is already known (the boycotters would then argue that they hadn’t voted anyway).
  • An aim to inflate the total number of boycotters by also counting those who abstained from voting for other reasons.

In some countries, where a certain percentage turnout is required to make the process valid, boycotting is used to prevent this quorum from being reached. In other countries like Australia, boycotting a referendum is sanctioned by a fine. Article 90 of the electoral law in Morocco punishes with one to three months in prison, plus a fine ranging from 1200 to 5000 dh anyone who incites one or more electors to boycott.

This quote from an article about election boycotts could be applied to the constitutional referendum: “Individuals and parties tend to boycott elections in order to protest the policies of the ruling regime with the hopes that voters will choose not to show up, thus rendering the election illegitimate in the eyes of the world.”

Both the Yes and the No vote translate an engagement in the democratic process, a desire to interact with the political forces at play, and an active citizenry taking full advantage of the referendum process.  Yes and No are both willing to play the democratic game. Yes and No vote are also an indication that voters would most likely accept the outcome since they have engaged in the process. Even if both the Yes and No are aware that the outcome could be as thin as a 50-50 outcome, they are more likely to accept the democratic game.  Believing in the game also means that the losing party will continue to intensify their pressure and mobilization in order to bring about the desired change. Yes and No: are both pledges to practice democracy.

More than a desire “to save face” in a context where the winner is already known, the boycott translates a fracture with the power in place, and a desire to delegitimize the political structure.

These are just a few interpretations of the motives behind each stance. Please add your views about what you believe each option means to you!



2 thoughts on “What your vote might mean #JUL1

  1. I assume that among those boycotting (or more accurately in this case, abstaining) will be those who support the new Constitution without knowing much about it — because they like the king and the king likes the Constitution — but they don’t really care much about elections and voting, and just want to get on with their lives — and since they assume the Yes vote will win anyway, they won’t bother themselves to go to the polls, preferring to let their friends and neighbors take care of that.

    Since those boycotting out of opposition to the Constitution risk having their voices diluted, or even drowned out, by those abstaining through passive support, the only way to ensure that one’s opposition will be accurately counted is to go to the polls and vote No. This also has the advantage of showing a belief in democratic engagement “as such,” as you point out in the article.

    Posted by eatbees | June 29, 2011, 10:24 am

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