How Will Women Fare in Morocco’s Pivotal Election?

In Morocco’s closely watched legislative elections today, polls have closed and votes are being counted. The results will prove a critical test of the new constitution, passed in July, which promised women more legislative capacity and more policymaking access.

The July constitution sprung out of renewed demands for democratic change from Moroccan women and men empowered by the Arab Spring. In addition to equal civil and political rights for women, already recognized by the 1996 constitution, the new constitution recognizes women’s equal economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. It also urges the creation of women’s rights organizations to institutionalize lasting change.

The task of officials elected today will be to decide what the constitution means. Maura Ewing of Women’s eNews explains:

Judges’ decisions in Morocco are driven more by laws than constitutional rights.  That means the next parliament has the chance, through legislation, to decide the real reach of constitutional reforms approved by a landslide popular vote in July.

Today, 30 parties are competing for 395 parliamentary seats, 60 of which are reserved for women and 30 for younger candidates, who promise a breath of change in Morocco’s long-stagnant political establishment. Of the candidates competing for the non-reserved seats, 36 percent are under age 45; 36 percent are between ages 45 and 55; and 28 percent are older than 55. Fifty-seven, or 3.75 percent, are women, all with some level of higher education.

Women have long been frustrated with and weary of a government driven by a self-serving political class. The new constitution has renewed their hope. Today’s elections are a crucial test of the recent reforms and their power to trigger change on the ground, where it really matters. Today is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: May the coincidence bring Moroccan women luck!

Photo from Flickr user daverugby83 under Creative Commons.

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