2021 Moroccan general election

General elections are scheduled to be held in Morocco in 2021,[1] the third since the 2011 constitutional reforms.[2] The incumbent Prime Minister going into the 2021 elections is Saadeddine Othmani, of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has ruled Morocco since the 2011 elections.[3]

2021 Moroccan general election

September 2021 (expected)
Party Leader Current seats
Incumbent Prime Minister
Saadeddine Othmani


July 2020 marked the 21st year of King Mohammed VI's reign in Morocco.[4] The first two decades of the 21st century saw civil and political reforms, as well as "popular disillusionment" with the socioeconomic and political state of the nation.[4] In response to the 2011 protests that occurred as part of the Arab Spring, King Mohammed VI announced a series of constitutional reforms, passed through a national referendum in July 2011.[5] The reforms were described by the BBC as "expanding the powers of parliament and the prime minister but leaving the king with broad authority over the government".[6] The Islamic State's presence in the region also posed a threat to Morocco throughout the 2010s.[4]

In 2014, the Freedom of the Press report gave Morocco a rating of "not free".[7]

After the 2016 elections, protests continued to occur; in 2016 and 2017, a movement known as Hirak Rif demonstrated in the streets of northern Morocco against corruption and unemployment.[6] In 2017, the Freedom of the Press report upgraded Morocco's rating to "partly free".[8] By June 2019, the BBC reported that "almost half of Moroccans [were] considering emigrating" to other countries.[6] The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Morocco a "hybrid regime" in 2019.[9]

2020 saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, a law was passed to outlaw many forms of making posts online.[10] The government claimed the bill was written "without prejudice to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of digital communications", and shortly began arresting people for posting information it deemed to be false.[10] Morocco's initial response to the pandemic put it "among the world's COVID-19 success stories" in the first months of the pandemic;[11] lockdown measures first implemented on March 20 began to be eased after several months, and a third phase of gradually lifting the lockdown had begun on July 19. However, the reduction in cases came at a cost: by late July, the government's actions during the pandemic would be described as a "reversal of democratic reforms", with Parliament being "sidelined, its duties increasingly usurped by the Makhzen".[12] The Interior Ministry suspended local council meetings (even remote meetings held online), an action the Constitution reserved exclusively for Parliament.[12] While a restriction on visitation from foreign business visitors was lifted on September 10, a sharp increase in cases (and the possibility of a second wave of infections) prompted the restrictions to be reinstated.[13]

By July, rumors had started to circulate that the elections would be postponed due to the virus. While Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit launched political consultations for the 2021 elections on July 8,[14] on August 8 it was reported that the government was considering postponing the elections due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The difficulty of carrying out election activities while limiting transmission of the virus, as well as the economic challenges of carrying out an election during the concomitant economic recession, were cited as motivating factors.[11] Meanwhile, some parties voiced opposition to the proposal, claiming it was a ploy by the incumbent government to prolong its control over the nation.[11]

On November 9, however, it was announced that general elections had been scheduled to take place in September 2021.[15][16] While the municipal, regional and legislative elections traditionally took place on different days, in 2021, a new electoral law was passed under which all three would be held on the same day, in a bid to increase voter turnout[2] (the 2016 elections had a turnout of less than 60%).[15][16]

An amendment to electoral law assigned an additional 15 reserved seats for female representatives in the 2021 parliament.[17] Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said in September 2020 that the political representation of women in Morocco had "not yet reached the required level", but that concerted efforts would ensure a "significant and fair" representation of women in the 2021 elections.[17]

In November 2020, the Polisario Front ended a 29-year ceasefire agreement with Morocco in Western Sahara, blaming Morocco for breaking the terms of the agreement.[18][19] In December, the Israel–Morocco normalization agreement established diplomatic relations between the two nations; Morocco became the sixth Arab League member to do so, and the fourth in the space of four months (along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan).[20][21]

Parties confirmed to be contesting the election included the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD), the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), and the National Rally of Independents (RNI).[16]

Electoral system

Morocco has a bicameral legislature, whose two chambers are the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives has 395 seats, which are elected by proportional representation and consist of two tiers: 305 seats are elected from 92 multi-member constituencies (with the electoral threshold set at 6%) and the remaining 90 are elected from a single nationwide constituency (with the electoral threshold set at 3%). Nationwide seats are reserved; 60 are set aside for women and 30 are set aside for people under the age of 40.[22]

All citizens who are at least 18 years old, or will reach the age of 18 by March 2021, are eligible to vote. The period for submitting voter registration requests ended on December 31, 2020.[23]


  1. "Morocco – Overview". National Democratic Institute. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  2. Dardar, Jihad (18 December 2020). "'Aji Souwet': The Movement Encouraging Moroccan Youth to Vote". Morocco World News. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  3. Aziz El Yaakoubi, Patrick Markey (8 October 2016). "Moderate Moroccan Islamists win election, coalition talks seen tough". Reuters. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  4. Abouzzohour, Yasmina (29 July 2020). "Progress and missed opportunities: Morocco enters its third decade under King Mohammed VI". The Brookings Institution. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  5. Morocco King Proposes Limited Steps to Democracy, The New York Times, 17 June 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011
  6. "Could Morocco see the next uprising, after Sudan and Algeria?". British Broadcasting Corporation. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  7. "Freedom of the Press 2014" (PDF). Freedom House. 2014. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  8. "Freedom of the Press 2017 – Morocco". Refworld. Freedom House. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  9. The Economist Intelligence Unit (8 January 2019). "Democracy Index 2019". Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  10. Hatim, Yahia (19 March 2020). "Morocco Enacts New Law to Fight Fake News, Cybercrime". Morocco World News. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  11. Koundouno, Tamba François (8 August 2020). "COVID-19 Could Disrupt 2021 General Elections Across Morocco". Morocco World News. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  12. Karam, Souhail (23 July 2020). "Morocco Rolls Back Democracy Under Cover of Covid-19". Bloomberg. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  13. El Barakah, Tarik (27 September 2020). "Morocco faces down COVID spread with tough rules". ABC News. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  14. Larousni, Latifa (9 July 2020). "Moroccan Interior Minister Holds Initial Talks on 2021 Poll". Asharq al-Awsat. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  15. "Morocco to hold general elections in September next year". The North Africa Post. 9 November 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  16. Hatim, Yahia (9 November 2020). "Morocco's 2021 General Elections to Take Place in September". Morocco World News. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  17. Larousni, Latifa (3 September 2020). "Morocco Seeks Greater Participation of Women in 2021 Elections". Asharq al-Awsat. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  18. "Moroccan troops launch operation in Western Sahara". Daily Sabah. 13 November 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  19. "Polisario leader says Western Sahara ceasefire with Morocco is over". Reuters. 14 November 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  20. "Israel, Morocco agree to normalize relations in latest U.S.-brokered deal". reuters.com. Reuters. 11 September 2020. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  21. "The world this year". The Economist. 19 December 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  22. "IPU PARLINE database: MOROCCO (Majliss-annouwab), Electoral system". archive.ipu.org. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  23. Kasraoui, Safaa (30 November 2020). "Morocco Sets Deadline for Voter Registration". Morocco World News. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
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