Thousands of Moroccans protested in cities across the country on Sunday, urging for a boycott of a parliamentary election later this week called by the pro-reform February 20 movement.
The protesters say that the vote, due to take place on Nov. 25, will not be truly democratic. Morocco’s ruler, King Mohammed had made reforms earlier this year in the face of several anti-government uprisings across the region. The vote is set to be a test to those reforms.
There were conflicting reports over the number of demonstrators which was set at 5,000 in the center of Casablanca, according to witnesses, while authorities claimed they were only 2,000.
In the capital Rabat, another 2,000, including some Islamists, turned out, AFP reported. But the police put the figure at a thousand.
Slogans on placards included calls to boycott the elections and jibes at the corruption of politicians.
“In the absence of a democratic constitution, these elections are a waste of money,” a student in his 20s, Karim, told AFP.
Meanwhile at a Tangier protest, where one police officer put the number of protesters in Tangier at less than 1,000, a group of protesters carried a mock casket draped in white with the words “parliamentary elections” written across it.
Demonstrators chanted “We are not voting. Long live the people” and “We are not voting because we are not cattle.”
About 200 police officers, equipped with metal riot shields, helmets and truncheons, cordoned off the square but there were no clashes, Reuters reported.
King Mohammed had backed constitutional reforms which handed over some of his powers to elected officials. But he had kept his final say on issues of defense, national security and religion.
The palace wants the election to clear out a government associated in the minds of many Moroccans with graft and replace it with new faces who will implement the king’s reforms.
The vote has pitted a party of moderate Islamists, who swear loyalty to the king, against a coalition of mainly liberal parties with close ties to the palace.
The movement in support of the boycott is unlikely to derail the election because it does not resonate with the majority of the population, who are not politically engaged and revere the king.