Parties campaign ahead of Morocco's pivotal elections

Parties campaign ahead of Morocco's pivotal elections

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RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Politicians from dozens of political parties were campaigning for a final day Tuesday, trying to reach out to millions of Moroccans despite social distancing measures a day before pivotal legislative, regional and local elections, with a moderate Islamist party hoping to remain at the helm of government.

Strict safety guidelines in place as the North African kingdom grapples with a new wave of COVID-19 have restricted campaigning, and candidates’ ability to reach the 18 million eligible voters, half the country’s population.

On Wednesday, voters will choose among candidates from 31 political parties and coalitions that are competing for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament. They will also be selecting representatives for 678 seats in regional councils.

Candidates have had to comply with preventive measures during campaigning, which began Aug. 27 and ends at midnight Tuesday. Among restrictions are a ban on distribution of leaflets and a limit of a maximum of 25 people at political gatherings. Morocco has registered more than 13,000 COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Moroccan Health Ministry.

Job creation, boosting Morocco’s economy, education and health rank at the top of parliamentary contenders’ campaign agendas. However, the role of lawmakers is limited by the powers of King Mohamed VI, who oversees strategic decision-making.

The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, at the helm of the government since 2011, is seeking a third term. With Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the party has campaigned on raising the competitiveness of Morocco’s economy, increasing the budget for the health sector by 6% annually and wants the country’s education budget upped by 5%.

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