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Moroccan politics: youth torn between hope and distrust

Supporters of the National Rally of the Independents party walk through Fez, Morocco. (Manar Lezaar/YJI)

Fez, MOROCCO – Youth here don’t often join political parties or have their voices represented in political matters, but as voters head to the polls for the Sept. 8 national parliamentary elections, two young people shared their thoughts on Morocco’s political scene.

Saoukaina Ben Said, a third-year college student in Tetouan, a city in northern Morocco, said that her friends and other students at her college were disgruntled by the political scene in Morocco.

“When you talk about voting or elections in my college, everyone starts laughing,” she said. “We take it as some kind of a joke.”

Saoukaina Ben Said

For Abdlhek Naim, a recent high school graduate from Tinghir, a small city in central-eastern Morrocco, politics is quite serious. He is a member at the National Rally of the Independents party.  With his dedication and strong interest in politics, he succeeded in securing a seat for himself in the party branch in his city.

His motive to get politically engaged, Naim said, came from his love for his city and a desire to help move it forward.

“I was born and raised here,” said Naim. “The lack of resources we have here whether that’s in terms of education, job opportunities, transportation, and health care, seeing people since a young age struggle and those in my age giving up on their dreams because there aren’t many programs or endeavors offered to support them propelled me and pushed me to speak.”

Naim said he wants to speak up not only for his own rights but the rights of all people in Tinghir who have been struggling to catch up with other Moroccan cities for years.

Ben Said, who is frustrated at the government imposed covid restrictions and changes in education, also talked about the unfair distribution of academic opportunities.

Unlike Naim, who had a lack of academic endeavors in his small city, Ben Said and others from Tetouan had a surplus. Tetouan has two big architecture-specific schools, while other small cities in Northern Morrocco didn’t even have a college. Students from those communities must travel all the way to Tetouan to pursue a higher degree, and this is hard for families who struggle financially, she said.

Politics have always been an integral part of his family, Naim said, especially because both of his parents worked with political parties in the past.

But his parents warned him not to join the political field. Naim said they didn’t want him to waste his life striving for the far-reaching goal of moving their small city forward.

“Regardless of how much they tried to persuade me not to join the political world and do something else, such as law, economics or some other field, and move to a better city, a bigger one with better chances and start my life there, I never listened,” Naim said. “I love my city, Tinghir. I have my friends and memories here I don’t want to just give up on it like that. If I leave, and my friend leaves and their neighbors leave then who’s going to stay here?”

Ben Said explained that her generation, her parents’ generation and the one before it witnessed many political parties “telling us their repetitive lies” about making the country better. They take over, finish their term and are replaced, she said, and the cycle repeats without anything changing.

“We’ve been fighting for years just for minor improvements in education because that’s the most damaged sector in Morocco,” she said, but change doesn’t come.

“The only election we believe in is our small student council election at the college where we express our opinions freely and craft policies to help in making a good college experience for our fellow students,” Ben Said concluded.

Still, she has some hope for change in the future as far as how youth view elections.

“I wish, I really do hope how elections are seen by youth change,” she said, “and I believe they could if more people are educated about the importance of elections – why we vote and what is parliament.

The nation has more than 36 political parties, she said, but the majority of Moroccans probably don’t know half of them. The solution, according to Ben Said, is to start with civics lessons in childhood.

Abdlhek Naim

“We need to teach youth about national politics and elections from a young age, and we need political parties to show that they’re worth Moroccans’ trust in them,” she said, “because so far we’re not seeing much.”

Naim expressed both concern and sadness about the lack of interest among Moroccan teens for voting.

“Less than 15% of Moroccan youth voted in the previous elections, and I can understand the reason behind that,” Naim said. “They don’t see much changing with whichever party that takes over.

“But we can’t just stop there, we can’t just give up,” he said. “I am not saying vote for the party I work for because it’s the best. All I am wishing and really hoping is that Moroccan youth could understand the importance of their votes. They are the future generation and the next leaders and politicians of this country, so this is when we need them the most.

Naim described his experience as the youngest person working in the political party as empowering, unique and informative. He said he felt passionate about something for the first time.

In joining meetings, discussing and crafting policies, talking with residents and representing their wishes and voices at the conventions, he felt like he was doing something for the place he appreciates the most.

“Morocco and its future relies on us, and we can’t just ignore it like that,” Naim said. “Voting and expressing your opinion holds greater importance than you could ever imagine.”

Manar Lezaar is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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