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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 00:42 GMT 01:42 UK
Election campaign opens in Morocco
King Mohammed VI of Morocco
King Mohammed VI wants to modernise Morocco

Campaigning has begun in Morocco for parliamentary elections to be held in two weeks time.

King Hassan II mosque in Casablanca
Casablanca was the group's centre

A dizzying array of 26 parties will be standing, ranging from former Marxist revolutionaries to the one legal Islamist party.

The authorities know their biggest challenge will be to combat voter apathy in a country where parliament has limited power.

The king appoints the most important government ministers, and the king and his advisors still make all the major decisions in the country.

These will be the first general elections since King Mohammed VI came to the throne in 1999, bringing hopes of a new era of openness and democracy in the country.

Changing image

Elections in Morocco do not have a very good reputation.

Most people here believe that results have always been falsified by a combination of local level corruption and high level interference.

Referenda proposed by late King Hassan, for example, would often received an unlikely 99% approval rating.

Morocco now wants to change that perception - it is especially keen to appear more democratic to the outside world to attract desperately needed foreign investments.

A lot of measures have been introduced to try to prevent corruption including prison sentences for candidates caught buying votes.

Other innovations include a new voting system of proportional representation and a national list reserved for female candidates to ensure that at least 10% of new MPs are women.

See also:

19 Jun 02 | Africa
11 Jun 02 | Africa
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07 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
17 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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