Moroccans Vote In First Parliamentary Elections After Arab Spring Protests

Residents in Morocco are voting in a parliamentary election Friday, marking the first post-Arab Spring voting in the northern Africa country.

The elections will decide members of the nation’s parliament, though some worry the old regime is not willing to change.

It is unclear how many votes will be cast in the elections. Some groups have called for a boycott of the elections, citing the ruling monarchy’s unwillingness to change despite popular demands.

Morocco was long thought of as a stable democracy, but mass protests last spring cast doubts in the world community.

The protests coincided with similar turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

Morocco’s constitution calls for the political party with the highest number of votes to form a government.

The front-runner is PJD, an Islamist party. Some have questioned the willingness of PJD to change the political climate, which protesters demanded in the Spring.

Rally of Independents, a coalition of seven pro-palace parties, is also expected to be a contender in the elections.

The two rival parties are not likely to form a coalition government in the event of a close election.

Both groups expect a high voter turnout.

"I am confident about the level of participation, because during this campaign we've seen how interested the citizens are in this election, enormously more than in 2007," Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told The Associated Press.

Mezouar is a leader in the Rally of Independents.

The 2007 elections saw only 37 percent of eligible Moroccans turn out to vote. Voting in the 2011 constitutional referendum saw a 72 percent turnout, but led to questions of voter fraud.

In the last month, more than 100 activists have been detained in Morocco in what some call a government crackdown of opposition voices, according to Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. and other western governments are expected to watch the election closely. Morocco is a key vacation and tourism center for Europeans and other westerners.

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