As Hisham notes here, the Moroccan elections were significantly overshadowed on the world stage by those in Iran, and no wonder – no matter the outcome, they would have been met with little protest anyway. What was notable this time around however was a rise in the number of female candidates, as reported by MAP: 20,458 women ran for 2009 local elections; 15.7% compared to only 4.8% in 2003, according to the Interior Ministry. Even more notable is that Morocco’s second ever – and third – female mayors were elected…Fatima Zahra Mansouri was elected mayor of the growing city of Marrakesh (population of a little over a million), and Fatima Boujnah is the new PAM Mayor of Tizeght, at only 21 years old.
Now, as my friend Anas points out, she is backed by the newly formed Party for Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), dubbed the “King’s Party” by the blogoma, and is therefore perhaps just a royal pawn. On the other hand, the ascendancy of a woman to a role that has almost exclusively been held by men since its inception (Asmaa Chaabi was the first female mayor in the country, elected in 2003 to Essaouira’s city hall) can’t be a bad thing.
On the other hand, the influx of women into candidacies is not a coincidence: a number of U.S. governmental organizations helped train female candidates, and party leaders are certainly aware that, in order to keep relevant, they must cater to the new voter demographics (young, and often female).
In a country where the literacy rate for women still lingers under 50%, it would seem that any step forward for women is a good thing. But when those women are played as pawns by the governing elite, is it really a step in the right direction?