USAID Forum on Election Reform in Morocco Comparative Experiences

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. I am very pleased to be here with you today and to have the honor of opening this Forum for Election Reform.  I would like to thank the National Democratic Institute for organizing this important event in collaboration with the National Council for Human Rights, and funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

It is a pleasure to see such high level of interest in election reform by an impressive and diverse group of attendees today.  This includes members of political parties and representatives from Morocco’s civil society and media, as well as local and international experts in electoral reform who have traveled great distances to participate in what I am sure will be an insightful event.

Let me start by emphasizing the unwavering partnership of the United States in supporting Morocco in the implementation of its reform agenda launched by his Majesty in March of 2011.  The subject of democratic reforms was also a significant topic of discussion in the recent US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue where Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed a broader enabling environment for dialogue between the government and citizens in Morocco.

I think we would all agree that a citizen’s right to vote is the foundation of a democratic process. Elections are often the time when the spotlight shines on a country and the world takes notice.  But elections are not just about Election Day.  Elections are the result of countless hours of hard work to build the systems, design the processes, and manage the electoral apparatus through which people decide who will represent and govern on their behalf.

We therefore applaud the efforts of all of you who have taken part in building the strong foundations of the current electoral system, and we are excited about partnering with you on reforms that lead to a more efficient and transparent electoral system.

With regional elections scheduled for next year, this is the perfect time to conduct this forum.  All of you assembled today, including representatives of political parties, the media, civil society and government, have an important role in observing and participating in the electoral process. Your presence confirms Morocco’s commitment to making real progress on the election related amendments to the 2011 constitution.  This forum will be an excellent opportunity to debate and consider priority areas for electoral reform.  With representation from regional electoral commissions, I am optimistic this forum will provide the space and environment to share experiences and best practices in electoral frameworks from across the region.

While reviewing today’s agenda, I was particularly pleased to see gender parity in political participation as a primary topic for discussion.  Morocco is often cited as leading the way on gender equality in the region.  This progress did not happen in a vacuum.  It comes as a result of committed civil society activists and enlightened political leaders coming together as partners in reform.  This partnership continues here, as you share ideas and priorities for the future.  While change is never easy, it is always worthwhile when it is achieved through considerate and informed deliberation that results in more effective, efficient and transparent governance.

In closing, I reiterate that in close tandem with other friends of Morocco, the United States stands ready to assist Morocco in its efforts to make future elections more transparent, inclusive, and credible.

Thank you for joining us this morning.