Moroccans began voting on Friday in a local election where the government of conservatives and socialists aims to limit gains by opposition Islamists and a new party formed by staunch backers of King Mohammed. It is the second local election of the reform-minded king’s reign. He is widely credited with loosening restrictions on political activity and improving the north African country’s human rights record.

Analysts said the government is hoping for a voter turnout at least higher than the record-low 37 percent registered in a 2007 legislative election. “The attention of top government officials and party leaders will be focused on the turnout rate because they are terrified of a boycott and so-called voter apathy,” said Khaled al Harri, a political analyst.

More than 13 million Moroccans are eligible to vote for 130,223 candidates vying for 27,795 seats in 1,503 village and city councils. Analysts forecast a higher turnout in rural areas than in cities.”Illiterate people will vote more than educated voters,” said political analyst Taoufik Bouachrine. “The number of voters among the poor will be higher than rich and middle classes.” The polls opened at 8 a.m. (0700 GMT) and will close at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT).



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