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A complex proportional system of representation means no party is likely to take more than 20 percent of the seats.

Under the new constitution, the king asks the party with the most seats to form the government, which could well be the Islamist Justice and Development party, known by its French initials PJD. But there’s uncertainty over whether it can truly change anything in the face of the palace’s power.

The Islamists’ biggest rival for the top spot is Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar’s Rally of Independents, which leads an alliance of seven other pro-palace parties.

“This is a very important election for the Moroccan people and it confirms the choice made for an open process of democratization that is being consolidated by this election,” he told The Associated Press after voting. “This is really a moment of great emotion.”

Like elsewhere in the Arab world, Moroccans hit the streets in the first half of 2011 calling for more democracy, and King Mohammed VI responded by amending the constitution and bringing forward elections.

But since then the sense of change has dissipated, and while the king remains a respected figure, few have much confidence in parliament or the politicians in it.

“I voted because we need to elect a new parliament, but I voted blank for the simple reason that there is no one I can trust from the people that are being elected,” said Chamseddin Baba, the manager of an IT company who voted in the wealthy suburb of Souissi. “I would like to vote for the best, but the best are not there.”

The 2007 elections, the first with widespread international observation, had just 37 percent turnout, and some fear it could be even lower this time around.

Now, however, the number of registered voters has dropped from 15 million to 13.5 million, despite population increases, so turnout will almost certainly be higher.

There will be 3,200 election observers, though they will likely only cover a fraction of the 40,000 polling stations scattered across the country.