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Iran election: The view from Morocco

The old journalists’ saw that dogfights on Main Street play bigger than wars in Asia is holding true on the newsstands of Morocco.

If you want the latest on the crisis in Iran, you’ll need to dig deep into the foreign sections of Moroccan papers or simply read ones published abroad. I couldn’t find a single domestic publication in French or Arabic that judged Iran’s electoral crisis to be front-page news Tuesday.

Yesterday’s top story on 2M, the flagship broadcast outlet here, was a press conference on local ports featuring a rare appearance by the king.

The Iran coverage you do see has been minimal, and for the most part down the middle.

The government-run Le Matin contained nothing on Iran at all. The Socialist party paper, Liberation, ran a foreign wire story (Agence France Press) summing up Ayatollah Khamenei’s reversal, alongside pictures of police beating unarmed youths in the streets of Tehran. But this played on the page well below a piece on Palestine’s reaction to Israel’s reaction to a speech President Obama gave earlier this month.

One independent daily, Le Soir, did devote a full page to Iran’s tribulations, comparing Iranian riot police to “Robocop” and headlining the piece with quotes from tear-gassed youths calling the election results a “masquerade.” But this story ran deep inside the paper, several layers beneath a feature on the rising popularity of Shisha pipes here — and well beneath yesterday’s “photo du jour,” which captured a woman walking her pet goat downtown.

So it goes without saying that there’ve been no rallies or vigils or events suggesting a Moroccan public riveted by news from Iran.

Perhaps it’s the 3,200 miles separating Rabat from Tehran; perhaps there’s a culture gap between francophone, largely Sunni Morocco and the mostly Shiite Persian-speakers to the east.

But it’s also true that the latest Moroccan dogfight – nationwide local elections in which a brand new party swept into power – have sucked up much of the journalistic oxygen, and ink.

The significance of a new party running cities and villages across Morocco; the effects of 3,000 newly-elected female council members on the political landscape; the votes these newcomers might cast for upper parliament – this is what’s filling front pages here.

“They haven’t even been covering the Air France crash,” said Houssain Bais, 22, a newsstand manager in Rabat describing the papers he sells. “It’s all just stuff about the elections, stuff about Morocco.”

See here for an overview of local reaction around the world.