By Brahim El Guabli*
By Brahim El Guabli*
Morocco World News
New York, November 20, 2011
Let’s first say that Morocco is heading towards its ninth legislature ever since its independence from the French protectorate on November 18th, 1956. It is equally important to point out that the July 2011 constitutional reforms were not the first in the constitutional history of the country because the country witnessed similar reforms in 1970, 1972, 1992 and 1996. Each constitutional reform and the ensuing legislature happened within a very precise national juncture that we do not have time to detail in this short presentation. More interestingly, Morocco had its first project of a constitution in 1908 that was however aborted by the advent of the French protectorate four years later. Therefore, it is crucial that we explore the political conditions at the local, regional and international levels that made these premature elections possible and expedited a process that would have taken longer to materialize. The November 25th elections were supposed to take place in September 2012. However, the political conjuncture in the Maghreb and the Arab world imposed not only a change of the electoral schedule but a whole new set of priorities that the country is facing in a fast changing Arab world.
Talking about Moroccan elections necessitates a quick overview of the political landscape and the different stances taken by different components of the Moroccan parties in regards to the questions of political reforms. Based on our observation of the political actors and their discourse in the pre-February 20th period—we need to make this distinction because surprisingly the demarcation lines became blurred between all the parties later on—we can break down the legal political parties’ stances in regards to the necessity of political reforms into three main poles:
1. The first pole made of parties that believed in the necessity and urgency of undertaking and implementing reforms. Here it is necessary to mention a roundtable that was held in the headquarters of the Unified Socialist Party in January 2010 under the theme of “Constitutional Reform is the pathway to Democratic Change” in celebration of the centenary of the first project of a constitution in 1908. The participants in this roundtable belong to the “left family” including Hassan Tariq from the USFP. The speakers agreed that a new generation of constitutional reforms were vital for Morocco to establish a genuine democracy. These Leftist parties share a strong ideology that democratization in the country is contingent on a deep constitutional reform that would redistribute power and provide guarantees for the political actors that a genuine democracy will be established.
These parties (Annahj Democratic, PSU, PS, Avant-garde Democratic) continued their advocacy for deeper reforms in the political arena in the country. They also took on the fight against corruption and elevated it to the level of a political and social battle which brought them very close to the people. Moreover, their activism through their human rights branches and the National Coordinations for the Fight against the High Cost of Living (created in 2006) bring them even closer to the grassroots organizations at the local level. This fact gives their rhetoric popular legitimacy despite the fact that they have never managed to translate this legitimacy into seats in parliament because they either do not win the elections when they participated or because of their long history (or at least some of them) of election boycott. Some of their activists wonder whether this is the right decision to self-deprive from political participation. They also argue that working from within would have been a healthier strategy. These divergences led to the many splits that happened over the years within these formations.
2. The second pole is made of the Nationalist parties (Istiqlal and USFP, PPS) and what has come to be known as the Administrative parties (UC, RNI, MP) because of the conditions of their birth and their very close ties with the territorial administration. This category believed that the conditions were not propitious for a constitutional reform and expressed their belief that collective work was needed to reach a compromise within the framework of the Kotla/Wifaq or a national consensus with the monarchy in order to achieve constitutional changes without actually defining the nature of these reforms. This camp also believed that constitutional reform take time to gestate and they should be within a national context that will better serve the democratization process. Among this group we can single out the USFP as having resorted to the language of constitutional reforms whenever its relationship went bad with the other components of the political arena. Commentators have always said that whenever the USFP resorts to the “threat” of constitutional reforms, we should understand that the thermometer of its relationship with other parties is not going well.
3. The third pole is made of the PJD. This latter’s stance on constitutional reforms has been unclear and always tied to what the “majority” wants. This latter can be understood again within the historical conditions in which this party was allowed access into Moroccan politics. It needs to prove itself before engaging in such a debate. However, the party’s leadership made it very clear that they cling to the constants of the nation which are: the monarchy, the Islamic religion, the national territorial unity and Morocco’s belonging to the Arab world, in addition to their belief in the democratic way as the only way to effectuate political alternation in the country.
These can be considered roughly as the three major trends within the country vis-à-vis the necessity of constitutional reforms. All the indicators emanating from the majority of political parties indicated that the constitutional reforms were not an immediate necessity, and thus were sent to calendes grecques. The major political players in the country were not ready to debate such reforms for many objective and subjective reasons pertinent to their interests. However, the sand dunes of politics are shaky and moved quicker than anyone expected in the region. To be continued…
*Brahim el Guabli is a professor and political analyst in the United States. Prior to relocating to the US, Brahim was involved in the Moroccan civil society for many years.
This is the text of Brahim El Guabli’s presentation at the panel discussion on the Moroccan Elections organized by Morocco World News and the Middle East Institute at Columbia University.
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