Casablanca - While waiting for the government formation, Moroccans were rather optimistic about its harmonious make up. The coalition parties’ members remained vigilant regarding their level of representation. Those aligned in the opposition ranks waited for the government configuration to sketch their new roadmap.
Casablanca – While waiting for the government formation, Moroccans were rather optimistic about its harmonious make up. The coalition parties’ members remained vigilant regarding their level of representation. Those aligned in the opposition ranks waited for the government configuration to sketch their new roadmap.
But nobody expected that the major unpleasant surprise would be the under-representation of women in the new government with only one female minister, Ms. Bassima Haqaoui, among 29 male fellow ministers.
Women rights activists consider that this disproportion in women presence in the highest sphere of power is the first palpable infraction of the new constitution, which advocates a larger political representation for women. The daily “Assabah” quoted Rachida Rebbah, coordinator of the Movement of Equity and Democracy, as saying that “ the current government does not live up to women expectation, especially those who voted for the new constitution”. The MED intends to hold an exceptional meeting in order to design an adequate strategy in response to this disparity.
On the other hand, the president of the Federation of the Democratic League for Women Rights, Fouzia Al Assouli, held Mr. Benkirane responsible for this situation. She argues that he, as the head of government, he could have urged the coalition parties to observe the constitution’s provisions regarding women’s representation in the government.
The Istiqlal Party (IP) submitted the name of Kenza Alghali for the Education portfolio, whereas the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) proposed Kajmoula Bent Abi for the position of Minister Delegate to the head of government in charge of Moroccans living abroad. All these proposed names were ruled out by the palace for lack of competence.
What lurks beneath this obvious disparity in women’s representation in the executive branch? According Feminist activists with a leftist tendency, the Islamist-led government is giving “avant gout” of forthcoming strategies tainted with a staunch conservatism in issues like women rights, individual liberties and censorship. The leftist factions in Morocco have repeatedly expressed apprehension over any possible regression in women’s rights. There is a growing fear about the implementation of an Islamist agenda, bearing in mind that the PJD has built a robust alliance with the IP, another conservative party. These fears might be groundless, especially that the PJD has repeatedly reassured Moroccans over the issue of individual liberties, asserting that latter pertain mainly to the private realm.
The Islamist party may look like the most convenient scapegoat for the under-representation of women in the new government. However, the PJD was the only party that elected its nominees, which means that the nomination of Bassima Hakaoui was democratic in the true sense of the word.
On the other hand, the other coalition parties chose their candidates on relatively subjective grounds, such as reputation, flexibility or kinship to the party leaders. Besides, the Palace rejected some IP applications for their lack of competence including Kenza al Ghali’s candidacy. The Party of Progress and Socialism’s (PPS) female candidate, Kajmoula Bent Abi, was not admitted to head a Ministerial portfolio for similar reasons.
Fully aware of the criticism leveled against Yasmina Baddou who was the mascot of nepotism in the outgoing government, the Palace deemed it imperative to pass the suggested ministers through the filter of competence.
This brings to light the Quota system issue that stirs controversy between proponents and opponents. The idea behind the Quota system is to enhance women political emancipation through reserving a specific number of seats in the parliament and/or the government. Many countries adopt the quota system as a temporary measure until the barriers for women’s entry to the political life are totally overcome.
Yet, this compensatory measure is considered by many as an undemocratic measure, since women are not directly elected by voters, besides the fact that their election is based on gender rather than qualifications. Thus, the controversy in women under-representation blows the dust off the real dichotomy: Equality of opportunities and equality of results. By the same token, should women be given the opportunity to take part in the political process, or should they be given a privileged access to the political arena, since there will always be insurmountable obstacles to their entry to political life?
Between compensation for actual barriers that prevent women from a fair share of political seats and the urgency of the current conjuncture where competence counts more than anything else, the main concern for Moroccan policy-makers was to avoid a political fiasco that would drag Morocco in the abyss of chaos. The partisan transaction and the government configuration sent a frank message to activists, according to which women issues are not the priority at the moment.
Edited by Adnane Bennis
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