By Younes Abouyoub
By Younes Abouyoub
Morocco World News
New York, April 20, 2012
On April 5th, the Carnegie Institute for International Peace organized a discussion entitled “Islamists in power: a view from within. Building new regimes after the uprising” with the participation of representatives of the Tunisian Al-Nahda party, the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party (the Muslim Brotherhood), the Jordanian Islamist Front Party and the Moroccan Justice and Development Party, which was represented by the minister of communication Mustakha El khalfi.
El khalfi’s intervention focused on what he called “the third path” in the Arab uprisings: ‘the Moroccan exception’, which takes another path between revolution and the status quo. According to the Minister, this exception is based on three elements: the role of the monarchy, the role of civil society and youth movements, including February 20th Movement, and the preexistence of a minimum of political pluralism within the Moroccan polity since the independence. According to him, Morocco has chosen to maintain stability while reforming its political system.
According to the minister, credit for this alternative path goes mainly to the 20 February Movement which has succeeded in shaking the still waters of Moroccan politics. The regime was quick to react to avoid a deterioration of events like in other neighboring countries, and it positively and wisely reacted to this change. El khalfi’s speech was straightforward and clear compared to other rhetorical and fossilized speeches we are accustomed to.
He had the courage to state that the Moroccan political system lacks good governance, and suffers from chronic institutional dysfunction and corruption. He recalled, in this respect, the fall of Morocco’s rank from 52 in 2002 to 82 in 2011 on the Transparency International Index. As for the role of religion in politics, the minister addressed the issue of politics from the viewpoint of an Islamic reference, but not an Islamic government.
While reaffirming that the monarchy derives its legitimacy from the Islamic scriptures, Mr. Elkhalfi referred to the role played by this institution as a unifying factor in the Moroccan context. He further stated that thanks to its moderate interpretation of Islam, the Monarchy managed to strike a delicate balance between modernity and Islam, while allowing a political pluralism since the independence. Mr. El khalfi added that the integration policy, which brought in the left-leaning USFP in 1998, and later the Islamists, has spared Morocco violent uprisings and made it an exception in the era of the Arab Spring.
However, the Minister sees that Morocco faces four challenges at this juncture: first, the implementation of the new constitution through enacting new laws and protecting the elementary freedoms, mainly freedom of speech, which should be guaranteed through the non-intervention of the government in the media and “the establishment of an independent democratic council”, which will allow the creation of an independent and responsible media; second the implementation of the advanced regionalization and decentralization plan; third providing genuine and real answers to the economic and social problems, and finally a real regional cooperation, especially given the economic conjuncture situation and the European economic crisis.
We have recently attended many lectures by Moroccan officials in the United States, but El khalfi’s remarks stand out in terms of their straightforwardness and honesty. While other officials denied 20 February its important role in the recent political changes and attributed all credit for positive change to the state, El khalfi admits the positive role of this movement and civil society, although he does not openly admit that this movement played an important role in his party’s electoral victory. He described the recent elections as “the revolution of the ballot box”.
However, while Minister El khalfi insisted that the economy came right after good governance in the priorities of his government, the discussion of the economy remains ambiguous in his speech, no unlike all the other Islamist parties. Without giving much detail, he presented a number of ideas aimed at invigorating the ailing Moroccan economy such as the promotion of exportations, free trade agreements with the United States and cooperation between the private and public sector. Yet, these policies are not new, technocratic governments were the first to implement them, and we all know the catastrophic results of these liberal policies in the social field.
While the Islamists talk about corruption and the lack of good governance, they seem incapable of moving beyond identity politics and the promotion of religious values and ethics to table a serious economic alternative. To this day, none of these parties has been able to put forth an alternate economic program that focuses on social and economic justice and not only charity; on economic good governance instead of mere short-sighted populist measures aimed at alleviating, for a while, the suffering of a myriad of struggling, hard-working Moroccans and many more unemployed individuals.
When it comes to economic policies, Islamist parties fail to provide an adequate alternative to the market-based economy, liberal policies and unfair privatization programs, which ravaged their societies. We sincerely hope the new government would come up with a genuine alternative and opt for a real and viable third path in the economic sector; a path different from that implemented by the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who promised a new economic governance for the many and ended up delivering enormous dividends for the few.
Translated by Jaouad Maniani
Younes Abouyoub Ph.D. is a political sociologist at the Department of Middle Eastern, South-Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University, New York. He is a contributor to Morocco World News.
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