Washington- Morocco combines contradictions and distinctions between Islam and the West and unity and diversity. These contradictions are reflected in the process of understanding the politics of the country, the role of religion in the political process, and the actual roles played by political parties.
Amid all this complexity and intertwinement, one cannot merely describe the general political scene and examine decisions based solely on the stated positions of key decision-makers. A careful, in-depth analysis of Morocco’s politics requires one to see past the obvious in order to understand the nature of the variables at work, and the slow process of democratic change in the country.
The idea of writing this article stems from the recent socio-political events in Morocco. Any observer can clearly realize that the country is sinking due to the diverse paradoxes in its social layers. The immature decisions taken by many political figures can only indicate that there is an agenda, which is kept hidden from the public for whatever motive. The lack of a total transparency in the political arena in the country will cost all political parties their credibility, and they are half-way through achieving this unfortunate outcome.
So let us analyze how Morocco got to this socio-political mess, and who are the major contributors to the biggest political failure the Kingdom has ever experienced since its independence in 1956.
Under King Hassan II, the monarchy deftly used the geo-strategic rent accruing from its pro-Western, anti-Soviet approach to curb political opposition. It was also forced to embark on a program of economic reform to stem the social discontent that ultimately strengthen its political opponents. In the 1990s, piecemeal political reforms were designed to contain mounting international pressures and allowing some breathing room to an opposition that would otherwise have become increasingly radicalized. King Mohammed VI is following on the same path, and has furthered reforms first initiated by his father.
The last couple of years witnessed more transparent (though still not completely devoid of regime’s intervention) elections, the maintenance of a still-powerless parliament, the implementation of a truly modernizing reform on women’s status, the devolution of important decision-making power to a corrupt and ultra-conservative judiciary and, finally, a reconciliation process with the victims of the darkest phases of King Hassan II’s reign. This process was was tarnished by al human rights abuses after the terrorist attacks in Casablanca in May 2003. .
Departing from his father’s decision to appoint an opposition figure to the post of prime minister in 1998, King Mohammed VI has appointed a former minister close to the palace and lacking any political affiliation. The fragmentation of the parliament elected in 2002, as well as a sense of “urgency” in implementing economic reforms, was advanced to justify this choice.
The past three years have seen a major shift in the Moroccan regime’s attitude toward the conflict over Sahara. The monarchy has officially repudiated any idea of referendum, as the conditions for holding such a consultation have been rendered unrealistic
However, in embracing a political solution – which necessitates that the regime negotiate with the “Polisario” to determine the degree of autonomy they will receive – the monarchy has de facto rendered constitutional reform more pressing. Retaining sovereignty in Sahara, while devolving meaningful powers to the regional level, will mandate a more democratic constitutional design. In talks with the United Nations, Morocco proposed a “non-paper” document that essentially states that the monarchy will retain judicial powers in the Sahara. The “Polisario” quickly discarded this proposition, as there is no effective separation of powers in the Moroccan constitution.
The state’s monopoly on the use of force covers the entire territory as defined by the Moroccan authorities – that is, with the exception of Sahara and the two Spanish governed enclaves Ceuta and Melilla. However, certain events suggest that the state’s monopoly on the use of force may not be as solid as it seems. The development of cannabis culture and drug trafficking in the country’s Northern provinces could indicate either the state’s lack of will to combat this problem or its inability to do so. In either case, this situation raises the possibility that Morocco end up in a Colombian-like situation where drug mafias are powerful enough to contest the state monopoly on the use of force.
In addition, the terrorist attacks of May 16, 2003 in Casablanca – together with the Moroccan authorities’ reported dismantling of over 40 terrorist cells – might herald the advent of an armed opposition to the regime. One should not overlook the possibility of linkages between drug money and terrorist activities. According to the Spanish police, part of the explosives used in the March 11, 2004 terrorists attacks were paid for with Moroccan cannabis.
All Moroccan citizens enjoy the same rights regardless of their religion or ethnic background. Although converting from Islam to another religion is technically illegal, no case has been brought forward where Moroccan citizens were prosecuted and/or deprived from their nationality because of their conversion to another religion.
Islam is enshrined in the constitution as the official state religion. The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government has generally respected, with some restrictions, this right in practice. Non-Muslim communities openly practice their faith and the constitution designates the King as the “Commander of the Faithful”. The regime bases its legitimacy on the King’s religious role. Proselytizing is illegal for minority religions. The government tolerates several small religious minorities with varying degrees of official restrictions.
The size of the informal economic sector and the expansion of the illegal cannabis industry have weakened the state administration’s ability to extract and allocate state resources on an effective and equitable basis. According to a World Bank report on poverty, population in urban areas is growing at an annual rate of 4%, mostly thanks to rural migration. Coupled with the country’s lack of economic growth – and, in turn, of job opportunities – this trend tends to create to large poor urban spaces where criminality, illegal commerce and absence of authority are rampant.
The recent decisions taken by many political leaders proved how weak is the democratic process is, it also proved the political immaturity of the Moroccan political parties.
The Independence Party, “Istiqlal”, strongly believes that it is Morocco’s Godfather as it played a major role in obtaining the country’s sovereignty back from France. Only few are aware of what this particular party did to the political and social scenes in Morocco since 1956. The powerful members have set a quest to create a multi-layered society wherein they will always maintain control over the lives of the rest of Moroccans, which angered few members who were big fans of the Communist model and decided to found a party named “The Socialist Union”.
The irony is that both members of those two parties still live in the past. “Istiqlalis” still strongly believe that they own Morocco, and that without their “Divine wisdom” the country will certainly sink. Whereas USFP members do not realize that the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1990 and Socialism is a thing of the past.
This political immaturity clearly shows the lack of creativity in enacting policies matching the 21st Century. Not all the policies and road maps they come up with are reflecting, by any mean, the modern development of politics and social affairs, in other words, they still adopt the “zawya” model of ruling and controlling citizens.
Moroccan foreign policy has proved itself weak overall. With a lack of a true charismatic diplomat willing to take the international community by storm, Morocco’s foes will continue scoring more points. The world has seen how the separatists have been extremely active in both Europe and Northern America to gain any little recognition, while Moroccan diplomacy seems to be working with the “Baraka”.
I was amazed how the Moroccan diplomacy failed during the official visit of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyep Erdogan. This man, considered by the White House as the most influential persona in the Middle East and one of the most powerful U.S. allies in the region, was poorly received and treated in a despicable manner, to the point that he cancelled the second day of his visit and went to Algeria.
The million dollars question is: Who is in charge of the Moroccan diplomacy? Clearly not the current Foreign Minister.
The second most important question that any observer would ask is: Why is the Palace taking a neutral role and allowing political chaos in society? Once trouble hits the fan, it will be too late to solve anything, and while there are many alternatives to sort out this chaos, I anticipate the monarch to step up and take matters into his own hands. The political parties are NOT ready as of yet to rule. Those parties, governed by a band of opportunists and capitalists, are not willing to give up their wealth or that of Morocco to the people. That what will ignite any future uprisings.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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