Rabat- After three months of waiting, Morocco has finally a new government. When at last revealed on Thursday, the new “coalition” presented a whole package of unexpected surprises and was scornfully received in Moroccan press and social media.
The first annoying aspect in Benkirane’s second government is the overly exaggerated number of ministers and minster-delegates. 39 is a huge number of ministers for a third world country. It’s even absurd at times like these where the nation is facing many economic and social hardships.
What’s even more irritating is that many departments were created and distributed to please the different parties forming the coalition, and formally increase women’s participation in government after the criticism following the appointment of one female minister in Benkirane’s first government.
When it comes to such matters, this is how things work in Morocco. The state is mainly interested in the façade instead of working deeply to empower women and get the political parties nominate females to key ministerial departments.
From the recent governmental reshuffle emerged a weaker Justice and Development Party. The Islamist party, brought to power thanks to the regional waves of Arab Spring and Moroccan people’ search for political change, lost much of its appeal.
PJD kept the same number of ministers, 12, and lost a strategic department and one of its most highly regarded ministers. As head of Morocco’s diplomacy, Saad Edine Othmani was one of the most active foreign ministers the country ever had. He also enjoyed high esteem from friends and foes alike. His departure was hardly swallowed by PJD members.
The man who succeeded him, along with his party, were the ones who secured much of the gains in recent reshuffle. Salahedine Mezouar, Rally of Independent Party (RNI) leader, was denied Ministry of Economy during the negotiations to form the new government, because of corruption allegations brought against him. He was accused of unlawfully exchanging bounties with the General Treasurer when he was at the helm of the Ministry of Finance in Abass El Fassi’s government (2007-2011).
Paradoxically, Mezouar was given a better position at the expense of PJD’s former secretary general and one of its most respected ministers.
Eight other “members” of RNI were appointed ministers. A number even bigger that the one Istiqlal Party had before it pulled out from Benkirane’s government, even though the latter was contributing with more seats in the parliamentary majority.
The current situation proved once more that the “Makhzen”, the term used in Moroccan political literature to designate the “deep state”, is the key player in Moroccan politics and the one that is running the show in the country.
The withdrawal of the Istiqlal from Benkirane’s government is believed by many as a move planned by the Makhzen. Whether this allegation is true or not, what is true is that when the head of government had to look for an ally to save his coalition, he couldn’t look beyond RNI. The latter, a party with strong ties with Makhzen and no significant popular base despite coming third in last general elections, was in a good position to squeeze Abdelilah Benkirane’s arm and negotiate a good deal.
Benkirane apparently had no choice but to make concessions that hurt badly. The deep state managed to corner PJD even further and cause its unpopularity to deepen. More technocrats have joined the government as ministers, and these are known to be strongly linked to the Makhzen and to act not in concordance with the head of government’s vision, since they see themselves accountable only to the ones who put them in positions of responsibility.
Despite all its shortcomings, the PJD’s government certainly enjoyed popularity in the first months in office. This was enough reason for the deep state not to make things easier for them. Let’s not forget that King Mohamed VI strengthened his arsenal of advisors in the wake of government formation. Those advisors exert an influence beyond merely providing counsels to the monarch to the extent of directing the country’s policies in different areas.
The sticks Makhzen has been putting in PJD’s wheels is a reminder that it had recourse to a similar strategy mainly vis-à-vis governments in which Moroccans placed high expectations, as it was the case with Abdellah Ibrahim and Abderahmane Youssefi’s governments.
Today both former prime ministers Ibrahim and Youssefi are regarded with great respect regardless of their governmental record. It’s not sure whether Abdelilah Benkirane will enjoy the same status years after he leaves office. Many Moroccans believe he had an opportunity to make significant reforms and help putting democracy in the country on the right track, but he just missed it.
Instead Benkirane was too concerned of showing his good intentions to a monarchy still suspicious of Islamists. When the government showed its willingness to put some order in the state television, it was met with resistance by the old guard, which prompted Benkirane and PJD to step back.
The more concessions they made, the more Makhzen strengthened powers that were seemingly conceded after the adoption of the new constitution.
Now, Benkirnane’s new government is a reflection of how much strong is the Makhzen and how much limited impact elected governments can have on decision making and in implementing public policies.
It’s also a warning that Morocco is far from heading towards a democratic transition and that Moroccans will be increasingly losing faith in politics.
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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