Rabat - Are political parties, political parties?
Rabat – Are political parties, political parties?
During Hassan II’s long reign, the period extending from 1970 to 1996 was known as sanawat rasas “the Lead Years” because of the fierce repression exerted on the left and far left opposition, starting with the physical liquidation of the Union Nationale des Forces Populaires (UNFP) leader Ben Barka and moving on to the incarceration of all political opponents in secret prisons such as Tazmamart and Qalat Megouna in the southeast. Because of this systematic political repression, the youth shunned politics for fear of death or imprisonment and this still continues today.
Hicham Kasmi expresses explicitly the same view, in his article published in Morocco World News on January 31, 2013:
In attempting to understand the poor participation of Moroccan youth in politics, one should take a step backward in Moroccan history. Among the things the Moroccan youth inherited is the fear from “Almakhzen” (authorities) coming from “Sanawat Arasas” (years of lead) when demonstrations were faced by force, and youth were sent to prisons as the famous “Derb moulay chrif.” I think that the dark history of Morocco is still affecting the youth’s perception of politics, and pushes them to reconsider the idea of participating in political life. This may account for the famous answer I got from the majority of my respondents: “Siyassa fiha ghi sda3 olmashakil” or in English, “politics is too risky.”
To fill the political vacuum created by the repression of the left political forces, king Hassan II cloned subservient political parties to show the world that Morocco is a democratic country, but because these so-called parties were not true political parties but rather interest groups, their members always trying to make hay while the sun shines and embarking on massing riches for themselves and their extended families and making the most of the rentier state made available to them.
This state of being made corruption an acceptable practice, almost legal. A French political science professor, by the name of Pallazoli, at Mohammed V University in the 1970s, argued convincingly in his “Moroccan Politics” class that Morocco ought to consider taxing corruption money, to get some return from an unstoppable practice, anyway.
This new political atmosphere led to the creation of a new class of politicians subservient, corrupt, and bent on personal profit but, most importantly, ready to defend the establishment and mobilize for it when called upon : they were the men of the Makhzen, ready to defend its ideals whether right or wrong.
Hassan II preferred them to intellectuals, thinkers and true politicians. So, for a quarter of a century, he would nominate these yes-men to all state positions and, especially, in the government. A good illustration of that is, undoubtedly, Driss Basri, who became the trusted Minister of the Interior and progressively his department started absorbing others such as information, environment and habitation and, as such, it was nicknamed oum l-wizarat “the mother of all ministries,” making out of his ministry a government within the government, and of him a true viceroy.
In Hassan II’s configuration of the government, the Prime Minister was subordinate to the Minister of the Interior and other ministers were no more than bureaucrats entrusted with the function of pushing paper, no more. Hassan II adored using and abusing them at will, he, even once, said that he could easily nominate his chauffeur minister, to mock the position of minister in Morocco.
According to the American think-tank Middle East Institute, the Moroccan political parties have been factionalized by the establishment, to use them at will:
…Moroccan political parties are largely factionalized and exercise no meaningful opposition. State-party relations illustrate two distinct features: first, it is apparent that the state has penetrated the party scene in all previous electoral contests in Morocco. Within Morocco’s political system, the state bestowed political favors and in some cases brought loyal parties to power such as the Gathering of National Independents (RNI) in 1977, the Constitutional Union (UC) in 1984, and the Social Democratic Movement (MDS) in 1997. The second characteristic of Moroccan parties is their lack of ideological and political clarity, as the regime has exacted its hold over the rules of the political game.
In this situation, traditional political parties, found themselves in the situation of eternal opposition. However, their young cadres were getting impatient to join in the power game, so, in many ways they had a foot in the opposition and another in the Makhzen and as such were putting pressure on their parties to abondon the opposition and share in the bounty of political subsevience to the establishment.
By the end of the reign of Hassan II, more or less, all parties were, somewhat, administrative parties trying to please the Makhzen to get their share of the spoils. The charismatic El Youssefi became Prime Minister in the consensual government that prepared, in calm, the transition to the era of Mohammed VI, but, as a consequence, the former lost all his luster and is, now, in self-imposed solitude and political limbo, forgotten by the palace, as well as, political forces, the worst of situations possible.
Today, all political parties are in the same category, their top cadres want ministerial portfolios and the perks that go with them, even if it is at the expense of the parties’ credibility. Those that are in power do not care about the political ethics nor the reputation of their political groups, all they care about is making money while they can. Politics, as a result of Hassan II’s drive to dehumanize political opposition has become synonymous of making money.
Ministers want to make the most of their post, that might not last long, so, for them, all roads lead to Rome. The Mouvement Populaire (MP), an administrative party that, has supposedly roots in the countryside, in principle, has been rocked by two scandals of public funds embezzlement by the Minister Guerrouj and Minister Ezzine, who, both, owe their posts to their tribal nobility and not to internal party democracy, that exists, almost, nowhere in partisan politics in Morocco.
The Moroccan youth views the political parties and the parliament in a very negative light, as failed institutions, according to the National Democratic Institute’s findings from qualitative research in Morocco conducted in July 2011 and published under the title: “Youth Perceptions in Morocco: Political Parties and Reforms”:
“The negative perceptions of political parties are often reflected in references to corruption, nepotism, and favoritism. Participants express disgust with a political system that has not changed over the years. Participants generally perceive political parties as having lost their moral values and forfeited the public’s trust. Many participants express the desire for parties to build confidence and trust to gain back the respect that some of them once had.
Within the political context they describe, most focus group participants believe the parliament is a failed institution that can do nothing to solve the pressing economic and social problems.
Today, political parties are no more political parties, they are « pressure groups » or rather « interest groups ». They are kind of commercial ventures to make money fast with no or little investment. Party leaders are not voted in for their political programs, but for their allegiance to the establishment and as long as they are in its good books, nobody can threaten their supremacy in this institution. So, in many ways, these political institutions seem to play the game of politics to further their interests while being subservient to the Makhzen.
Moulay Driss El-Maarouf, Mourad el Fahli and Jerome Kuchejda, argue quite rightly in an article entitled: “Morocco – Analysis of the Moroccan political system” that the political parties’ mechanisms are flawed:
“Though Morocco follows democratic mechanisms like those implemented in Western democratic countries, these mechanisms are not practised in tje way they should be, a situation which has culminated in a weak pariament and ineffective political parties. In general, parties’ organizational strength, social entrenchment and their capacity for and success in integrating and socializing voters are low. Their activity between elections and their programmatic foundations vary from one party to another, but they are often based strongly on patronage structures.”
In a poor country like Morocco, when the population voted in the Islamist party, Parti de la Justice et du Développement (PJD), they believed this political group will defend the rights of the grass and roots, but they were shocked beyond belief, when the Head of the Government, in one of his first moves, proceeded, rather, to increase the rentier pension of ministers from MAD 20,000 (US$ 2,222) to MAD 30,000 (US$ 3,333). This means in other words that any minister, could collect this money, even if he stays in power just fews days, which he can add to the pension he will get from any other job he held in the administration. In ricochet, the parliamentarians, unhappy with this decision called on the PJD government to increase their rentier pension, as well.
What is disturbing about this PJD move is that it happened right at the beginning of its tenure. The rank and file reacted to this by pointing out that this party is unsure about its political future and want at least to leave their confortable government posts with acomfortable pension for life. So much for social justice, equal distribution of wealth and the declared fight against rentier practices they trumpeted in their electoral program.
To Be Continued … Read part 1: The Moroccan Legislative Circus (Part 1)
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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