Rabat - The election campaign has been punctuated by two events extraneous to it. The first one is the arrest of two French journalists caught red handed trying to blackmail the King of Morocco and extort money for not publishing a book they claim would jeopardize his probity. The second is the video of the French Foreign Minister allegedly drunk during a press conference. It was reported he had to be walked out to avoid questioning from the media.
Rabat – The election campaign has been punctuated by two events extraneous to it. The first one is the arrest of two French journalists caught red handed trying to blackmail the King of Morocco and extort money for not publishing a book they claim would jeopardize his probity. The second is the video of the French Foreign Minister allegedly drunk during a press conference. It was reported he had to be walked out to avoid questioning from the media.
These two events invited themselves into the election campaign derailing its attention, and supporting arguments of those who needed further evidence of the moral decay of the West, and of the alleged inherent immorality of the Western media that is presented to the rest of the world as the symbol of objectivity and respect for human rights.
Another event, of an internal nature this time, drew the attention of observers. Attalia Party, a member of the newly created Federation of the Democratic Left (FDG), announced its withdrawal from the candidacy in Benguerir, as a protest against the inclusion of individuals from parties, which had been involved in corrupt electoral behaviors in previous elections, and who are not up to the probity standards the federation had agreed on. This event has been interpreted by some opponents of the FDG as a sign of frailty and a forerunner of its precocious fall, as have been former unification attempts of the left. Important as it is, the case remains isolated and not affecting the foundations of the Federation, for the time being.
The current election campaign has also been marked by videos gone viral on social media showing how the Head of Government, also Secretary General of the leading party in the Parliament, has been booed and ousted from meetings that his own party had organized. He has been called the worst names a politician wishes to hear: thief, embezzler, hypocrite, traitor, and the list goes on. In one voice and in chorus, the population chanted, “get out of here, get lost, go away”. This phenomenon is actually new in Moroccan partisan politics and electoral campaigns. Few cases have been recorded of electoral rallies torpedoed and undermined by adversaries.
To make things worse for the Head of Government, pictures of his men distributing gifts and chicken to the population were widely published. The distribution is further criticized as an early, therefore, illegal campaign. Interestingly, according to those disseminating this information, the party of the Head of Government falls under the same category as those parties he accuses of illegal use of money and abuse of administrative authority; therefore, corrupting the democratic process. A few minutes after the release of a picture allegedly incriminating the PJD, a video was posted showing individuals giving away hens and roosters to potential women voters, in a facility decorated with Istiqlal campaign posters.
This political war is also taking place on the web. Some internet users have described the situation as “set a thief to catch a thief!”
A quick survey of the leaflets used by the parties and of their social media posts, reveal a lack of coherence between their local actions and their core principles. For example, while a party like Istiqlal boasts candidates with experience, they have candidates who have never held a job and who disclose that they are unemployed in their campaign materials. Likewise, parties with Islamic ideological referential claim that they adhere to the principles of the Constitution, which stipulate not using religion in politics, the adoption of human rights, gender equality and equity, freedom, etc.
However, they circulate documents in which they are short of excommunicating opposition leaders for the “sins” of supporting women equality, individual freedoms, militating against polygamy and capital punishment, and for the supremacy of international conventions and treaties the country has adhered to, over national legislation. These are acts that campaigns with Islamist discourse are presenting as sins deserving punishment. Parties can defend themselves from this accusations since the documents are not distributed by their official warehouses.
Pictures of young people wearing PAM T-shirts apparently distributing cooking oil bottles to slum dwellers near Tangier have been widely circulated, causing an immediate reaction to the pictures of alleged PJD militants distributing chicken in a comparable neighborhood. Those distributing items do not have to identify themselves as belonging to a specific party. They can present themselves as Samaritans, yet people are aware of the situation. Everyone knows who is warring who, where, and for which political seats! Some of these parties actually have “armies” of men and women behind keyboards day and night, scrutinizing the web, commenting posts, posting, sharing, liking, trying to delete, etc.
A person running for a seat in a constituency he/she has nothing to do with can go about shaking hands, hugging, drinking tea and eating prickly pears with them, but people will always know they do not belong with them. Like the Minister in charge of housing who stands by homeless people sleeping in the streets of a big city, but his own reality is different.
A survey published by the PJD shows that not only is the party the most efficient user of the Internet and social media, but that its candidates are the highest-educated compared to those of other parties; this based both in numbers and percentages of degree-holders and diplomas. While no information was available about what areas the degrees and diplomas are in, some observers have raised a correlation between the level of education and type of degree with the corruptibility potential. In the absence of quantitative data, theoretical assessments suggest an increasing correlation of corruptibility factor with higher degrees. The argument being that the higher degree, the higher the responsibilities would be and the higher the skills needed in playing with the law and circumventing regulations.
Two last observations. The PJD has been dropping leaflets with pictures of candidates, their names and their professions. The leaflets requests citizens’ votes. However, nowhere in any of the leaflets is it explained why they should vote for the pictured candidate. No mention to a program, no promised actions, not a single reason. Some constituents have said, “This is vanity and pride. They assume everyone should know them so well by now that they don’t need to be told who they are and what they are about”.
The second observation is that many lists of candidates are made up almost exclusively of teachers, essentially primary and secondary schools. Regardless of their integrity and honesty, as well as their dedication and service to the nation within the scope of education, these are not business professionals experienced in the management of a city or region. Business professionals are needed to further risks during this turning point in the history of the country. The culture, the attitudes, the skills and the competences of the best teacher are simply not those of the best designer and manager of the type of projects and work involved in running and developing a city and region. A few teachers on the list would be recommended but not more than two or three. In some cases, it seems that teachers are used as fillers to compensate for the deficit in other professions in the pool of human resources within the parties.
In a post of a candidate (name remains anonymous) running for PJD, he recommends FDG for those not wishing to vote for his party. He justifies his recommendation of a party at the other ideological extreme of his own, claiming they are honest people; although he does not share their ideology. He may have also written competent, or maybe, it was someone else who did. Besides it being a courageous political posture, it might be motivated by the smart calculation of scattered votes, by driving them away from actual heavy-weight challengers who can cause serious problems to PJD in many constituencies. This being said, it could very well be an earnest recommendation. In fact, in an open letter the candidate explains he is entering the candidacy almost against his will under the pressure of his comrades.
Another interesting argument is the use of grammar and spelling. Actually, people are scandalized at the poor spelling skills and writing abilities of those in charge of campaign materials A language teacher declared “I had decided not to vote for any party whose campaign materials have spelling mistakes or language errors, but I am finding out I am ruling out all the parties one could vote for!” He admitted he had to go back on his decision so that he could vote!
Listening to people talking and observing public debates about the elections, one would think that the battle is taking place among four or five parties, while the rest are spectators or at best extras hoping to be noticed by a director who needs shadows on his film set. In fact, the most notable happenings are the open feud between PJD and Istiqlal, the struggle for survival between USFP and the secessionists that broke up with it, and the mutual intolerance between FDG and the group it refers to as the ‘administration-bred parties’.
Above that, the stakes are next to null for the remaining parties. Indeed, the principal points seem to have been lost in the midst of secondary ones in these elections. The political struggle seems to have given way to egotistical competitions of individuals for leadership, in a battle that is won and lost for reasons other than public interest or concern for the democratic process.
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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