Chicago - Most people are pessimistic about the “Arab Spring” that broke out six years ago across the Middle East and North Africa and swept away leaders who were in power for decades. It all began in Tunisia; when a Tunisian women police officer slapped a vegetable street vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi, who ended up burning himself in protest for her actions. Despite the wounds caused by the Arab Spring, the Arab people are still suffering its backlashes.
Chicago – Most people are pessimistic about the “Arab Spring” that broke out six years ago across the Middle East and North Africa and swept away leaders who were in power for decades. It all began in Tunisia; when a Tunisian women police officer slapped a vegetable street vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi, who ended up burning himself in protest for her actions. Despite the wounds caused by the Arab Spring, the Arab people are still suffering its backlashes.
Today, Tunisia is threatened by terrorism in addition to political and governmental fragmentation that led the successive governments astray ever since. Libya is still reeling under the threat of ISIS and inevitable civil war despite the signed Skhirat agreement that has yet to prove any progress.
In Egypt, a military coup toppled the elected Mursi Brotherhood government. Yemen is being burned by the bombs of the Arab-led Saudi coalition under the pretext of “defending Islam, its sacredness, and Holy Sites”. Meanwhile, half of the Syrian people have been displaced by the bloody Bashar al-Assad. Despite all this and that, the breeze of the Arab Spring is still blowing on the MENA region to bring about the needed change in the rotted, outdated political systems dominated by un-dynamic rulers.
Morocco’s soft Arab spring was when the February 20th Movement took to the streets. It led to some attempted reforms aimed at amending the Constitution and electing the Islamic Justice and Development government. This time around, Morocco is witnessing an unprecedented heated debate following the remarks of the Delegate Minister in charge of Water, Charafat Afilal, about the retirement of Ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) in Morocco. Her remarks caused quite a popular stir in what has become known as “2 francs” or 2 cents. The people are demanding the government to stop the oligarchic system of political patronage that the Ministers MPs benefit from in the Kingdom of Morocco.
The petition that was signed by 50,000 Moroccans in a record time of 10 days, was sent to the Royal Court earlier this week. It called on HM King Mohammed VI- as the Head of State and the primarily responsible for the protection of public funds and national interest- to intervene and break with these unethical practices that came in a different political context. Before the enthronement of King Mohammed VI, the “Mekhzen” created an unjust political system based on oligarchy, political patronage and “laissez-faire” policies, which led to the rotation of only few names on Ministerial and parliamentary seats.
This oligarchic system became the core problem for Morocco’s development and for the prosperity of the Moroccan people. This oligarchic and corrupt political system burdens the Moroccan state and drains its budget. While scarce resources could be invested in economic and social development projects to benefit the people of Morocco, they are supporting lavish lifestyles of few Moroccan politicians who have not made any significant positive change in the daily lives of the average Moroccan citizen.
The Petition -a form of participatory democracy- urges the Moroccan monarch to intervene to put an end to this oligarchic political patronage that benefits the Low-Confidence Moroccan politicians. Despite the attempts by some political parties to hijack the movement, the popular demands remain organic and spontaneous. They came as a response to Minister Afilal’s remarks on a publicly televised show seen by Millions of Moroccans.
The Minister who later apologized, belittled the amount of retirements received by MPs and ministers for life and before reaching the legal retirement age, which is about to be raised from 62 to 64 years old. Some of them hold office for a few months only, stop serving at an earlier age if not re-elected or re-appointed, and usually go back to work their regular jobs or in the private sector. The amount they currently receive is just under MAD 8,000 per month for “retired” members of Parliament and MAD 39,000 for former ministers, while there are millions of Moroccans living on less than MAD 20 per day.
Moroccan politicians like to talk about the “Moroccan exception”. By this term they mean that Morocco has a blend of social, political, economic, ethnic and religious conditions that prevent it from facing the same fate as some of those countries of the Arab Spring. However, in order for Morocco to maintain its exception, the Moroccan government should fully implement the articles and provisions of the newly amended constitution.
These tests force Morocco to accelerate the long awaited reforms Moroccans have been promised and are expecting since King Mohammed VI ascended to the throne in 1999. Now will the palace respond to the demands of the Moroccan people and repeal the retirement pensions of Ministers and MPs? Will these demands find receptive ears or has oligarchy become an integral part of politics in Morocco? All these questions open a new chapter in Moroccan politics and demonstrate the determination of the Moroccan people to bring about the needed change.
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