By Hassan Zouaoui
By Hassan Zouaoui
El Jadida – The Moroccan experience of political alternation has occurred in a political context marked by a struggle for power between the monarchy and the opposition.
The vote of the “Koutla” bloc parties in favor of constitutional revision in 1996 and the formation of an alternating government led by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces in 1998 have opened up a new era in Moroccan political life. A new narrative of democratic transition spread in both academic and political fields. However, this concept has suffered from excessive political use and therefore has been subjected to the norms and standards which are only understood by political actors in Morocco. That is why the study of the Moroccan model of political transition requires a careful methodological approach — starting from the general characteristics of the democratization process — in order to draw out its real nature. In fact, it is necessary to put more focus on the mechanisms of democratization and on the deep factors pushing the regime to engage in this complex process.
From a scientific perspective, an assessment of the Moroccan experience of political transition needs a mass of empirical data linked to the theories related to democratically based transitional political processes. It is pertinent to study the Moroccan transitional process using an approach which takes into account the nature of the involved political parties because this process has been conducted in a way that makes it difficult to establish a specific definition of transition without understanding its impact on the institutional mechanisms of Morocco’s democratization process.
Government practice has been impacted by many factors, particularly the lack of ideological and political harmony between its component parties; the “democratic bloc” parties coexisted with “administrative parties.” This could partly explain the decline of the democratic bloc parties’ influence and their internal political crisis (for example, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces). The coalition of the Party of Progress and Socialism with the Justice and Development Party shows that the transition experience deepens uncertainty over the ideological reference points of the Moroccan political parties.
Arguably, the obstacles hampering the institutionalization of democratic transition are not only institutional and constitutional but also include other dimensions linked to the partisan field and the complex classification of parties in Morocco into right and left orientations.
It is valid to deduce from negotiations that preceded the formation of the alternating government that some party leaders were highly motivated by ministerial portfolios rather than by obedience to ideological principles which have become less crucial in forging the identity and positions of political parties. This logic of opportunism has negatively impacted the legitimacy of some parties. Since the first experience of transition in 1998, negotiations between the parties to form the government have been harmed by conflict within the parties over ministerial portfolios. This led to an exacerbation of internal party crises and a decrease of their political influence.
The absence of internal democracy and the hegemony of the leaders’ opinions are the main symptoms of the political parties’ crisis in Morocco, as was demonstrated by some party officials in their actions around the designated seats for women and youth representatives in the October 2016 parliamentary elections. Such behavior was clearly in opposition to the inherent nature of political parties as a source of democratic values.
One should admit that one of the counterproductive results of political transition is that political parties begin to turn into electoral business institutions mostly obsessed by electoral gains, which explains the lowering of engagement and the preference for hegemonic party leaders. This phenomenon of parliamentary celebrity has become a common denominator of the majority of Moroccan parties, which resulted in the control of those leaders over the internal party decision-making.
Straregies focused only on electoral gains have caused a structural crisis in political parties which prevented citizens from having meaningful political participation. The apolitization of parties seems to be insufficient to explain the phenomenon of abstention. The latter is rooted in many factors, some of which are related to the policy crisis, and some others are based in party structures and prevailing mindsets. Undoubtedly, the demand for a partisan democracy founded on horizontal relationships between the members and the leadership will enable the parties to act as a vector and a framework for political formation.
Political transition in Morocco has relied on several concepts such as democratization and governance. The application of these concepts within the Moroccan political arena has been held up by the actions of politicians whose practices and perceptions are based on populist values and their electoral use for gaining authority. These politicians’ actions is one of the most important aspects of political crisis in Morocco, which is suffering from stagnation and negative practices amplifying the crisis.
In the framework of debates between the majority and the opposition, it seems obvious that some populist political actors decreased the quality of not only the political discourse but also the political era itself. Based on these facts, the concept of politics in Morocco must be scrutinized through a critical approach meant to unveil the very nature of the values founding this concept while also clarifying the relationships linking the actor and politics.
The emphasis on the political actor issue requires understanding the degree of a politician’s impact from an institutional perspective regarding their professional skills and performance as a political actor. The rules that govern political action in Morocco cannot be separated from those governing the internal partisan system. To be sure, as the party is the starting framework of the political experience, if the performance at that level is weak, then politics are in crisis. The current state of political transition has deepened this crisis, and many of the ideological values of partisan practice are weakened as a result of the predominance of utilitarian logic in politics instead of just participating in politics for politics’ according to Max Weber.
Today, the political scene looks on its decline as a result of the weakness of the political actors and their lack of morality, so it is impossible to restore trust in politics without moral standards. This idea is contested by some under the pretext that politics is a pragmatic art. But when politics and morality are divorced, political action becomes sterile and citizens stop believing in it.
The success of Moroccan political transition is contingent on an institutional reform of the parties as well as the rehabilitation of the political actor in order to be able to meet demands for change and transformation. Accurately, real democracy is a byproduct of democratic parties and actors. The importation and incorporation of a set of concepts produced in old democracies into a different environment could serve the status quo and thus consecrate the continuity. Thus, the problem of change is linked to the actor’s level of political maturity, because democratization is not a mechanical process, but is intrinsically an equation that requires the prevalence of democratic culture and principles both within the parties and among politicians.
Hassan Zouaoui is a Professor of Political Sciences at Chouain Doukkali Univesity.
Translated from Arabic by Reda El Fellah. Edited by Than Rabuzzi
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.
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