Rabat – In its 2017 Freedom in the World report, Freedom House maintains Morocco’s ranking as a partly free country, scoring 41 out of 100.
According to the NGO, while the 2011 constitution presented a new hope for change, corruption is still scouring the functioning of the government and state institutions.
For the NGO, even if the 2011 reforms “formally shifted some power over government from the monarchy to the elected legislature,” the King still maintain dominance through “substantial formal powers and informal lines of influence in the state and society.”
In its 2017 report, Freedom House goes through the major events of 2016, from the reelection of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) at the head of the government, the dismantlement of terrorist cells linked to ISIS, to the protests of the Hirak Movement.
With a Press Freedom Status of ‘Not Free,’ the NGO explained that the government “continued to restrict personal freedoms and journalistic coverage of sensitive subjects” in 2016, with many reporters and journalist sometimes facing “fines and jail sentences.”
“A large number of protests on various topics proceeded peacefully during the year, though the authorities used violence to disperse demonstrations in some cases,” added Freedom House.
Scoring Morocco’s Political Rights at 15 points out of 40, Freedom House had many of questions to ask about the electoral process, the political pluralism and participation, and the functioning of the government in the Kingdom.
Free and fair electoral process?
Analyzing the freedom and fairness of the electoral laws and framework in Morocco, Freedom House recalled that in September, Mustapha Ramid, Justice Minister of the PJD back then, accused Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad at the time, “of manipulating the upcoming elections, saying he was making decisions on electoral administration unilaterally.”
The NGO noted that while the government approved 4,000 election observers out of 5,000 applicants, including 92 foreign observers connected to five international organizations, it excluded Carter Center.
In August 2016, the American Foundation asked to supervise the legislative elections scheduled for October 7; however, the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH), the only body authorized to grant this status, asserted that it has not yet made a decision regarding this request.
Citing an anonymous official source, the Moroccan daily Akhbar Al Youm reported back then that “the Moroccan authorities have already decided to deny the Carter Center the status of observer for the October 7 poll.” However, the newspaper did not specify on what basis the authorities have relied to reject this request.
While the CNDH later denied the rumors, Carter Center ended up being excluded, which pushed Human Rights Watch to criticize the decision “as part of a trend of reduced access to the country for international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs),” said Freedom House.
“After the elections, the National Council of Human Rights released a report noting isolated irregularities, including cases of vote buying,” added the NGO.
Another question Freedom House is tackling in its report, is whether the cultural, ethnic, religious, and other minority groups have “full political rights and electoral opportunities.”
For the NGO, the Amazigh people “had an uneasy relationship with the palace.” Freedom House further explain how the “prominent Amazigh elite enjoy access to the monarchy and also have their interests represented in Parliament,” stressing however, that “the bulk of the ethnically indigenous population is marginalized.”
Corruption poisoning the functioning of the government
Rating the Functioning of Government with 3 points of 12, the NGO stresses that corruption is “rife in state institutions and the economy,” adding that “despite the government’s rhetoric on combating corruption, it has a mixed record on enforcement.”
While the government has made sure to publish the annual budget and other financial information online through the past years, including the national press in the public debate on the matter, for the NGO, “overall transparency is limited.”