Normalization between Algiers and Rabat is key to the realization of dreams of economic and political integration in the Maghreb.
Rabat – Former Tunisian president has cited Algeria’s pronounced hostility towards Morocco as the main reason for the “failure of the Maghreb Union,” a regional integration project to deepen social, economic, and political ties among Maghreb countries.
In an 18-minute interview with Russian Sputnik, former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki said a great part of the failure of the Maghreb Union is that successive governments in Algeria have blocked the impetus for such a project.
He explained how, in the aftermath of the Tunisian Spring in 2012, he initiated a regional tour to speak to all governments of the Maghreb about the possibility of a regional body around ideals of diplomatic normalization and freedom of movement for both people and goods.
Normalization between Morocco and Algeria is the unquestionable key to the success of such an enterprise in the Maghreb, Marzouki explained. He noted, however, “The energetic ‘No’ always came from Algeria.”
Algerian revolution could be a game changer
In the interview, Marzouki made a striking portrait of the Algerian political establishment capricious and self-indulged leaders who seemed to be living in an alternative political universe where accountability to the people means very little.
He said that Algiers tried to hijack the 2011 Tunisian Spring by providing the Tunisian regime with the support it needed to quell the demonstrations. “They tried to pre-empt to make sure that the Tunisian revolt would not be contagious. Unfortunately, what they feared is now happening in their country.”
For Marzouki, the ongoing “revolution” in Algeria comes with promises that the “great Algerian people” will no longer tolerate being the means to the realization of the personal aspirations of its political leaders.
“I have faith in the determination of the Great Algerian people,” he offered, explaining how the success of the revolution could be determining for a future of stability, democracy, and regional dialogue in the greater Maghreb region.
On the regional integration stage, Marzouki is pinning great expectations on the outcome of the Algerian revolution. He said the Tunisian Spring was not a total success because Tunisians “naively” believed after the revolution that different faces from the same old political establishment they had ousted could inspire the political change the youth had fought—and died—for during the demonstrations.
Unlike Tunisians, the Algerian protesters have been implacable about their demands. With the same vigor and energy as in the beginning of the anti-Bouteflika demonstrations, the Algerian protesters have been inflexible, saying that they will not stop until the entire Bouteflika cohort leaves political power to a brand new generation of politicians. This, Marzouki elaborated, could garner the leadership change needed to resurrect talks of normalization between Algiers and Rabat.
When the Algerian protests broke out in late February as an earnest protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s desire to run for another presidential term, the broad expectation was that things would go back to normal should Bouteflika renounce.
But when the president did renounce his presidential bid, protesters demanded that he resign altogether. Once again, the expectation was that the demonstrations would cease should the president resign. President Bouteflika did resign, but the protests have continued. Algerians are now demanding that the entire Bouteflika establishment be ousted from the country’s most powerful offices.
Channeling the demands of the Algerian revolution, Marzaki said that what is happening in the country may result in a “genuine rupture” from previous political leadership. Such a political rupture, he argued, will come with a new understanding of doing politics, which “may pave the way for the Maghreb Union.”
In addition to resurrecting hopes for the Maghreb Union, the Algerian revolution could inspire democratic change across the region, according to Marzouki. He said revolutions are “inherently contagious.” Part of the contagion could be improved political accountability across the region, since governments will act to avoid what is happening to their Algerian counterparts.
Marzaki’s comments come months after Morocco’s King Mohammed VI extended Algeria an invitation for a “frank dialogue” over the main points of contention between the two countries.
In a speech commemorating the Green March on November 6, the King said, “I should like to say today, in a very straightforward and responsible way, that Morocco stands ready for a direct and frank dialogue with our sister nation, Algeria, in order to settle the transient and objective differences impeding the development of relations between the two countries.”