Azami, who takes home a sizable monthly salary as an MP and the mayor of Fez, criticized Moroccans who are asking the government to reduce politicians’ compensation.
Rabat – Driss Azami Al-Idrissi, a former minister delegate and current mayor of Fez, is under fire for his controversial remarks on “populism” and response to “criticism” of the government from social media activists.
At the House of Representatives and in a loud and threatening tone, Azami criticized some social media users who have been condemning the situation of disadvantaged Moroccans.
The activists have called on the government to reduce the compensation and pension of members of Parliament (MPs), arguing that many of them do not “carry out their job properly.”
Critics on social media, some of whom are public figures, also condemned some political parties’ plan to vote on a draft project to add more MP seats. They argue that there are already enough Parliament members, adding that some are always absent.
Azami, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD), framed the social activism and citizens’ demands as “abhorrent populism.”
Working for ‘biliki’
Driss Azami Al-Idrissi used a set of words during his intervention that stirred both backlash and sarcasm from citizens.
Addressing activists, the parliamentarian said: “Do you want us to work for biliki?” The word “biliki” is a common term in Morocco and it means for “free.”
The word is now viral on social networks, with activists and regular citizens alike astonished at how an MP can use such a term during a parliamentary session.
Lambasting critics, Azami accused them of “underestimating the role of institutions.”
“Do you want MPs, the government, governors, workers, presidents, and employees to work for free without payment at the end of the month? Do you want them to not find anything to feed their children?” he asked.
During the current crisis, millions of Moroccans have taken to social networks to ask for aid due to work suspension or unemployment amid the lockdown and state of emergency.
Critics found the statement coming from Azami provocative given the current circumstances.
“Bilki” was not the only provocative word to ignite backlash and anger among citizens.
Driss Azami Al-Idrissi lashed out at activists, condemning the spread of what he called “populism” on social media.
“We are not afraid of social influencers. What have these people made for us?” he said.
The activists, for Azami, are “blurring the economic, social, and political scene,” instead of letting parties, civil society, and “serious media” do their job.
“The country is running through its institutions and not because of influencers,” he stated.
The politician went on to accuse critics of receiving financial compensation in exchange for writing their opinionated posts.
Azami considers those activists to be “debkhchi.”
“Debkhchi” is another common word used among residents of Fez to describe something as “trashy.”
He called on the government and MPs to not be afraid of social media influencers, urging them to face the activists who claim to be “defenders of populism.”
Azami has also been facing criticism in his role as mayor of Fez. Some critics argue the city does not receive the appropriate attention from local authorities, resulting in an increase of crime, and say there is a lack of reforms to preserve the city’s assets.
A look into the fortunes of Moroccan MPs
Rachid Hamouni, a Moroccan MP, recently opened up about the compensation, the monthly salary, and benefits each MP receives.
During his participation in a virtual show hosted by journalist Redouane Ramadani, Hamouni said an MP receives a monthly compensation of MAD 36,000 ($3,907).
A sum of MAD 900 ($98) goes towards their pension and another MAD 900 ($98) goes to social security.
Every MP contributes a sum of money to his or her party. Hamouni, a member of the Progress and Socialism Party, said he contributes MAD 3,000 ($326) to his party monthly.
After all deductions, the MP goes home with a net income of MAD 27,000 ($2,930).
The monthly income is in addition to a set of benefits for MPs.
MPs who live outside Rabat or Casablanca can benefit from free stays at hotels paid for by the Parliament.
MPs who live outside the region also receive a card to get gas for free. Hamouni said he has a card worth MAD 3,500 ($380) because he lives in Missour, a town in the Boulemane Province. The gas card’s worth depends on how far the MP lives.
Some MPs, he said, prefer free flights, and in this case, the parliamentarians do not receive the gas card.
Hamouni said he also receives an unlimited phone plan.
“Some MPs receive double of what I mentioned because they are serving other positions, like mayor and other positions,” Hamouni said.
Many Moroccans found Driss Azami Al-Idrissi’s remark about “working for free” insulting, given the vast disparity between his income and that of the average citizen.
The monthly income of MPs is far higher than the average salary in Morocco. Typical employees make between MAD 3,000 and 15,000 ($326-$1,628) per month, depending on their job title and company.
Some workers’ wages do not exceed MAD 2,000 or 2,500 ($217-$271), however.