The disgraced politician is making a shameless return, with utter disregard for COVID-19 sanitary guidelines, as election season approaches.
Rabat — With the 2021 legislative elections looming, the former secretary-general of the Istiqlal Party (Independence Party) and infamous career politician Hamid Chabat held a gathering in his neighborhood in Fez, with blatant disregard for state-mandated COVID-19 sanitary guidelines. A video of the planned gathering went viral on social media, showing Chabat addressing a large crowd, seated in anxiety-inducing proximity, with no masks insight.
Chabat is wasting no time to try and regain his electoral base, which he had abandoned for years after losing his seat at the Istiqlal Party.
During his speech, which resembled a political candidate’s campaign address, he assured his audience that “this crisis,” in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government-imposed restrictions, will be over as soon as “upcoming recommendations” are announced. Hastily brushing over the government’s “recent achievements” in handling the pandemic, he promised that this anticipated recommendation will “bring back prosperity and economic stability to the city of Fez, and ensure job opportunities for the city’s youth.”
Hamid Chabat then went straight into criticizing the government that, in his own words, “has offered nothing to Moroccan residents in over 10 years.” He then announced there are many more “large meetings” scheduled once the election campaign launches.
A PJD-signed ‘saving grace’
The former Fez mayor has been the subject of rumors regarding his possible comeback to the Moroccan political scene since his return to the country in September, after a three-year self-imposed exile. Despite the timely return, a suspicious increase in activity on social media platforms such as Facebook, and frequent content uploads to his personal website, the rumor mill was not proven right until the deputy attended the weekly meeting of his Unity and Equality parliamentary group on October 26, 2020, dedicated to the examination of the 2021 budget (PLF21). He also attended the plenary sitting for the questions to the government the same day.
Local outlet Assabah reported on Istiqlal’s veto, allowing Chabat to return to the political arena and present his candidacy in the upcoming election, possibly resuming his activities as mayor of Fez. The former Istiqlal secretary-general took advantage of the attacks to which his rival Idris Al-Azmi Al-Idrisi, one of the leaders of the PJD (Justice and Development Party), subjected him. He used the attacks to exert pressure on Istiglal leadership in order to soften their position against him, and allow him a recommendation to win back a seat on the Fez Council.
Chabat was, back in 2016, the subject of mockery for his faith in the legitimacy of then US presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. He expressed grand support for the businessman and was convinced Trump was well on his way to becoming the 46th US president. As we all now know, he turned out to be right. The admiration Chabat expressed vis-a-vis Donald Trump’s campaign strategy struck many as familiar, considering both politicians shared a flair for controversy and scandal.
The publicized inter-Istiqlal ‘reconciliation,’ culminating in the aforementioned speech, requires a contextualization and a recapitulative look into the judicial mess and multiple scandals in which the career politician has been involved. This is a direct consequence of the disastrous results of the ex-mayor’s alleged corruption, questionable administrative decisions, and irresponsible resource management.
The many discrepancies plaguing the Chabat mandate during his oversight of the scientific capital ranged from mismanagement of waste to transport. His negligence was again the reason for the uncared-for threatening ruins in the urban commune of the city. The court summoned Hamid Chabat for these claims. These hefty cases added to a falsification trail regarding development plan projects, which the Court of Appeal of Fez was processing and investigating.
Chabat’s alleged involvement in the case required him to appear before the court. He testified to try and justify his decision to extend the Fez communal contracts with private companies. These companies were tasked with sanitation and urban waste management, as well as transportation. Despite their clear failure to effectively do the jobs they are paid to do, and in clear disregard of taxpayers’ money and the wellbeing of Fez residents, Chabat renewed their contracts.
Hamid Chabat is also the poster child for Moroccan nepotism. He is implicated in accusations of influence peddling, having facilitated access to public funds to an association created by his relatives, the Moulay Driss Association for Solidarity, claiming it is involved in the rehabilitation plans for ruins in the old medina. The association benefited from state-granted subsidies and accepted financial aid from patrons, as its main form of financing. The association had pledged to rehabilitate around 500 ruin-threatened homes.
The case arose following an investigation into other suspicious activity during Chabat’s term, regarding stolen land claims in the Grand Fez region. Nineteen people are implicated in the case, including the former head of the Urban Planning and Environment Division in the Wilaya (Governorate) of Fez, a former parliamentarian who was at the head of directing town planning in the municipality, an elected representative of the Istiqlal party in the Al Marinyine municipal district, in a addition to some real estate developers.
What’s next for Fez?
Many now see Fez as nothing but a shadow of its former self, a decaying city with rampant urbanism problems, rising crime, and a now constant economic downward spiral. Even the most benevolent local administration can only do so much in its attempts to try and recover from Chabat’s disgraceful legacy. Debt, unemployment, and almost non-existent economic opportunities have left the residents of the country’s cultural hub in a dire situation, now amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The totality of the city’s problems are a direct result of the mismanagement and incompetence of its former mayor. For him to already publicize plans to return to his mayoral position has choked many and further cemented his unscrupulous nature in the eyes of the public. Chabat has lived in German and Turkish cities’ shadows for three years now; not even his sister’s passing incentivized him to come back to his country, unlike the upcoming elections.
Not only is he undeserving of another mandate, he should also face the legal consequences of his utter ineptitude, and corrupt activities, from which the city of Fez is still recovering.