I have recently come across some detailed figures on this website, most importantly the complete set of results from the 2011 legislative elections per province, and I wonder how they got hold of these (apparently Attajdid newspaper published them in full)
the story behind those figures is damning to the left: they have lost their historical stronghold a long time ago, and I can recall one statistical evidence that provides a sad indictment to the sorry state of progressive politics in Morocco: in 2007, USFP candidates garnered 2301 votes in Aïn Chok. In 2011, they managed to pull 2304, even as turnout jumped from 22,125 to 41,195. There is a large probability the same people turned out to vote USFP, even as parties like PJD and MP doubled their respective votes from respectively 7,493 and 3,067 to 20,849 and 6,579. This is from a city where UNFP and the progressive parties before 1997 usually carried 37% of the votes, an average of 86,000 votes per election since 1963. In 2011, the total votes in Casablanca for all competing left-wing parties was around 29,500 (6.1% for the Casablanca metropolitan area) an abysmal performance matched only by the 1977 elections, when neither USFP, PPS or UNFP/UMT managed to carry a seat there.
Historically however, the total score of popular vote garnered by all progressive-affiliated political parties is very close to PJD’s feat: PJD carried 22.8% of the popular vote, some 1,080,914 votes, and all left-wing political parties carried on average 1,135,281 votes. It would be interesting to identify those areas that have voted (or still vote) progressive since 1963. Perhaps the evidence shown later would confirm the urgent need to unify all of these political parties into one big tent. The chief benefit of a broad coalition is electoral maths: one party, or at least one cohesive coalition means the perverse effect of the Moroccan ballot system would be alleviated somewhat: two competing left-wing candidates are cancelling each others out. In 2007, the vote was split evenly between USFP and the PSU-PADS-CNI alliance in Essaouira: though both got a seat each, their combined 17,540 votes (out of 66,740) could have most likely carried a third seat from the 4 slots. In 1997, the aggregate progressive vote in Marrakesh was second only to Istiqlal, leaving behind RNI (73,777) and MP (50,800) but because it was fragmented between USFP, PPS and OADP, their electoral performance didn’t amount to much.
There is one instance where electoral cooperation produced impressive results: in 1993, USFP and Istiqlal stood with joint candidates, a strategy that yielded Koutla‘s highest performance ever since it was first formed in 1970: 36.2% with scores as high as 79% in Mohammedia, Essaouira (61.26%) and Alhuceimas (58.1%) Casablanca and Rabat-Salé averaged 56% of popular votes.
Perhaps my definition of ‘progressive’ is too biased: after all, it fails to account for the extra-parliamentary opposition, all those political parties with definite views on the parliamentary system (including PSU since February 2011). But I guess the best analogy to describe the state of the Moroccan left is that of the informal sector: the activity is out there, but because it operates beyond the legal framework, the correct appraisal of the sector’s contribution to legal GDP becomes difficult, if not impossible to perform. Left-wing parties operating outside the mainstream political competition (the electoral process, so to speak) contribute to the Moroccan political life, but because they refuse to submit to the only viable performance indicator around, i.e. elections, they do not influence mainstream politics. Polling is not a thriving business in Morocco yet, so general elections since 1963 are so far the only correct indicator as to how popular progressive and liberal ideas are with the Moroccan electorate. Official figures, electoral official figures in particular are hotly gainsaid by many in the opposition, and in many instances, their accusations are founded. This is an inevitable caveat: to talk about Moroccan elections in a serious fashion is to use official figures, and these are not always accurate. Still, in the absence of an alternative, one has to make do.
UNFP/USFP, FFD, PPS, PSD, CNI, PT, PADS, OADP/GSU/PSU, PS, PGVM are all left-wing parties (with explicit references to values of socialism or progress in their respective denominations) with a history of electoral campaigning and for most of them, at least one gained seat since their foundation. Together, they have held between 19.6% and 22.5% of parliamentary seats and 22.8% of popular votes since 1963. Nonetheless, the geographical distribution of their parliamentary caucus has changed a lot over the years. True, the Casablanca-Rabat-Agadir formed much of the middle-class stronghold upon which parties like UNFP, then USFP built their political strength, but there are other places where support has been random: Alhuceimas is the best example of a “swing province”: in 1963, no vote were cast in favour of UNFP, even as USFP and PPS carried about 25% of the votes in 1977, and 22% of all the votes went progressive in 2007, only to swing dramatically to other allegiances in 2011, with only 11.8% of the votes going to USFP, PPS and other competing political parties.
The electoral map shows steady patterns in the progressive vote, both disturbing and hopeful: Casablanca, Mohammedia and Rabat are no longer leaning left, and Agadir itself is becoming less prone to give its votes to the USFP-PSU/PADS/CNI tandem. In fact, these traditional strongholds of middle-class, unionised public service workers have been crumbling since 1993, before the Alternance Consensuelle: the nationwide performance of left-wing Koutla (USFP, OADP, PPS, PSD) in 1997 was around 36.5% of popular vote, but the breakdown per metropolitan areas shows a steep decline, obviously offset by gains from new constituencies in the South and rural hinterlands: Abdelwahed Radi carried around 43,100 votes in his Kenitra constituency for instance. The disturbing part is that mainstream progressives (USFP, PPS and perhaps FFD before 2011) have seen their core parliamentary seats shift from Rabat (7 out of 8), Casablanca (14 out of 31) to other places (the South mainly) leaving the already ambitious MPCD-turned-PJD ample room to fill in the void (in 1997, MPCD already held 6 seats in metropolitan Casablanca). The depressing part is the seemingly delibrate strategy by all left-wing parties (including the Democratic Alliance, with a strong showing in the Ouad Dahab district in 2007) not to take the battle to their former urban stronghold: Casablanca, Rabat, even Agadir are now lost battle to the USFP as well as smaller parties, should PSU or PADS ever go back into parliamentary elections. The obvious advantages to such strategy are easy to enumerate: the required number of votes to carry a seat are much higher in Casablanca than they are in, say Beni Hssen, or Guelmim. There is a clear-cut trend for both the governmental and democratic left in shifting their core votes (and seats) from urban to peripheral-urban and rural seats: their share in parliamentary caucuses has been constant since 1993, which belies the fact that left-wingers are no longer effectively representing their cherished public, the urban middle and working classes: these have been lost around 1993 already.
In many instances, the fact that up to 5 competing left-wing candidates are fighting each other off over 3 slots makes it a pyrrhic victory to however emerges. Sidi Bennour is a great example of how a united left can prevail: in 2007, the Democratic Alliance (PSU/PADS/CNI) garnered 10,559 votes, about as much as USFP as one can see:
SIDI BENNOUR OULED FREJ (226,379 voters) ====================================================== Party Votes % Seats ------------------------------------------------------ Constitutional Union 7,990 10.5 - Independence Party 9,737 12.8 1 National-Democrat Party - Covenant 10,006 13.1 1 National Rally of Independents 3,305 04.3 - Party of Progress and Socialism 4,804 06.3 - Popular Movement 9,700 12.7 - Socialist Party 4,292 05.6 - Socialist Union of Popular Forces 10,297 13.5 1 Union PADS–CNI–PSU 10,559 13.9 1 Others 5,534 07.3 - ------------------------------------------------------ Total 76,224 4
and yet if both USFP and PSU/PADS/CNI managed to stand with one common list, they would have carried the third seat away from Istiqlal. Another interesting feature of the Sidi Bennour district is the turnout, down 10,670 from 2007 (76,224) to 2011 (65,554). Boycott, in that particular case showed clearly as those AGD voters preferred not to go to the polling stations. There are 4 seats opened for the left down there simply because they can mobilise around 20,000 voters out of a 193,000. Obviously, they do not have the Rhamna juggernaut at their disposal: in 2007, the so-called independents under Fouad Ali Himma’s leadership carried all 3 seats for the Rhamna district with a whooping majority of 41,265 to a total number of voters around 56,755, a super-majority of 35,187.
I mentioned earlier that the historical trend in voting pattern bore depressing features. There are however signs of potential comeback: first, the aggregate vote in urban rings shows as a strong second or third. There is great potential however in smaller cities: Essaouira, Sidi Bennour of course, and other districts usually concentrated in Marrakech-Tensift-Haouz and Souss-Massa. The aggregate vote shows more than often potentially an additional seat should all progressive candidates stood on coalition platforms. In parliamentary arithmetics, that translates into a dozen additional seats from marginals (including PJD’s) and around 5 more with the national ballot automatic transmission effect.
A Koutla of the left can be achieved, and from what I have seen since 1997, there are around 30 districts (meaning, around 45 seats) where at least one party does not carry enough votes to cross the legal threshold for campaign reimbursement. A rational strategy would be to strike a deal in coordinating their choice of candidates, if indeed these parties cannot agree on a ready-made coalition platform.
But then again, as long as the old rivalries persist among all components of the Moroccan left, there is little hope a strong progressive parliamentary party will emerge and present itself as a viable alternative to the Makhzen as well as the PJD.
A few days back in Morocco are quite short to spend with one’s family and acquaintances – but hey, I suppose it’s great to be back anyway, even for a short time.
A few things to discuss perhaps (given a very busy schedule and burdensome workload inherited from the Fall semester, among others) that do not relate strictly to the main topics this blog usual posts about. Or perhaps it does: Parti Socialiste Unifié is organizing this weekend their convention, and well… I am very ambivalent about it all. At no time during the opening day was there any feeling that perhaps the strategic choice of backing up Feb20 all the way up (or down) instead of taking a step back and consider the bigger picture: PSU is there for a long time, the movement, clearly not. More on that, later.
I have also taken to watch some new TV shows as well – namely, Hart Of Dixie (yes, I know…) Boardwalk Empire and Pan Am (Yes, I know!) and believe you me, they are worth watching, really!
Hart Of Dixie was not my idea; I started listening to some Otis Taylor tracks (Ten Million Slaves is easily recognizable for those who enjoyed watching Public Enemies) and the trailer was interesting enough: a glossy, too-good-to-be-true freshly graduated New Yorker Doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bislon) finds out that her real father is one Harley Wilkes, a Doctor in Blue Bells, Alabama, in the heart of Dixieland. Hart needs to spend a year South of the Mason-Dixon line before she can move on with her future career as a cardio-thoracic surgeon. The show is enjoyable, it really is !
Boardwalk Empire is of another calibre however; but then again, that’s Martin Scorcese for you (he direct the Pilot). The show is set in Atlantic City N.J. during the 1920s, at the height of the Prohibition Era. A special effort has been made for the costumes, the music, the hardware… and I don’t think words are enough to describe all the back-room politics that take place in Atlantic City. Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, city treasurer and the mastermind of a large-scale bootlegging scheme that doubles as an efficient political machine (E. Thompson fits in the American political vernacular of local “party boss”) running on buying off loyalties and other allegiances to, say, get the New Jersey delegates behind Warren Harding‘s nomination for GOP presidential candidate. Great stuff to watch, already two seasons have been aired so far.
Last series is Pan Am, I’m still watching the earlier episodes, but it sure has a je-ne-sais-quoi flavour of Mad Men: both are set in the late 1950s- early 1960s, and gender relations are depicted with a great deal of realism.
But enough with the glamour: PSU is holding its convention this weekend, between Bouznika and Rabat, and from what I have read and listened to, and for all the goodwill displayed and the hopes aroused, we are still far away from building a strong left coalition. Why so? Because party leadership – outgoing and even the likely new- still do not understand that shackling the party to Feb20 with so much enthusiasm and with little strategy, even to influence Feb20 and induce them to be more amenable to our goals, is not a strategy, it’s standing on the sideways of political history.
Don’t get me wrong: I think the party belongs with the Feb20 movement, but let us face it: left-wing political parties and radical Islamist AWI are all competing for influence -not control- of an otherwise very heterogeneous organization (although the term “organization” is a bit of a stretch) and I blame the movement for making PSU leadership going gaga over the youth; I really do.
Because of them, the decision to boycott elections and the referendum has been of no sizeable political benefit in terms of party membership or standing among the mainstream Moroccan citizens. And instead of going for the issues that matter, taxes, jobs, crime, standards of living, education and local government, I was horrified to listen to some of the speeches given during the opening meeting for the convention, and two words kept coming back: “Nidal” & “Somoud“.
Get over it, those we seek to enrol in our grand scheme for social justice and democratic institutions are not interested in militant mumbo-jumbo, they want clear and detailed answers to well-defined and real problems.The only thing I find solace in is the unheard of -in Morocco- transparency by which the party runs its internal elections: deliberations are open for independent observers, and party finances are there for everyone to see. No other party -save perhaps for PJD- can and does so. Occasions like these reassure me in my political choices.
I did not attend the rest of party conference for many reasons, among which some urgent projects I had to hand out on a tight schedule, the fact that I have not seen my family in months, and finally because my small, temperate, reasoned voice has no chance to be heard. I hope the newly elected leadership will heed the call of moderations in words – something that does not surrender the party’s nihilism, and does certainly not mean that they have sold out to Makhzen apparatus, because it is high time we left-wingers had crossed over to the Moroccan electorate to get them interested in our scheme, and left behind an obsolete body of language.
A little-known party (for the younger generation, anyway) plays an important role in the A8 Alliance, an establishment party with a very good chance to go back into office, although with junior positions, compared to the portfolio it held some 30 years ago.
the Union Constitutionnelle (UC) is one of these administrative parties created conveniently to deny the Koutla opposition any chance to take over parliament and government. After all, UC party was dubbed “Parti Cocotte-Minute” (pressure-cooker party) as it was founded April 1983, contested local elections in June 1983 and got a plurality of votes in the general elections of September 1984. And ever since then, their caucus has retained a respectable number of representatives; In 2007, they pulled off about the same number of representatives as USFP did (not a very flattering comparison for the left-leaning party)
But the trademark of this obscure party remains its almost brazen embracing of Neo-conservative, right-wing economics right from day one. During its first convention, the ground rules of its self-proclaimed ideology had been laid out, especially in its economic manifesto: State property (SODEA and SOGETA, mainly) of farmlands needs to be divested by leasing them to farmers and sometimes to cooperatives. UC was also the first party to push for privatization to roll back state intervention in output production, a lighter fiscal apparatus for everyone and developing private financial institutions. And its staunch commitment to right-wing economics is somewhat at odds with the self-proclaimed left-of-centre stance from its senior partner, the RNI; but on policies and broad ideological lines, both parties are a perfect match. So perfect that they have managed to strike a deal in merging their representatives into one single caucus (RCU) even though one party is in the opposition and the other in government.
Although UC has not been directly involved with privatization policies that have started with the 1990s, the subsidy lift on some strategic goods that triggered bloody riots on June 1984 happened under UC founder and grandee, the late Maâti Bouabid. Incidentally, his background, as well as the connotation behind the party’s name, where a bit of a pied-de-nez to the socialist opposition (at that time, USFP has taken over from UNFP a long time ago) with an emphasis on established institutions (namely the 1962 constitution and its subsequent reforms of 1971 and 1972). Mâati Bouabid was also UNFP Representative to Casablanca in the 1963 Parliament, as well as the city’s first head of local council.
Though Bouabid’s death in 1997 has brought the party into political obscurity, the A8 Alliance could well be an opportunity for Mr Abied, UC Leader, to add one last line to his public service résumé by holding a second ministerial position after 1992 (Social Affairs and Traditional craftsmanship minister) before retiring from politics.
Just like Independents-turned-RNI in 1977, UC candidates wiped the floor with the whole political spectrum by capturing 55 seats in the general elections, and some 1.1 Mln votes. With indirect-ballot elections, the 83-members strong UC caucus fielded a healthy house majority of 27.6%, about the same number of seats RNI and PND carried after the election, and way before the Koutla (USFP, Istiqlal and PPS) And that decline referred to earlier on is not such a dramatic one, all things considered: the arithmetic of parliamentary caucuses establishes a certain threshold when it comes to “hizbicules” and “mainstream parties”; so far, with the UC caucus ranging from 49 seats in 1997 (7 less than USFP) and 27 in 2007 (6 less than USFP) figures that still make UC look like a mainstream party, albeit in a state of discrete opposition.
Why care about this party? One might think the alliance is not likely to stand the ensuing political horse-trading that follows election results (unless they have already agreed on who gets which ministry, which brand of car, etc.) but, if the RCU is in charge of the economic strategy, both UC and RNI have the credentials, as well as a respectable record in implementing right-wing, unpopular, trickle-down, voodoo economics, that is, slashing taxes for the rich, freezing and cutting front-line services at the expense of a majority of citizens… The nasty coalition is back.
Jed Bartlet‘s favourite catchphrase applies fully to the post-referendum environment in Morocco. Both domestically and abroad, Makhzen authorities have reasserted their strength and mastery of the national political agenda. I will certainly have an opportunity to go back on more details regarding the turnout, its geographical distribution and how its significance is more important as a symbol than their intrinsic levels.
First off, let us have a look at the various feedbacks to our Basri-era phenomenal figure of 73.46% and:
Rabat – Le nombre des votants qui se sont prononcés en faveur du projet de nouvelle constitution a atteint 9.653.492, soit 98,50 pc, selon les résultats provisoires du référendum constitutionnel du vendredi, a indiqué, samedi, le ministre de l’Intérieur, M. Taieb cherqaoui. [...] Selon les résultats provisoires du référendum tel que proclamés par les 39.969 bureaux de vote mis en place sur l’ensemble du territoire national, le nombre des inscrits a été de 13.451.404 électeurs, dont 9.881.922 votants, soit un taux de participation de 73,46 pc, a ajouté le ministre. (MAP Communiqué)
– Rabat. the total number of voters supporting the new draft constitution amounted to 9,653,492, i.e. 98.5% following provisional results from Referendum Day held on Friday. Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui announced on Saturday. [...] provisional results are proclaimed accross the 39.969 polling stations spread across the nation. Total number of voters amounted to 13,451,404 among which 9,881,922 showed up, reaching a turnout of 73.46%
“Selon les résultats partiels donnés par le Ministère de l’intérieur marocain, le pourcentage des votants qui se sont prononcés en faveur du projet de nouvelle constitution a été de 98,49 pour cent des personnes inscrites sur les listes électorales. Le nombre des votants s’est élevé à 9.228.020, soit un taux de participation de 72,65 pour cent.
Nous devons bien entendu attendre les chiffres définitifs, mais il apparait d’ores et déjà que le peuple marocain a pris une décision claire et historique. [...] La révision de la constitution a été conduite à partir de consultations étendues, associant tous les partis politiques, les syndicats et une large palette de représentants de la société civile.
Nous saluons la forte participation du peuple marocain à ce référendum. Elle a donné lieu à des débats animés et substantiels, reflétés dans les médias et notamment sur internet.[...]La France se tient naturellement aux cotés du Maroc pour l’accompagner dans cette nouvelle ère et forme des vœux pour que la mise en œuvre de cette nouvelle constitution s’accompagne de nouveaux progrès et de nouvelles réussites.”
As for the United States State Department, the language was equally praising and very supportive of the Referendum, but more cautious and overall non-committal to the whole process, indeed:
The United States welcomes Morocco’s July 1 constitutional referendum. We support the Moroccan people and leaders in their efforts to strengthen the rule of law, raise human rights standards, promote good governance, and work toward long-term democratic reform that incorporates checks and balances. We look forward to the full implementation of the new constitution as a step toward the fulfilment of the aspirations and rights of all Moroccans.
Short, succinct and positively abstract. The State Department commits to nothing and keeps its options open.
Finally, the European Union press release doesn’t deviate from the quasi-unanimous praises of our referendum:
“We welcome the positive outcome of the referendum on the new Constitution in Morocco and commend the peaceful and democratic spirit surrounding the vote,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and neighbourhood policy commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a joint statement. [...]
“The reforms proposed in it constitute a significant response to the legitimate aspirations of the Moroccan people and are consistent with Morocco’s Advanced Status with the EU,” the said. “Now we encourage the swift and effective implementation of this reform agenda,” the statement said.
[...] “The European Union is ready to fully support Morocco in this endeavour.”
So in diplomatic terms, our significant partners are basically accepting the result, and this international support -some might consider it to be a blank check- makes the regime more secure and confirms its hegemony over the Moroccan political discourse.
This is even more obvious domestically: even though charges of ballot-stuffing and incoherent figures tarnished the referendum’s credibility, lambda Moroccans will not gainsay the result. The typical Moroccan voter (Male, Father of three children and living in a rural or sub-urban area) is more than likely to have voted for the constitution, not because what they would have read was interesting and appealing to their grievances, but because of multifarious factors: their social environment does not allow for criticism, individual decision-making or the use of Cartesian logics. Do I sound elitist and full of contempt? Perhaps I do. But the figures speak for themselves: the highest turnout figures were recorded in regions like Oued Ed-Dahab-Lagouira (92.19%) Guelmim-Es Smara (86.76%) Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia el Hamra (84.05%) and Doukkala-Abda (80.06%) All three regions are very tribal, and rely heavily on Makhzen administration for favours and other privileges, thus the higher outcome compared to national turnout. Conversely, low turnout in Casablanca and Rabat (respectively 57.17% and 72.39%) are thus because of its more individualistic, or shall we say more community-oriented settings, plus local administration has less leverage over its denizens, and so less likely to persuade them to vote (one way or the other).
The pro-democracy platform needs to pack up and look for new issues to campaign on, simply because the showdown that took place ever since February 20th is coming to an end, and not the movement’s advantage. The referendum might have been fixed, perhaps there will never be a solid body of evidence to suggest a nation-wide ballot-stuffing, and the absence of impartial scrutiny has a lot to do with it -perhaps if the retained option was a No-vote instead of an all-out boycott, there would have been some civic control over referendum proceedings. Furthermore, and because of the comparatively few people who took to the streets last week and today only confirm Moroccan apathy -and implicit acceptance- towards the referendum results.
The whiff of fresh air brought by the Feb20 demonstrations into the hermetical Moroccan political house, it seems, is losing speed. The long overdue New Politics many of us have been awaiting is yet again postponed to an unspecified date. Subsequently, there is a need to turn the public’s attention to more relevant issues: the national economy and the economics of national debt; the crumbling standards in public sector departments like Health and Education. More down to earth, issues that matter to the public are few and pressing: employment, standards of living and education for the future generations.
Paradoxically, these are the issues that explain the already existing and dangerously exacerbated social tensions between the haves and havenots. In between, our very own “squeezed middle” are the ones paying for these tensions, whether in demonstrations or just as a scapegoat for social resentment. I wish there was some sociological review of Feb20 prominent members; I would bet good money that many of these are of Middle-Class background, and those attacking them -the so-called “Baltagyas”- are from lower income and social classes. In any case, waging a political agenda does not seem to gather a lot of durable support, and that is why something else needs to be done.
Constitutional reforms can no longer be used as flag to rally dissatisfied individuals and communities. Rather, a more down-to-earth set of agenda focused on these immediate needs can win favours and support to build on more political and strategic grievances later on.
A couple of pieces of news worth commenting this week (or shall we say, the last 10 days)
The sideshow definitely settled in; at such serious times as these, the row just sprung on whether we should keep the Mawazine festival. Normally this anti-festival frenzy catches up only during the silly season -a pleonasm when it comes to Moroccan politics, but even more so during summer. This year, and under these quasi-historic circumstances, the frenzy started up earlier, and, there was a new element in the protesting crowd: it is no longer the socially-conservative, liberally-challenged crypto-islamist crowd that calls for scrapping the whole festival scheme, it’s also many of the pro-February 20th people, those with more progressive views, that is.
The row over Mawazine is not about the festival (although I suspect some have strong feelings about what they referred to as ‘orgies of debauchery’) but the symbolism it carries: when it started off, a decade ago, it was elitist (with, if I may say so, a much better musical offer) and it was directly attached to the Royal business. For a couple of years, Mawazine director was Mr. Abdeljalil Hjoumri, the very Collège Royal ‘s own headmaster. And step by step, perhaps due to a change in management, the festival turned more popular, more in line with other Summer festivals. As it is, Mawazine quickly turned to be very popular, a Rabat grander version of L’Boulevard -sometimes victim of its own success with the death of many attendants due to stampede to in 2009.
Now, Mawazine is identified with another sort of Palace insider (although I suspect the capital of Royal trust took a beating these days in his case) Mohamed Mounir -”M3″- Majidi is, up to now, the festival boss, so it is quite understandable Feb-20 protesters identify the Festival with its master and call for their removal; both. The conservative wing lept on the occasion; Some of them were humiliated last year with the Elton John case (allegedly because of his homosexuality and a concert he gave in Israel) and that could be a chance get back at the festival. I don’t position myself on this issue, because it suspiciously sounds very like a crafty counter-spin to avoid further popular attention (and pressure) on the constitutional reform. It happens sometimes: idle issues to act like smokescreen to much important ones.
As a matter of principle, I’m all for organizing festivals, as a temporary plug for a culture policy we need yet to define; I am however not in favour of organizing gigantic celebrations with the taxpayers’ money, especially when it involves a lot of foreign stars and the subsequent drain on our foreign reserves. At best, a privately-funded Mawazine without prejudice to the public finances is fine by me. The trouble is, it is not the case right now: indeed, the overall budget is MAD 27 Million, out of which public companies like CDG, OCP, Royal Air Maroc, ONE and Maroc Télécom are on the government balance sheet, either as integrated entities (thus usual beneficiaries of public subsidies) or as part of the government portfolio shareholding. Overall, there is about MAD 12.7 Million of (direct or indirect) public funding that needs to be scrutinized.
I have just got that book Ignace Dalle wrote on Hassan II. The first thing you need to know about Dalle is that he is a serious journalist; I am sure Gilles Perrault or Jean-Pierre Tuquoi are good journalists too, but the cardinal difference that makes Dalle’s books is the impressive bibliography references and the effort in keeping up with a dispassionate tone. Though contrary to the earliest “Les Trois Rois“, this “Hassan II: entre Tradition et Absolutisme“ is more of a psychological portrait; The book does not bring to light breaking news, I mean for any sensible observer, Hassan II set a standard of his own in absolutism, corruption and tyranny. Sure, circumstances were not in his favour, but then again, the anti-monarchy ‘mob’ were compelled to radicalise precisely because of his obnoxious behaviour.
One discovers some little-known anecdotes about him; I would be interested to read -or hear- about his groupies. Yes, there are still people -regrettably, young people- who believe we were blessed with his reign, a bulwark against the forces of anarchy, atheism and whatever doesn’t square with our ‘values’. Hopefully, when I finished reading the book, I immediately started re-reading the other one, the very book the late king wrote (or had written) in 1976 : “Le Défi”. And do let me tell you something: there lies the essential structure of our present propaganda, a basic clef-en-main module for Makhzenian argumentation.I personally enjoyed the way the late king exculpated Sultan Abdelhafid from his responsibility in signing the protectorate treaty:
[...] C’est dans ces conditions que le Maroc, contraint et forcé, dut céder à une double pression étrangère, qui s’exerçait de l’extérieur et de l’intérieur. Ainsi [fut signé] le Traité de Fès instituant le protectorat.
citing Moulay Hafid’s protest, [...] Je représente un peuple qui n’a jamais été une colonie et qui n’a jamais été soumis ni asservi.
Funny, coming from someone who signed the treaty and got away with 40,000 pounds, a splendid villa in Tangier and a handsome pension from the French Résidence.
Even more interesting, the way independence was wrestled from France and Spain has been revisited to be in accordance with his taste; Then there’s the piece about agriculture, even though he fails to explain why agricultural output did not keep up with demographic growth – he prides himself with the 1966 Agrarian reform, and yet fails to explain why Habus, Guich and Makhzen estate have a lower return, nor does he explain why he did not take on these dubious status quo the way he did on French colonial farmers. He lists all the dams he had had built over the period, and yet fails to explain why the overall agricultural GDP still relies (even more so in the mid-1970) on raining season.
Education has been extensively discussed, with grand numbers that did not hide the truth; worse still, he prides himself on creating Arabic literature and Islamic sciences department in universities (perhaps to make up for the lack of achievement in core and social sciences, illiteracy and test results) Le Défi is definitely fun to read.
Overall the book (Dalle’s, not the king’s) reveals perhaps the more human side of Hassan II; by human (and not humane) I refer to how insecure the late monarch was about himself, his leadership, which might explain why he was at ease surrounding himself with spineless minions. It also shows that he was even prepared to go all the way, for the sake of his grip on power, to forgo corruption among his circle and within government. At times, I was even surprised how things were managed with a monarch set on enjoying himself and at the same time concentrating all powers. Overall, the book is really worth reading; I wonder whether it will not be censored in Morocco… I understand “Les Trois Rois” was no officially censored, but importers had very little incentive to order it (If they ever dare, what would happen to the importing license for instance?)
Can anyone remember an old TV Series “Fall Of Eagles” ? The story of three European imperial families: the Rumanovs, Habsburgs and Hohenzollern. absolutist rulers all of them, who eventually crumbled with the Great War, but never deemed necessary to reform in order to survive; Though it is a dramatized account of history, the blindness to disaster emperors and kings in Europe showed before 1914 came to the price of their thrones.
The parrallell is not, in my opinion too extreme: throughout the last half a century, the monarchy preferred to either temporize (Mohamed V) or to counter-react violently (Hassan II) or to alternate insidious arrests and generous largesses (Mohamed VI) but on all these instances, no one considers it a fruitful strategy to reform in order to remain in power.