A Citizen’s Gesture
Fellow blogger @Larbi_org used to exercise his wit at my expenses: intellectuals are all talk and talk, but no walk. First off, I have to say I am honoured to be bestowed such a title (I don’t mind the negative connotation attached to it, and as a matter of fact, the title would do nicely as a badge of honour) What I do crave, on the other hand, is the rough-and-tumble of political campaigning, the engagement with the electorate, that enticing feeling of uncertainty when the local policeman or mokhazeni is likely to bark his orders forbidding ‘political agitation on the street’… And even though I am at the moment an expatriate student, I do have now the opportunity to take the argument to field application, so to speak.
This is going to be the moment of truth: All past referendums have been muted campaigns, a constant media hammering for a ‘Yes’ Vote (Those who experienced some of them surely remember ‘صوتوا بكل حرية على نعم’) and any brazen attempt to call for a contrarian opinion, or even worse, to call for a boycott were either jailed or beaten out of the street. I would like to wager the present security officials are not that dumb, and will allow some sort of dissident expression over the matter. Whatever the outcome in June, the constitutional draft is bound to satisfy some, dissatisfy others. The former will call for a vote in favour of yet another more democratic constitution, while the latter will usually split between those who vote against (not because they were content with the earlier version, but because they had wanted a different constitutional modus operandi) and those who gainsay the whole system, maximalists eager to inflict upon the regime some sort of rebuttal by trying to get the largest amount of people to boycott what they consider to be a political farce.
This is democracy, and plurality of opinions is to be expected, whatever comes out from the June deadline. Many of my friends and acquaintances want to adopt a wait-and-see attitude before making their minds up over the referendum, and I do respect their prudence. As for me, and because I know no good can come up from ageing and conservative law scholars, my mind is already made up. (right from March10th, actually). This, however, is partisan politics. There is a higher level, upon which the argument is no longer between the Yes and No, but between Participation and Boycott. I like to think civic behaviour dictates all of us should participate to the referendum, but again, the pro-boycott are entitled to their opinion, and should be respected. But to the undecided (and there is no need for polling to know they represent a majority of likely voters) these are the ones that need to be convinced of registering; And more precisely, those of us, expatriated students.
As of today, as a Moroccan citizen, a students’ society member and as a party member -in that order- I am campaigning to sign my fellow Moroccans up for the referendum. As you may know, the authorities are renewing their electoral listings (closed on May 21st), and it is an opportunity for those of us who did not vote on earlier referendums or elections, as well as for those who moved out in between elections, to register and make their voices heard.
As an expatriate student, it is quite hard to doorstep fellow students and countrymen in exile, and convince them to take a day off and head to the nearest consulate (sometimes located very far from their domiciles) it is also hard to convince people just to vote; remarks like “why bother?” or “I don’t know what to vote for, better wait till June” are all sensible objections to what is seemingly a romantic stand on democracy and civics, but there remains the crucial point to be made: we need to make our voices heard.
Many of those who read past posts know I am voting ‘No’ in any case (save the one when M. Menouni decides to grow some balls and come up with a ground-breaking, earth-shattering memorandum such as this one) so why bother in trying to sign people up? many of whom are likely to vote ‘Yes’ because, well… it’s a new constitution. Don’t I have a vested interest in trying to sway the people’s votes and get them to see my own way?
Indeed I do. But that’s the beauty of applied democracy: what matters now is not what to vote for, but why bother turning out to the polling station (in my case and in the case of those I am appealing to, a consulate) and vote for something that, in all probability, does not affect the everyday life every one of us is carrying out with.
In short, pluck up your courage, gather all your civic spirits, your ID Card, Passport and Residence Permit (if applicable) and head off to the nearest Moroccan consulate, wherever you are. You owe it to your country and fellow citizens.