The Original Sin of Moroccan Politics
So the book should be closed -not on the movement, but on any ground-breaking “changing of the guard” in the political spectrum. This is one of these rare occasions where I take off my “left-wingy, radical nuts” and try very hard to consider Moroccan politics from a dispassionate viewpoint. As it happens, I had little to do these last couple of days, and I thought I should give Jean-Claude Santucci’s paper a good second reading.
Before I start diving into tedious considerations about the Istiqlal split in 1959, or how USFP party, even though priding itself with left-wing credentials, systematically stifled dissent against its leadership, I want to write about that particular issue of political sociology, because in a sense, it contributed a great deal to the rise of Feb20 movement, and might very well be the movement’s caretaker. Alternatively, it can also contribute with the brightest -politically speaking- political personnel in a couple of decades we ever had; “partisan revolution” as it were, is not tabled for the next couple of weeks, much less in the next couple of years. Santucci gets the record straight:
“la revendication constitutionnaliste du mouvement nationaliste était moins liée à la disparition d’un régime despotique et absolutiste représenté par la tutelle ottomane – que le Maroc n’avait pas connue – qu’à l’abolition du protectorat d’une puissance étrangère, mis en cause pour s’être converti en administration directe.”
So it is sheer lack of political knowledge and savyy to believe the Feb20 is likely to force some radical outcome, and it is petty media manipulation to label all of the movement caucuses as firebrand republicans -of course, some of them indeed are, and they deserve every right to voice their opinion without being threatened or indicted under common criminal law-, but the fact of the matter remains, the whole political spectrum, ranging from left-wing national movement parties to administrative parties -including PJD moderate islamists- engaged in a consensus over the political regime; the debate is therefore over which power-sharing scheme between the monarchy and parties is best suited -to whom, or to what, that is the question. Trouble is, these power-sharing schemes have been more than heavily skewed toward the monarchy for the last half a century, and so, “Moroccan exceptional-ism” looked at times -and the current situation is one of these- like a sideshow to the real politics.
“qu’en est-il du cas marocain longtemps érigé en exemple avant d’être réajusté à sa valeur purement symbolique de faire-valoir ou d’instrument de contrôle politique ?”
and there goes our very own commendable model of democracy in North Africa: multipartism is just a decoy to the real politics, one that takes place in rarefied circles and recluse palaces. That’s one of Morocco’s political sins, the other is the lack of internal democracy within political organizations (parties, trade-unions and NGOs alike) that ultimately leaves everyday citizens fed up with political parties, unions and NGOs, in that order.
It is alright to denounce the regime as despotic and authoritarian, but then again, some of these mechanisms that feature best on the Makhzen apparatus can be observed in smaller, (non)partisan organizations, among which the Leader’s supremacy over their flock.
The point is, many -if not all- of these parties have considered internal democracy and the free expression of diverse opinions as, at best a sideshow, if not a potentially dangerous luxury likely to break party unity. While it is in the Monarchy’s DNA to refuse and suppress the free expression of political and religious beliefs, the blame can be laid -though not equally- on political parties (particularly the National Movement derivatives) that failed somewhat to embody the very democratic methodology they are so keen on promoting. As for the Administrative Parties (i.e. those artificially created to disparage the opposition, or to serve a particular tactical requirement) partisan democracy has been even more of a rare good.
This lacklustre performance on behalf of our political personnel has been used by many commentators, both domestically and abroad, to justify the lack of serious democratic reforms. A recent poll carried out by La Vie Eco newspaper produced staggering results, although these have been consistent with earlier, more far-reaching reports: the Moroccan electorate -young voters are no exception- do not know, or trust -or both- their elected officials.
D’une manière générale et que ce soit en rapport avec le parti ou non, seules 8 personnalités politiques ont été citées par plus de 50 personnes parmi les 1 000 jeunes concernés par cette enquête. Le Premier ministre arrive en premier, avec 209 citations, suivi du secrétaire général du PJD, Abdelilah Benkirane, avec 106 citations.
[…] En somme, les jeunes ne se retrouvent pas dans l’offre politique actuelle. Y a-t-il lieu de s’inquiéter alors que nous sommes à quelques mois des élections législatives ? Oui, soutient le politologue Miloud Belcadi, «il y a péril en la demeure si ces jeunes boycottent les élections. Un taux d’abstention important des jeunes se traduira nécessairement par une balkanisation du futur Parlement, donc un gouvernement faible et éclaté (formé de 6 ou 7 partis politiques). Résultat : le gouvernement sera non seulement fragilisé dès le départ, mais il perdra beaucoup de temps à gérer ses différences internes au lieu de s’occuper des affaires publiques».
In these conditions, it is simply sheer lunacy to allow these politicians to actually govern the country, the “technocratic” argument goes.
And so is the original sin of Moroccan politics: it seems a very static perception of the political struggle has prevailed over the last half a century -and I suspect it has over the couple of previous years, too- following which the immediate objective is to establish a viable or profitable balance of power. Democracy is seen as a temporary luxury, or, at best, an ideal state likely to be achieved later on, and not a parallel process equally important to be strengthen alongside partisan activism.
Partisan democracy is no fancy; indeed, transparent and rigorous mechanisms for leadership selection and transmission of power ultimately lead abler men and women of the said political party to take over the leadership and contest elections with consistent manifestos and ideas. Unfortunately, party bosses in Morocco are not even smart enough to remain in the shadows and act as power-brokers; It is indeed a sad predicament of partisan politics to witness old farts like Abdelouahed Radi (an MP since 1963) to hang on, and basically live on past activism like some retired employee on a trust fund.
And yet, I am confident the Feb20 Movement has created a precedent. In a couple of decades, the 20-something years old figureheads would more than likely have joined political parties – following insisting rumours, 20Feb figurehead Ousama Khelifi will be MP candidate for USFP party for (likely) a Rabat or Sale borough. The new generation at least has a keener interest in promoting democratic mechanisms, a source of optimism and confidence that someday -sooner rather than later- politicians will actually care about principles.