Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.15
The easiest way to remember what a party stands for is, perhaps, to adopt some sort of recognition manual compiling political logos and such.This is especially so, in a country where 44% of adult population cannot read and write; a picture speaks a thousand words, although there are some hidden ideas and symbolism better to be put out there for everyone to see.
As early as 1997, political parties were encouraged to adopt logos instead of pictures -that was eventually put into official use with the 2002 elections. But nonetheless, their choice does try to relate to their identity, ideology or core issues; Here are some parties with their pre-2002 logos.
USFP- Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires: Ever since its founding convention in 1975, the Socialist party has adopted the European-style “Fist & Rose” that befits its Left-of-Centre credentials and Socialist International member status. Whatever its pre-1997/1998 rethoric about deep structural changes, the party has committed very early on to moderate, even social-democrat policies that sometimes are belied by frequent populist or plain socialist statements by some prominent members ever since USFP turned mainstream.
But in 2002, the party decides to get rid of the fist and keep the rose; it seems the idea was to ditch the French benchmark -it is worth mentioning that Moroccan socialists kept some close ties with their French comrades, Michel Rocard and Abderrahim Bouabid for instance, were close friends indeed. But that 2002 lifting was perhaps a signal that USFP leadership was more fascinated with the UK Labour Party (whose leader back then managed a second landslide during the 2001 Elections) and thus produced a new logo with the rose alone, purple or pink depending on the circumstances.
If anything, by changing their logo, USFP are perhaps pushing around the idea that not only they have turned mainstream and become good “government coalition” material, they will not challenge the establishment any more; testimony to USFP grandee Mohamed El Yazghi who famously said: “The Makhzen No Longer Exists”
Istiqlal: It may strike the observe as odd for Istiqlal to adopt the balance as its political logo. The party is notorious for its elitist recruitment, and is frequently associated to Fez and its centuries-long intellectual, financial and political elite, a close environment that has attracted criticism and accusations of nepotism and “family politics”. But the thing is, during the 1970s, Istiqlal ideologues came up with a brilliant concept to attract popularity and votes: egalitarianism.
Istiqlal Founder and figurehead Allal El-Fassi, a Salafi Islamic Scholar and National Movement figure, was at pains to find some suitable strategy efficient enough to block the alluring effects of socialism and Third-World liberation on Moroccan Youth in the immediate years following independence. And then came the idea that every Moroccan is born equal. The concept is too abstract, for it does not come at odds with constitutional principles, or with positions held by other political parties. But it seems there is a sense among Istiqlal High Command that egalitarianism might strike a chord with the electorate. Also, figures like Mhamed Boucetta and Boubker Kadiri for instance, old-guard Istiqlalis and treasurers of “Si Allal” ‘s legacy have maintained that idea all the way, hence the balance symbol. It is as though Istiqlal party has to remind constantly the electorate that they are not the party of the privileged few, a bit like the UK Conservative Party and their “One Nation Conservatism“.
PPS – Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme: the former Communist Party had to chose a neutral symbol for many reasons; contrary to Istiqlal and USFP, PPS had to go through two legal censures (PCM 1960 and PLS in 1968) before it reaches its current form in 1974. From then on, the party has almost reneged on its communist heritage and does sometimes sound a bit like a conservative party on too many issues.
It is a bit strange for them to change the logo so radically from sunshine (or sunset, depending on how one sees it) to an open book. Perhaps the party wanted to emphasis its intellectual roots and revert to more conventional colours (white & blue) Perhaps the ambition for a shining Morocco was cast aside in favour to more down-to-earth issues, to go by the book, so to speak. But overall, the change in logo and political talking points on PPS’ behalf does show a deep re-branding.
OADP-GSU-PSU (Organisation d’Action Démocratique Populaire/ Parti-Gauche Socialiste Unifié[e]): First off, PSU is boycotting the election. But one of its ancestors, OADP, has been a Koutla member in 1992, and the candle was kept on as a symbol, but eventually changed progressively in shapes and…numbers.
It seems the choice of a candle refers to wisdom, a quest for truth, and underlines one of the core issues heralded by OADP ever since its foundation in 1981: Human Rights. Though it did not participate in the 1997 Alternance Consensuellegovernment, OADP caucus supported on many issues, but eventually joined back opposition after a wide rift on the pace of reforms with
In 2002, OADP merged with three small Radical Left organizations, and then merged with a USFP breakaway in 2005 to create PSU, this time with one candle-again.
MP – Mouvement Populaire & MNP – Mouvement National Populaire: that party has some troublesome history. Originally MP was founded in 1957 as a reaction to perceived Istiqlal hegemony over political legitimacy and administrative control. The “Torch Of Freedom” logo is a reminder of from where MP grandee and founder Mahjoubi Aherdane comes from, as one of the MLA-North leader in 1955. The Moroccan Liberation Army has had a motley of logos and recognition flashes, but one that seemed to create consensus was the Torch of Freedom; in many official visits paid by King Mohamed V to MLA units, their Flag Of Honour (green with golden linings) featured it, many official documents where stamped with it, and so on and so forth.
This MLA legacy is also a response to the Koutla’s favourite criticism of MP and other parties as “Administrative creatures” made up by the Interior Ministry to bar Istiqlal & USFP/UNFP from power. In 1986, Aherdane was kicked out of his party in favour of now MP leader Mohand Laenser; he then proceeded to create his own party (MNP) and chose the Wheat as a symbol to remind voters yet again of MP/MNP’s core constituency, the rural electorate.
In 2002 however, MNP chose to ditch the Torch in favour of the traditional Moroccan dagger -perhaps a younger electorate would not necessarily associate the symbol with MLA since very few heard of it; After the 2005 reunion, the Torch was definitely cast aside, and the rural-oriented Wheat logo was retained.
RNI – Rassemblement National des Indépendants: these have changed the symbol, but kept the blue colour (somehow associated to conservatism in Europe)
The symbol itself is a bit of a mystery : there’s a flower, and some sort of crescent below; I take it their pre-2002 is some sort of flower of elaborate design they ditched in favour of the more recognizable blue dove. The choice of that particular bird is somehow difficult to read, either as a testimony to the party’s commitment to centrist politics, or as projected image of non-partisan party, a party that puts the good of a nation above that of special interests. On the other hand, the blue colour does denote their commitment to conservative policies, ones they have supported ever since the party was founded in 1978 and in office ever since.
Other party logos will be blog-posted next time.
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