The Moorish Wanderer

House Of Cards – “Playing The Last Cards On The Deck”

Posted in Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on January 23, 2012

It’s a bit of a lullaby, more of a leitmotiv really: many dedicated Feb20 activists and supporters believe the Regime is burning their last fuses to save its skin. I would tend to offer a different point of view, though the premise of both theories is one.

The fuse theory is a good example of how the Makhzen apparatus works: as a small-coalition government, there is every now and then a growing resentment with say, elite circulation or social mobility, or indeed the widening wealth gap among the lesser population, not lucky enough to carry the right family name or degree to be co-opted. And so, the ‘Blob’ neutralizes a potentially troublesome player by giving in seemingly on what they covet most: in Mr Benkirane’s case, his appointment as Head Of Government was Aid Kebir come true. He wanted to be the guy who got the moderate Islamists into government, and that he did. He has made it into the history books, and it is up to his party to live up to this promise. A Win-Win for both the palace and PJD, to the tune of 45% turnout and the fairest elections yet.

I'm sorry, but you have got it wrong

But this is not how the regular Feb20 fan would see things: the PJD election is a last-ditch effort to defuse public discontentment, and sooner or later, this unpopular government will crumble before our very eyes, and only then the regime will officially start to negotiate by then with a victorious Feb20 movement. The script goes wrong however, for it understates, or completely preclude other variables.

– Numbers that do not exist: PJD has mustered a historic 1 Million votes (historic for one single opposition party, that is) and well, in so far, there are no quantitative measures to speak of when it comes to the Feb20 coalition-building, and that is the clinch of the game: a social movement keen on changing things cannot afford to entertain a foggy estimation of their strength. And for a group of people ready to take to the street every Sunday, the sole indicator of popularity and efficiency remains the number of demonstrators; and the way I see it, this is a losing battle; So buying off PJD for government does look like an overkill as per the fuse theory: if anything, the coalition will last in all likelihood all the way up to 2016. 5 years are too long a time horizon for the movement to sustain itself, not the least in terms of popular support, if any.

– What the movement wants: no way a constitutional reform is back on the table in a year’s notice, let alone the dissolution of government or parliament; liberation of political detainees, well… easy come easy go, and even if HRW frowns upon Morocco’s less than pristine Human Rights record, our officials can afford to look bad, in fact, every released prisoner is a show of good faith, and it keeps the Feb20 crowd busy, losing sight of the broader picture. The remaining pieces of the agenda are less consensual, though.

The remaining points are policy measures the motley of platforms within the movement will clash on: minimum wage, employing jobless graduates and improving public services involves a lot of technocratic stuff that many Feb20 slogans have abandoned; And the truth is, the constitutional reforms and human rights are basically the only slogans vague enough for many HR activists to rally behind; anything beyond it is so contentious that every interest just gives in to a blurry consensus.

– No One Speaks for the People: it is just right down pretentious to believe that the movement speaks for the people as a whole. No one does in fact, and there is no way to check it out unless one is running a successful and reliable polling company. The movement speaks for a coalition, a subset of the heterogeneous crowd, and so far that coalition has failed to move up from the initial stage of breaking ice to boosting up organizations and parties.

Bottom line: there are other ways for pro-democracy activists to show their strength and in their own terms – get people registered to boost the electoral corps, lobby policy-makers through policy proposals, and most of all, re-arrange priorities. I assume a pro-democracy platform looks for the broader and most inclusive coalition of interest; then go to the bottom of it and hit on the hot buttons: a simple link between private monopolies and the high level of prices is just enough to get a lot of people behind the cause, for instance. While it is true these slogans are chanted from time to time, they are not the centre-piece of Feb20 agenda, even though these particular bread-and-butter issues are more likely to cause damage, not the release of a second-rate rapper. In a sense, it is rather the movement, not the regime, that is running out of time.

I do realize I am definitely drifting toward an all-technocratic discourse, and blogging in English doesn’t help. But let us face it: there is a mainstream discourse within Feb20 that does care much for policy proposals and methodological thinking. Too bad, I’m perfectly content by remaining confined in my (convex) universe

3 Responses

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  1. Marocain said, on January 23, 2012 at 01:51

    It’s posts like this very same one that demonstrate, if there ever was a need to, how makhzenian you have become.
    What’s the difference between you and Lautiste, Hmida or Big Brother? Nothing except that you blog in English. At least they have the guts to claim they are pro regime. You, on the other hand don’t know on which foot to dance (Tu ne sais pas sur quel pied dancer!).

  2. فهد said, on January 23, 2012 at 10:00

    +10^10 @Marocain
    You criticize 20feb so you are makhzenian. Long live to 20feb.
    Allah 20Fev acha3eb

    Seriously, we are in a pity situation.

  3. eatbees said, on January 23, 2012 at 22:27

    You criticize 20feb so you are makhzenian.

    I’d like to believe this was ironic, but sadly, I don’t think it is. It sounds like the old-school Bolsheviks with their ideological purges, or like George Bush saying, “You’re with me or you’re with the terrorists.”

    Feb20 accomplished three things for which Moroccans should be forever grateful. First and most important, they opened up the space to criticize the existing system openly. No longer does the Makhzen have a monopoly on popular discourse, the street also will have its say. Second, their pressure forced the king to move and offer the cosmetic constitutional changes he did. Obviously not enough, but a step forward and a concession, however small. Third, rather than a manipulated PAM victory and Prime Minister Al Himma, which was how the script was written until the Arab Spring, we have an opposition government with fresh, uncorrupted-for-now faces, and a popular mandate for reform. This is the same thing that happened in Tunisia and Egypt (even if less so in Morocco) — secular liberals and revolutionaries took to the streets, but it was moderate Islamists running on a clean government platform who showed their broad popular support on election day. Maybe not the intended outcome of Feb20, but a better outcome than we would have seen without them.

    Feb20 has made strategic errors. The first, I think, was expecting change to happen too quickly. Millions didn’t rush into the streets to support the Feb20 banner. Most Moroccans still value social peace and stability enough that they aren’t willing to risk it on an unknown future. Given the chance (in the referendum and then the elections) they supported evolutionary change rather than a radical break. Feb20 should have been building coalitions, broadening its base, educating the people, organizing the communities, and maybe even forming a political party of their own (if they could agree on a unifying agenda). Rather than that, they called for a boycott of the whole process, which to simple-minded people like me, sounds strange when a pro-democracy movement is telling people not to vote. Isn’t voting the very base of democracy? And doesn’t broad participation, in itself, help to ensure the process is clean? Feb20 should have engaged in the process with constructive proposals (their own proposed constitution, for example, or a specific policy agenda on justice, security, taxation, education, etc. they would pressure the political parties to adopt) but they never really got past their love of slogans and marches. I know some early Feb20 activists personally who got bored with that repetition, and dropped out. I wouldn’t count Feb20 out yet, not entirely, but they (or their successors) need to learn to connect better with the “silent majority” if they are to achieve their potential. They need to convince the people that they can deliver a better life for all Moroccans, and so far, they haven’t done that.

    Anyway, I just want to support Zouhair and his right to a critical, nuanced opinion (which I mostly agree with).

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