The Moorish Wanderer

I Say Yes, You Say No. Now Shut Up.

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard, The Wanderer by Zouhair ABH on June 22, 2011

The Campaign for Referendum Day has already started, and it is more than likely the next couple of weeks are going to be ugly, with Moroccans brocading others as traitors and un-Moroccans while others are branded as Makhzenian puppets.

At least we are sure of one thing: our society is deeply divided; Whatever our political -however firm they might be- there is hate for those who do not share our beliefs, and there is active hostility to those who try to voice them. Such a rift between dissidence and conservatism is wide enough for the regime not to interfere, or at least not to do so publicly; they have now their minions to do the ugly shore of suppressing and harassing dissidence, while keeping up the decorum of democratic debate. Not to mention the earlier communiqués released by our significant partners (the European Union‘s Commissioner Catherine Ashton and United States Department of State Secretary Hillary Clinton, among others) all supporting and praising our unique experience in MENA region. Yes, it is depressing for the dissidents in Morocco not to find support or forum -but the social media- to voice their opinions.

Now those crossing swords on Facebook, twitter or other social networks do not represent the larger population in Morocco, whether ‘traitors‘ or ‘chlahbya‘. There is such a thing as The Silent Majority among Moroccan voters. Those who vote but do not have a good grasp on what they are voting for (or against) and those who know exactly what it’s all about, and yet do not want to get involved in the issue. And between those groups (large enough and yet difficult, if not possible to gauge because of the polling restrictions) there are those who do not care, or simply cannot make their minds up. But the thing is, those who care about politics need to engage in a dispassionate debate, otherwise, the essential exercise of democratic debate will be marred with over-excitement and these violent salvoes of criticism and verbal abuse only confirm further the prejudice many Moroccans hold on democracy: a factor of dissension and deadly fitna.

You have been warned. (Italian SPA Ad 'arranged')

So many Moroccan institutions and political organizations are calling for a positive vote on the draft constitution. I suppose it is a commendable position, as long as it is buttressed by sensible arguments, even though I tend to disagree with their judgement. But that is the nature of democracy, and the diversity of opinions does contribute to its strengthening. I wish that was true, but the pro-No and Boycott are utterly handicapped by a plethora of reasons, the first of which is the impossible task for voicing their position on public media, either because of the obscure HACA (Haute Authorité de Communication Audiovisuelle) regulations regarding political campaigning on public media outlets, or because of the illegality of publicizing a boycott. The only open spaces on which the dissidence can express itself freely remain the private newspapers -with the financial and trial hazards such venture entails and the social networks, uncensored but still messy and unpredictable as means of mobilization for advocacy and public causes. And even on those unfettered forums, violent discussions and insults flare up against those of us who dare express a different opinion.

I believe the pro-Yes vote has enough support -genuine support- for the authorities not to interfere and let the ball rolling, business as usual. My theory-sustained only with subjective impression- is that the violent events that occurred yesterday -and very likely to happen in the next days and weeks- are not the signs of a nation-wide policy from the highest authorities to stifle No/Boycott dissent, but rather those of zealous local officials, ready to muster the needed support from obliging local neighbourhood NGOs, thugs and tramps to enforce the “National Consensus”. Such as it is, the wonder of Makhzenian machine is to work efficiently with no paperwork, no written directives, not even a concerted policy. And in this unique brand of authoritarianism, the regime can successfully manage to keep their hands clean, and at the same time elicit active support from mainstream political parties and local elected officials. “Do you want democracy? Here’s your neighbourhood’s favourite tramp threatening you with a 15-inch machete“.

On the other hand, these occurrences of foul play only confirm how divided our society is: major political parties show how disconnected they are from their grass-roots (if they have any)as examples of Benabdellah’s PPS shouted down

or indeed the RNI’s rally turned ugly after individuals brought in to fill in the seats voiced their anger and started throwing plastic bottles and cans to ministers Salaheddine Mezouar and Moncef Belkhayat.

The political rift also allows to glimpse at the dangerous levels of social and economic frustrations among the lower bracket of working class, whether in their anger towards local administration, or in their open hostility against middle-class protesters. Social frustration can also be observed in the kind of insults directed to Feb20 supporters: traitors, republicans, islamists, whores, atheists, homosexuals and ‘ramadan-breakfasters’ are the recurrent sobriquets bestowed upon those who happen to be motivated by the need to shake up things in a stagnating Morocco.

The same rift runs along the traditional antagonism in the Moroccan public debate: Amazigh vs Arab-supremacist, Secularists vs Religious conservatives, “Traitors” vs “Patriots”. In normal times, these clashes would be confined to newspapers, blogs and social networks, but these historical times -both at home and abroad- amplify and exacerbate the tension. And though we need these opposite opinions to be voiced, it would be better to do so within a mild-mannered, democratic debate. The coming weeks however, allow to foresee but further violent debate and clashes.