The Moorish Wanderer

The House Of Cards and the King of Aces

Constitutional speeches are like Earthquakes, and in every sense of the word: they are earth-shattering, and they often come in a pair: the wave and the counter-wave follow each other and when the magnitude is high enough, the effect on the landscape is impressive. But this earthquake is not one. As a matter of fact, it might very well turn out to be a false alert.

Yesterday evening, the King gave the second speech on the Constitutional Reform, and announced Referendum Day for July 1st, just like what Khalid Hariry tweeted about on May 18th when his colleagues and himself met the Interior minister. At the same time, the speech laid out the essential features of what is essentially the new constitution, which is more than likely going to be voted by a comfortable margin. Before considering the political implications of this extraordinary short time span for political debate and campaigning, as well as the already biased rules of the campaigning game.

Contrary to the constitution circa 1996, the project has been carefully drafted, with a special focus on detailed procedure, perhaps to excessive lengths. Because the past constitutions have been written -and then cosmetically arranged so as to give a façade of democratic constitution- by one man, the late king Hassan II, and by his own admission, the writing process is daunting, but in his case, he managed to produce five constitutions that fit his larger-than-life character and lust for power; The latest of these Hassan II-era constitutional pieces of legislation, the 1996 constitution, was supposed to seal the deal on political transition, the so-called “Alternance Consensuelle“. So compared to the succinct constitutions we have had since 1962, this one is a true constitutional lawyer’s piece of work. Too bad it has been written by mainstream and conservative panellists.

The 180 articles in the new constitution, contrary to what has been speculated upon, do not change the monarchy from executive to symbolic, but rather recognize a de facto actual exercise of power; as we shall see later on, the monarch retains a great deal of appointment privileges, and while he did cede many of his formerly privileges, these concessions are not enough for the new constitution to qualify as that of a parliamentary monarchy. This is so because many of its articles are bluntly contradicting various universal standards of democracy, among others the separation of powers, the precedence  given to and accountability required from the elected representatives of the people. None of these things have been mentioned in the new draft, and that is why I reiterate my stand on voting against the constitution on Referendum Day.

Of these cosmetic changes, there is also much to be discussed; The word cosmetic is used here advisedly, mainly because while they do provide feedback to long-standing grievances, they remain insufficient as to the expected efficiency, or even with regard to the political symbolism from such measures. Contrary to the 1996 vintage and previous, the new constitution admits the diversity of the Moroccan identity, as specified in the preamble:

المملكة المغربية دولة إسلامية ذات سيادة كاملة، متشبثة بوحدتها الوطنية والترابية، وبصيانة تلاحم مقومات هويتها الوطنية، الموحدة بانصهار كلمكوناتها، العربية – الإسلامية، والأمازيغية، والصحراوية الحسانية، والغنية بروافدها الإفريقية والأندلسية والعبرية والمتوسطية. كما أن الهوية المغربية تتميزبتبوئ الدين الإسلامي مكانة الصدارة فيها، وذلك في ظل تشبث الشعب المغربي بقيم الانفتاح والاعتدال والتسامح والحوار، والتفاهم المتبادل بين الثقافاتوالحضارات الإنسانية جمعاء.

“The Kingdom of Morocco is an Islamic state enjoying an unfettered sovereignty, and is firmly attached to its national and territorial unity, and is committed to uphold the fundamentals of its national identity and all its components, Arabic, Islamic, Amazigh, Hassani-Sahrawi, as well as the fruitful African, Hebraic, Andalusian and Mediterranean influences. Furthermore, the Moroccan identity has a special place for Islam, as the Moroccan people are attached to the values of openness, moderation and forgiveness, in addition to the mutual understanding with all human civilizations”. [all extracts are unofficial translations]

This piece of preamble, while signalling a significant shift in the official narrative, because it now recognizes the obvious, and finally admits that diversity does not harm national unity. But the encouraging opening soon fades away, and the disappointing, almost insulting order of precedence reminds all of us who credited the commission with some amount of good faith that the centre of power, with all its legitimacy, is not yet ready to abandon the Arabo-Islamic hegemony. Notice the order: Arabic, Islamic, then Amazigh, Hassani, and the Hebraic heritage is relegated to the rank of a mere “influence”. Though this might sound like a fickle, this ranking is actually important because the preamble does not explicitly put all these ‘fundamentals’ on an equal footing. And judges can justify many of their ruling by this, as it might come up. Consider the example of a citizen suing the local administration because they refused to register their infant’s Amazigh name. Suppose the case goes all the way up to the Courts. It might very well be that the Judge would sustain the administration’s decision by invoking the order of precedence in these fundamentals. And considering how conservative the Judges’ corps are, this instance is more than likely to be observed in the near future.

The New Royal Motto: "Monarchy Rules All, and That's Official Now"

The positive contribution in the preamble is the unequivocal support and endorsement of international treaties on Human Rights and International Law. This was one of the most important pledge activists wanted the government and the regime to honour, without restrictions or reservations. This does not mean the end of police brutality, or the abuses citizens have to endure whenever they need to deal with the local administration. Again, the liberal tendency within the document itself is hurriedly curtailed in the name of sovereignty (and thus, local context, a window of opportunity to conservative interpretation of international law) -Another peculiar article I noticed was the “Right To Live” (Art.20) and yet death penalty is not explicitly mentioned and abolished; alternatively, this could also be a constitutional roadblock against any pro-abortion legislation. In both cases, a well-meaning established principle is going to yield the opposite, reactionary outcome.

The articles themselves operate pretty much under the same mechanism, especially on the executive branch: the King heads the newly-established Security Counsel (Art.54) still retains the General Staff (Art.53) religious leadership (the 1996 Article 19 turns into Article 41) and finally all cabinet meetings where the strategic decisions are made.

الفصل 41

الملك، أمير المؤمنين وحامي حمى الملة والدين، والضامن لحرية ممارسة الشؤون الدينية. يرأس الملك، أمير المؤمنين، المجلس العلمي الأعلى، الذي يتولى دراسة القضايا التي يعرضها عليه. ويعتبر المجلس الجهة الوحيدة المؤهلة لإصدار الفتاوى المعتمدة رسميا، بشأن المسائل المحالة عليه، استنادا إلى مبادئ وأحكام الدين الإسلامي الحنيف، ومقاصده السمحة. تحدد اختصاصات المجلس وتأليفه وكيفيات سيره بظهير. يمارس الملك الصلاحيات الدينية المتعلقة بإمارة المؤمنين، والمخولة له حصريا، بمقتضى هذا الفصل، بواسطة ظهائر

الفصل 53

الملك هو القائد الأعلى للقوات المسلحة الملكية. وله حق التعيين في الوظائف العسكرية، كما له أن يفوض لغيره ممارسة هذا الحق.

الفصل 54

يُحدث مجلس أعلى للأمن، بصفته هيئة للتشاور بشأن استراتيجيات الأمن الداخلي والخارجي للبلاد، وتدبير حالات الأزمات، والسهر أيضا على مأسسة ضوابط الحكامة الأمنية الجيدة.

The innovation in this constitution comes from the appointment of a Prime Minister from the majority party after a general election. The perverse established mechanism is too obvious: should a political party not amenable to the King’s views win a seizable majority of seats, the King, or his advisers, can weaken them by picking a Prime Minister other than the Party Leader. Divide and Rule, so that only obedient Prime Ministers can be appointed. Other than that, the King still retains power to hire and fire Ministers.

On the Judiciary, nothing has been done. Judges are not independent, because the King still chairs the Supreme Judiciary Council (the name changed a bit, but the attributions remain the same)

الفصل 56

يرأس الملك المجلس الأعلى للسلطة القضائية.

الفصل 57

يوافق الملك بظهير على تعيين القضاة من قبل المجلس الأعلى للسلطة القضائية.

Article 64 is a concrete threat to the Members of Parliament’s freedom of speech and immunity. The fact that the article enumerates these highly political cases instead of those potentially related to common law matters is not only a political threat to outspoken MPs, it is also an implicit invitation for the peoples’ representatives not to be bold, and whenever they can get away with it, engage in corruption and other improper behaviour from an elected office.

الفصل 64

لا يمكن متابعة أي عضو من أعضاء البرلمان، ولا البحث عنه، ولا إلقاء القبض عليه، ولا اعتقاله ولا محاكمته، بمناسبة إبدائه لرأي أو قيامه بتصويت خلال مزاولته لمهامه، ماعدا إذا كان الرأي المعبر عنه يجادل في النظام الملكي أو الدين الإسلامي، أو يتضمن ما يخل بالاحترام الواجب للملك.

All in all, the reports on newspapers that the King has curbed some of his powers is an attempt to polish a timid political process, or outright ignorance of Moroccan politics since 1956. While it is true the new articles spend a great deal of lengthy and tedious enumeration of dispositions, they do not bring new concepts other than those necessary for the decorum. Actually, if it was not for these accessories, the constitution just writes down the powers ” The King discovers while He practises them” as Professor Mennouni once said.

This lengthy overview of the new constitution is two-fold: it explains why I stand by my decision to vote against the new constitution, and it describes quite eloquently the new regime we are living under. We have moved from the dictatorial Hassan-II era to that of Soft Authoritarianism. The red lines still exist, but there is no systematic repression on those who cross it. But to these impudent, contentious subjects, the retribution is random and sometimes harsh. In any case, both eras share the random-looking pattern of repression; But now that the Monarchy’s legitimacy is firmly and strongly entrenched, they can engage directly into formalizing their patronage over the other institutions.

From a historical point of view, and bearing in mind the evolution of the balance of forces between the Palace and its real opposition, this new constitution does not take away powers from the King, it does not add up some more (if that was ever possible) it simply recognizes the Regal Hegemony.

False Patriotism and Other Tricks

The trouble with events like those we witnessed on May 23rd, is that temptation to say: “I told you so”, where pessimism takes over. The sudden stiffening of security measures -most probably prompted by the May 15th daring picnic project around the Temara security compound– may well be a turning point in the extraordinary times our domestic politics is living through. I have this strange image on my mind of the security apparatus behaving like a wild beast, a bit intimidated by demonstrations on February 20th (and those following on March 20th and April 23th) and definitely entrenched in a hostile defence. But when demonstrators wanted to picnic outside the Temara compound (dumbed Guantemara) the security services’ own lair, the latter stroke back, with their customary violence.

The Dark Side of the (Police/Merda/CMI) Force is taking over, and the Temara headquarters is their Death Star.

Two events put security forces back into the limelight, namely the Marrakesh bombings and the Temara affair. It is basically a sequential, repeated chicken game between the movement and the authorities: at every stage of this process, Feb20 chose the radical outcome, and one way or the other, got away with it. The first stage was the demonstration itself. Regime made some incredible threats, but the demonstration took place nonetheless. Then after the King’s Speech on March 9th, authorities approached the movement for a possible negotiation on the constitutional reforms, they refused to be associated with the commission; At every stage, Feb20 forced the outcome and turned the tables. But the successive blows these last weeks ring out as a recovery of old stick-and-stick policy our security people have been trained and educated for. As a matter of fact, planned demonstration next Sunday, May 29th are going to determine the movement’s next course of action.

If they fail again to mobilize enough people around Morocco, then our Evolution -in contrast with Revolutions in other parts of the MENA region– is likely to be a short fuse, and the Silent Majority, those who do not demonstrate every week, might well slip back into political apathy. This is even more crucial when considering that the movement does not have the power to set the agenda, the King does. And now time is in favour of the constitutional reform process as designed and prepared by Royal advisers; The margin shifts back to the Empire, and the Rebels are so pressed for time.

Referendum day is now scheduled July 1st. This is the only public date available (with no official confirmation yet) and was leaked to the general public, probably as a heads-up to some move in the coming month (June?) on May 18th Khalid Hariry MP mentioned the date on his twitter feed

Proposition Min. Interieur aux partis: “referendum 1 juillet, législatives 7 octobre” ouverture parlement 14 octobre

Mr Hariry may be just an ordinary Member of Parliament, but his social media activism (there aren’t much Moroccan ministers and MPs on twitter, or posting on their personal blogs around) is a convenient way to get the message out about the hidden agenda -first rule of Moroccan politics, the authorities always have a hidden agenda. This is not paranoia, it is only empirical observation. So the Interior Minister tells the MPs that referendum day might be on July 1st, with General Elections on October 7th, and most probably the new parliament in session for October 14th. That means high up, there is confidence these elections will yield some strong majority, or that party leaders will be amenable to any deal presented to them for some government coalition; better still, the old line of ‘national unity’ government following the new constitution might be appealing to mainstream political parties and large scores of Moroccan public.

This ‘rumour’ (there is no official communication about it yet) has also been mentioned by TelQuel Magazine mentioned on their edition May 19th-20th (about the same day) that the Commission has been asked to make haste on their draft:

Dernière ligne droite pour la Commission consultative pour la révision de la Constitution (CCRC). Le cabinet royal aurait demandé à la Commission d’accélérer la cadence afin de rendre sa copie, avant la fin du mois de mai, au lieu de mi-juin. En parallèle, les listes électorales sont en cours d’actualisation dans la perspective du référendum.

So we might be expecting some news on the issue by the end of this week, most likely early June. Are these good or bad news? From the dissidence’s point of view, this is disaster. Because everyday Referendum day gets closer, and when Moroccan citizens go to the polls and vote massively in favour of the proposed draft, then Feb20 movement will lose one of its remaining legitimacies, i.e. a certain representation among the people.

Repression is still there, and kicking. More than ever. (Pic from Demain Online)

I have disillusioned myself quite early on the outcome of this referendum. What I can hope for, on the other hand, is that the combined numbers of boycott (or blank votes) and the ‘No’ Vote would be large enough (say at least 30% of total electoral corps) to build up on a civic platform that would wage large demonstrations from time to time, perhaps venture to publish some alternative proposals, until it forces another reform, this time more amenable to its own agenda. As for the possibility of a swift political confrontation on July or September, or the likelihood of a mass boycott, I foresee it to be very unlikely.

I also keep thinking about the following scenario: the latest declarations of our own Ron Ziegler, Mr Khalid Naciri (Communications Minister and government spokesman) are very worrying, because the explicit criticism made on the May 23rd demonstrations was that Al Adl and Left-wingers (he did not specify which ones, certainly not his own PPS party) manipulated the youth, and were also guilty of their lack of patriotism. After his blunt denial of any torture infrastructure at the Temara Compound, Minister Naciri only confirms his favourite line, which brands dissidents and ‘nihilists‘ as potentially traitors to the nation and fully-paid foreign agents.

When one considers the previous referendums, the late King Hassan II resorted more than often to this ‘Patriotism’ line (this seem to confirm what S. Johnson said about scoundrels and patriotism) to appease opposition parties and elicit their support for his constitutional projects. Istiqlal was more than often ready to do his bidding, but overall Koutla parties held steady, especially on the 1992 Referendum, but not so much on 1996. The subsequent Alternance was also the result of this alluring proposal to save the country. Former Prime Minister Abderrahamane Youssoufi -as well as his USFP party- still justify their compromise by stating that “Morocco was in danger“. All elements indicate the same old tricks will be used and followed by the gullible.

It’s a bit overconfident -and peculiar- of the Interior Minister to tell Members of Parliament about the project of holding elections straight after referendum (spare August for a Ramadanesque truce), and even more brazen, to call parliament in session ten days after elections. It means there’s strong confidence a government with a workable majority has been formed, or that the King stepped in and called for a National Unity government (a governmental consensus built around the new constitution, presumably). I don’t know why I keep thinking about this. Perhaps because for many mainstream politicians, Feb20 has shaken their monopoly over partisan politics, so they would only too obligingly gather and denounce the demonstrations as unpatriotic and revert back to the old accusations of  ‘Commies, Atheists, Faggots, Islamists and Pro-Polisario‘.

Because of the security tightening, the old mantra of Fifth Column accusations will be yet again put to use to discredit the movement. Last Sunday, ordinary citizens stood idly by while demonstrators were beaten up. If things do get worse, the young people might be branded as traitors and lose whatever sympathy they might enjoy among the Silent Majority. This June will certainly turn out to be the moment of truth, both for the constitutional reform and Feb20’s future as an alternative movement.

Getting Mad at the Man

I feel becalmed. Not least because the furore abated; Before you know it, we’re back to square one, with regular beatings and random round-ups among the most vocal dissidents. Actually I find the word dissident a bit too much. For all its flaws, Morocco claims to be a democracy; Yet the opposition, the real one, is barely better treated. If anything, we are slowly slipping in an unhealthy situation where beating, fiat arrests and other features of police apparatus are likely to be banalized. Perhaps I am wrong; after all, human rights activists and other fringe opposition groups are gearing up for an attrition engagement to extract concessions from the regime; But if as far as the undecided and uncommitted is concerned, it is of little news.

Oh, there was a very weird thing that popped in prior to the demonstration and shortly afterwards: Youtube videos of regular Moroccan citizens, anonymous or not, openly voicing their opinions and grievances, with the notoriously US-expatriate Moroccan addressing directly His Majesty. This overflowing production of videos is just conforming a blurry idea I had of Moroccan internet-users (which I confess to be a bit of a stereotype), i.e. they are more comfortable with media content (actually, the idea is not really mine, but when a friend bounce it off, it was alluring. I shouldn’t therefore claim credit for it). It also shows that whatever its legitimacy, political institutions are unable to either hear, or voice (or both) citizens’ concerns:

I. The monarchy: the CES speech -although tabled long ago- was a deafening denial of reality. His Majesty has a cohort of young and intelligent minds, plus speech writers that can alter the speech in view of the circumstances. But no, it was business as usual. The dismissal could be justified by the numbers that took to the streets: 37.000 according to the authorities, 200.000 according to the spokespersons, let’s settle for 120.000 (more realistic Mamfakinch news portal estimates) whatever number it is, it is quite low, in absolute and relative numbers. However, one needs to go beyond the flawed statistics of demonstrations; The last-minute dirty-tricks measures, as well as the frenzy on internet and newspapers betrayed vivid anxiety over reform claims. Not that there was no reform campaigning before, but it seems all MENA governments are getting edge since two (and soon, three) stalwart regimes already crumbled. In any case, the apparent nonchalance might backfire, and it is takes a long-term view in politics to see it, a strategic outlook our leaders have always lacked (and are punished for it from time to time)

II. Mainstream political parties: I was slightly amused to read about the USFP attempt to withdraw from the ruling coalition (there was always a latent conflict between the Politburo and the national convention) on the basis of these reforms (most likely because of the still-to-be-confirmed technocratic new Prime Minister) and other political parties -like the moderate islamist PJD, or the MP- trying to catch up with reality. The fact the young core of 20Feb. movement chose unorthodox means to express their grievances only proves mainstream political parties to be out of touch, ageing and definitely discredited among a very large population.

Too banal a sight in Rabat to be surprised of.

There were some critics pointing out that since the claims are mainly political, why not join a political party? Or vote on every election (there were even suspicions that some ringleaders did not vote in 2007 or 2009). Simply because those asking these very questions ought to have a closer look at the parliamentary and partisan institutions. They really are out of touch, corrupt and incompetent. Why would one grace them with a simulacrum of elections, then? These young demonstrators turned to the political forces that were stalwart proponents of constitutional reforms (yes, AMDH is de facto a political party, just like Al Adl). These fringe forces however, are not publicized or ‘house-trained’, that is why they are either ignored, or labelled as ‘extremists’ or ‘lusting for political opportunities’ (usually from MAP-like commentators).

III. Parliament & Government: Parliament is supposedly there to represent the will of the people. I don’t usually buy into the antiparliamentarianism frenzy, but the dissolution of this institution -with free and fair elections- because of its current corruption and incompetence is quite alluring. Minister –I’m almost certainly getting the sackMoncef Belkhayat, answered a challenging tweet by inviting his interlocutor by joining in a party. I’m sorry, but the last individual whose political advice I should act upon is certainly Mr Belkhayat. A first-class flip-flopper (he moved from one party to the other in the same coalition) trying to teach us civic principles 101. Charité Bien Ordonnée Commence Par Soi-même, as the French saying goes.

Parliament is actually a melting-pot, a motley of corrupt notables and baronets, young knives eager to prove worthy of political and wealth inheritance, and quite rare honourable men and women; That’s the trouble with the current system. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that our political institutions are democratic and, albeit a bit rusty, doing well. Any political party trying to reach majority, or at least trying to get a big chunk of seats will have to endorse local barons. That’s what happened to USFP (with the pathetic outcome they are now wadding through), that’s what is happening to PJD (and likely to destroy its strength too), and indeed that’s how PAM juggernaut is capturing every disgruntled or hungry for perks MPs in the house. Other parties that do not want to, or cannot attract these notables are condemned to rot with a handful of seats and marginal impact on the legislative process. In view of this bleak configuration, youth vote is ignored, bought or silenced.

Government is no better. As Article 24 of the constitution states, His Majesty is not compelled to chose a Prime Minister from a majority coalition. He doesn’t even have to chose a politician (which He did in 2002, and is more than ever likely to do these days). And, last but not least, majority government are not founded before elections, but rather after, with bizarre configurations even the most gifted pundit fails to decipher. If parliament does not truly represent the people of Morocco, then government represents nothing but an out of touch, ageing, rotten and corrupt elite, whose appointment depends on the minions gravitating around the King awaiting His good pleasure and clannish narrow calculations.

IV. The Media: independent journalism has been patiently suppressed, and that is a blow to freedom of expression. However, that’s the journalists’ problem, mainly because they were objective allies serving the regime when they disparaged politicians (rightly so, but this ferocious criticism went too far, with a great deal of unjustified generalization) and then thought of themselves as maverick politicians. Bad luck, they have been marshalled into submission, like Rachid Nini, who slowly moved from a Robin Hood kind of harangue to a mastermind of slurs and canards, a vicious demagoguery flirting with the reactionary and the islamist. Even high-brow journalists like Jamai and Benchemsi thought they could out-smart the regime and regular politicians at once. That is also why Moroccans, young Moroccans especially, are increasingly turning to the internet to get their news there, and far more important, to voice their opinions, whatever they might be.

In view of these elements, for dissidents and ordinary citizens to voice their problems as well as their grievances, only street protests and cyber-protests remain a viable and effective alternative, all other regular and traditional institutions failed to adapt. It is often said that democratic societies are the most tolerant to dissidents and deviance (the Durkheimian sense) It seems the Moroccan society, though not particularly democratic, admits a great deal of variance around its values and institutions. And again, this apparent permissive atmosphere should not fool the reader or the observer: expressing one’s opinion is good, but that’s only halfway through to genuine democracy. There is a need for a in-depth institutional reforms to allow other political alternatives a real chance to access power. ‘Cause toujours‘ is not a by-product of democracy, it is the early warning signs that it is not working. The Man needs to change in order to preserve social cohesion. The Man is not doing their job, and before they know it, they might be forced out of existence. The Man should listen before it is too late.

One last thing perhaps. I wanted to devote a separate post, but it is the kind of issue I am not well-versed in, and it is bordering voyeurism, or even sensationalism. It’s Fedwa Laroui.

a Jackass's comment on twitter.

For those who don’t know about Ms. Laroui, she’s a single mother that self-immolated in protest against the discrimination she suffered in social housing program, solely on the basis that she was a single mother. Now, for a sane individual to go on self-harm (self-immolation no less) is always truly horrifying. Once the emotion cools down, one is not really surprised, for one is past beyond such sentiments, as the saying goes ‘ما دمت في المغرب فلا تستغرب’, to learn that the 25-years old was ostracised because she was a single mother.

There’s something terribly wrong about this country. A single mother? That lustful slut got what she deserved. Single mothers used to be (and only too many still do) Morocco’s prostitutes because that was (and again, in one too many instances, still is) their sole mean of subsistence. This sick society is still clinging to macho prejudices and  heartlessly casting the underdog.The Man encourages and condones these practises, as part of our ‘undying culture and tradition’. The Man is a macho and punishes harshly vulnerable women who deviate from the fettered norms.

Yes, These are moments when I feel proud of my culture and traditions, moments when women like Fadwa are driven to such desperate measures. That bitch got what she deserved.

In a more serious tone, I am genuinely sorry for her tragic fate. I can only spare a thought for her two children, and voice, but to no avail, a broken anger to the discrimination that drove her to the extreme measure to set herself in fire. My thanks to Abmoul, CJDM and all the others that took more time and a whole post to mourn her loss.

ما دمت في المغرب فلا تستغرب

We’re All Part of the Masterplan

Summertime. I know I am some 2 months late, but summer have just started for me. It’s quite hot in here but it is also nice, for the mind just sleeps into farniente and skips out the important issues, or rather, those one is so focused on during the rest of the year.

Last week, I watched Moroccan television. It’s not a feat. I mean I don’t have a television, and I get my information elsewhere. But last week, I saw the TV coverage of His Majesty’s 11th anniversary as King of Morocco and Amir Al Mouminine. Beforehand, do allow me to put forward a disclaimer. As a Moroccan national, I am not at liberty to, or in the position of, nor accepting to bear the full consequences of making any direct criticism to His Majesty’s person. My post is in full accordance with Articles 23, 19 & 28 of the Constitution (1996 reform).

Officials and Notabilities from all over Morocco to pay tribute and respect to His Majesty the King (Picture Maghreb Arabe Press)

No, my post is actually about two things: first, how the Television -and more specifically, Al Oula– covered the news. My second point is of a more deep matter. It has to do with the strategic decisions for Morocco. The ones that get billions of Dirhams into projects that are supposed to last decades, generations, even.

These reflect the ideological course the dominant power wants Morocco to take, and I have my reservations on that, as a citizen and would-be taxpayer. I don’t mind the Mustapha Alaoui-style coverage, nor the endless comments during the Beya ceremonial, not even the ancient pageantry brought from ancestral centuries. And In fact, I did find the Crown Prince and the Princess Royal very cute, quite well-behaved as they were.

What I couldn’t stand is the unbearable propaganda beating, so to speak. There were special programs on television flattering Morocco as a huge potential, as a country full of opportunities. It reminded me of an earlier era, in which the Throne Jubilee took place in a wider time set, with even more obvious propaganda, but nonetheless, with the same rallying war cry: “Wa Goulou L’3am Zine“. Did Morocco change that much in a decade? Yes it did. We had only one highway in 1999, some 100km long. Now, It’s an actually asphalt carpet from Tangier to Agadir (thousands of kilometres), and there’s more to come. Unemployment and Inflation rates fell over the last decade. It might be true that inflation decreased at a rate well above that of unemployment, but no one can deny the progress.

In 1999, the Islamist danger, as it were, was on the verge of explosion. It did culminate with the May 2003 plot, but on the whole, their intensity abated. Our Sahara claim is as robust as it ever was, thanks to the autonomy plan. In 1999, 61 countries recognized the Polisario-led Sahrawi Republic. In 2010, Only 32 continued to do so. The liberal-oriented Moudouwana reform finally recognized gender equality, even as a principle, and a recent poll suggested it is supported by the majority of Moroccan women. On the whole, We enjoy much more liberties than a decade before.

That’s what we are told, anyway. And even though there are some elements of truth in this enthusiastic and optimistic speech, it is quite far-fetched to say that, first, Morocco is going the right way, and second, all these changes benefit to the Moroccan people. I watched for the whole week the Evening News.

I know, I could’ve skipped these and watched something else, on another channel, but again, as a would-be taxpayer, I am keen on looking for how the money is spent on the Public TV network. Let me be more specific in my criticism. The first is obviously about the exaggerated optimism. I don’t know about Al Oula staff, but I am quite concerned about our economic resilience, and even more concerned about social cohesion and rising inequalities among our society. What is more frightening, these so-called “Grand Workshops” are, I suspect, benefiting mainly to the well-off of our citizens, and it is unlikely to be of sizeable benefits to the less fortunate of our people. That, I can only speculate on, although with some rational basis.

In any case, I thought we were no longer to be fed with this grotesque propaganda, or at least that something has been done in order to alleviate its awfulness a bit. It seems that is not really the case, Mustapha –His Master’s Voice– Al Alaoui might have been replaced by someone else, the tone remains the same.

His Majesty with Gen. A. Bennani, Prince Royal Rashid, Crown Prince Hassan and Princess Royal Khadija (Picture Maghreb Arabe Press)I would like to turn next to the Royal speech. The following is not a comment on what have been said, but rather, the starting point of my proof. The speech has been wonderfully clear about the strategy. His Majesty underlined four main areas upon which He pressed government and officials to focus on."La nécessité de veiller à ce que l'Etat, sous Notre conduite, assume le rôle stratégique qui lui revient dans la détermination des options fondamentales de la nation, la réalisation des grands chantiers structurants, l'impulsion, l'organisation et l'encouragement de l'initiative privée et de l'ouverture économique maîtrisée."The state referred to is not government work. It has been long admitted -and accepted de facto- that the essential government work is not carried out by the elected government of M. Abass El Fassi, but by a dense network of agencies, foundations, autonomous authorities, all of which are partially free of Parliament and Governmental check, effectively under the King's supervision, who appoints their heads by Dahir. That of course, is a matter of institutional policy, upon which I shan't go through. We need a constitutional reform that should seek People empowerment, period."Quant au deuxième pilier, il consiste en la consolidation de l'édifice démocratique. A cet égard, Nous n'avons cessé d'oeuvrer au raffermissement de l'Etat de droit et à la mise en oeuvre de réformes profondes en matière juridique et institutionnelle, ainsi que dans le domaine de la protection des droits de l'homme."It is true sizeable progress has been made on this decade. The IER (Instance d'Equite et de Reconciliation) was without precedent in the MENA region. And even though their recommendations are yet to be fully implemented, there is a great deal of progress to be achieved. Oddly enough, it looks as though this comes as a belated answer to the stern report Amnesty International on the Police-state excesses Morocco lived the last few years, mainly on Press-State showdown and against Sahrawis activists. In any case, the progress made during the last 10 years is step by step squared ans squashed by a growing authoritarian policy."le troisième pilier constitue une nécessité impérieuse. Il s'agit, en l'occurrence, de placer le citoyen au coeur de l'opération de développement, comme Nous l'avons concrètement démontré à travers l'Initiative Nationale pour le Développement Humain qui a permis d'enregistrer, sur une période de cinq années, des résultats tangibles dans le combat contre la pauvreté, l'exclusion et la marginalisation."The early HCP data, as well as that of INDH office do no necessarily validate the idea deadlines were met on poverty struggle. I took a leaf of the HCP Social Indicators. For instance, between 1998 and 2007, child poverty (Children aged below 18) fell from 20.8% to 11,3%. Thanks to the good work carried out by local charities, as well as the INDH funding. This figure, 11.3% remains, by international standards, quite high. When compared to our MENA neighbours, like Egypt (9%), things are not all that good. The trouble is, it is not enough to make progress,it has to be in line with what other developing countries are doing, and in this case, we can't claim much credit when everyone does better, can we?Overall poverty with Urban/Rural breakdowns

In the same document, data indicates that poverty was cut down in a much larger proportion in the rural areas: “Le taux de pauvreté relative a connu entre 1998 et 2007, une baisse substantielle passant de 16,2% à 9,0% à l’échelle nationale (recul de 7,2 points). Par milieu de résidence, cette baisse est plus prononcée en milieu rural (de 24,1% à 14,5%) qu’en milieu urbain (de 9,5% à 4,8%).” Ok, good news. However, if the overall poverty abated, it is mainly due to the fact that most of it is of rural source. For instance, the 1998 figure points out that rural poverty makes up for 68%. In 2007, it went up to 70%. It is obvious that because rural poverty went down in absolute terms, overall poverty should do the same, but on a relatively smaller scale. The core question remains: what actually happened so that rural poverty was brought down? Is it because of the INDH effect?

The graph shows two distinct trends with the lowest point/boundary on 2000

Following the figures I found on this website, it seems that Agricultural production was on a high trend between 2000-2007 and on the opposite trend in the couple of years before. It is of economic trivia to assume that when the agricultural output is up, rural poverty, in absolute terms at least, goes down consequently. There is proof of that statement in various academia, but one cannot categorically state it as a fact holding for Morocco. We can assert however, that the income effect played a larger role than any hypothetical influence the INDH has, the income being mainly determined by how much it rained, no policy influenced thus the output growth.  One last thing though: No matter how good and involved the policy makers were in fighting poverty, income inequality, the supreme indicator of social justice, has risen in the last decade. Following the HCP figures, in 2007, 10% of the overall population fielded 40% of the national income. In 1998, they accounted for 30%. In other terms, and bearing in mind the national cake (i.e. the GDP) rose in real terms in a decade, the 10% most wealthy got a bigger share of a bigger cake. But of course, the main objective is to fight poverty, exclusion and marginalization.

Le quatrième pilier réside dans la volonté de doter l’économie nationale de moyens permettant sa mise à niveau et son décollage, pour la réalisation de projets structurants et la mise en oeuvre de plans ambitieux, lesquels ont d’ailleurs commencé à donner leurs fruits sur les plans stratégique, sectoriel et social.

The infrastructure, i.e. Airports, Highways, Seaports and Sea-terminals, all of which are necessarily indeed to our economic growth, do not necessarily benefit to the many, and I suspect it does only to the few, an idea I am about to expand.

the 10% well-off are eating up a bigger slice of the national cake

The “Maroc Vert” strategy, to start with, in every aspect of its guidelines, seems skewed towards large and mechanized agricultural fields. La Vie Eco drew up an interesting account of the strategy. Broadly speaking, the Plan articulates two sub-strategies, the second of which involves develop ping small agri-business:

Le second pilier du Plan Maroc Vert vise l’accompagnement solidaire de la petite agriculture à travers la réalisation de 545 projets d’intensification ou de professionnalisation des petites exploitations agricoles dans les zones rurales difficiles, favorisant ainsi une meilleure productivité, une plus grande valorisation de la production et une pérennisation du revenu agricole. Ce second pilier a également pour but la reconversion de la céréaliculture en cultures à plus forte valeur ajoutée (ou moins sensibles aux précipitations) et la valorisation des produits du terroir.

I have great doubts about this. While the first sub-strategy, the one targeting large farms and agro-industry has a large financial support of public money (The Agricultural Development Agency puts forwards a figure around 80 billion MAD) the money is made available for 961 projects with only 562.000 farmers (Fat farmers If I may say so), on the second part, 545 projects for 855.000 farmers (Those that should be helped and supported) get no more than 20 billion MAD. In other terms, and under the provision all farmers benefit from the Plan Maroc Vert, 39% of the farmers (most of whom are quite wealthy) get 80% of the funding. If it is a development strategy, it is a top-down one, with all the effects on inequality and income gap that are already there, and very likely to grow, especially with the practical procedure the PMV seeks to implement.

Aggregation, as the PMV calls it, is defined as follows: “L’agrégation est un partenariat volontaire entre différentes parties pour la réalisation d’un objectif commun. Ce système repose sur le fait d’intégrer un certain nombre d’agriculteurs (agrégés) autour d’un acteur (agrégateur) disposant d’une forte capacité managériale, financière et technique lui permettant d’optimiser le processus de production.” Of course it is. Unfortunately, there is little to be said about the balance of power, or any negociation balance between say, farmer a and smaller farmers x1, x2, … xn. Because in the final analysis, an even though the agrégateurs has to deal with irregular supply, they can always find another way round to it, while the little farmers cannot do otherwise. I would prefer this aggregation strategy to be working solely with cooperatives, because that’s how they do, and it is close to my heart, ideologically speaking of course.

But because our wealthiest farmers are not -and far from it- cooperatives, this aggregation thing is certainly going to be a diktat from the strong to the weak. There is a lot more to be said on the PMV, but I think I made my point: It benefits the few, not the many.

Haleutis: That one bears similar features to the PMV. However, it seems Europe has an interest in it. According to this website, the strategy aims to: “Le plan ” Halieutis ” prévoit la concrétisation d’un certain nombre de projets phares de transformation et de valorisation des produits de la mer, avec à leur tête la création de trois pôles de compétitivité, à savoir Tanger, Agadir, et Laâyoune-Dakhla, devant mobiliser des investissements de neuf milliards de DH.” Oh, that’s a De Facto recognition of our soverignty over the Sahara, or at least, over the fishing sea of it anyway. It goes on:

L’objectif ultime étant la mise en place d’un système de gouvernance sectorielle permettant un transfert de pouvoir graduel aux régions et au secteur privé. En parallèle, un travail d’organisation du secteur est lancé à travers l’organisation de la représentation professionnelle et l’encouragement d’une interprofession. Ce faisant, le secteur de la pêche marocaine bénéficiera certainement d’une synergie des efforts et d’une bonne gouvernance à la fois nationale, régionale et locale de nature à fédérer tous les opérateurs autour des décisions majeures bénéfiques pour la gestion et le développement du secteur.”

There is considerable doubt about any governance changes. For any Moroccan national, a fishing permit goes along with an “agreement”, the famous grima as it were. Powerful lobbies are using and abusing the system on that one, and I don’t believe there is going to be a real transfer of power to the private sector, or the regional authorities, or at least, it won’t be done so without heavy resistance from those living off the present privileges and perks. In any case, the deadline is 2020, so there is plenty of time to make the necessary changes, and let us hope for the best.

La Vie Eco discussed the strategy too. They did point out that, despite a coast of some 3500 km, the sea product consumption is quite low (some 12kg per capita following their figures) and the sector remains below its full potential. On Haleutis, I think it is wait and see.

Tourism and the 2020 vision: I think it is safe to say that we couldn’t make our 10 million tourists in 2010. The figures show that the main objective of 10 millions of tourists is a failure, Former Minister Bousaid admitted the facts, when he said the plan was way too ambitious. He was sacked and replaced with a young thristy technocrat that asserts the opposite. The objective itself is just the tip of the iceberg. Alongside, huge infrastructure investment were made, with billions of dirhams (about 70 billions MAD ) for some projects that were either abandoned (like Taghazout) or with actual low economic benefit to the locals. For instance, this article provides unvaluable insights of how leisure projects were forced on locals because it is a “machrou3 sidna” (His Majesty’s project). No credible study of actual economic outcome for the locals, no serious study of the enviromental impact. If it was not for their Gran

de Ecoles diplomas, I’d say the policy makers are jokers.

These are but a few points I wanted to discuss. There are other sectors within this Grand Design,  following this portal, and for some, sizeable progress has been made, it must be reckoned with.

2010 Objective too ambitious, says former Tourism Minister

However, I cannot but stress on my own diagnosic of the ongoing trend: Unless the present course of policies is shifted, the effect the current decisions have on Morocco’s future are going to be extremely random. It is true less and less people are living in poverty. It is also true that the gap income as well as social inequality is growing, carrying with it the seeds of resentment and social ras-le-bol.

The present set of policies does nothing but exacerbate it further, and I fear the policy makers are going to reap an unpleasant harvest of sorrow and anger.

Le second pilier du Plan Maroc Vert vise l’accompagnement solidaire de la petite agriculture à travers la réalisation de 545 projets d’intensification ou de professionnalisation des petites exploitations agricoles dans les zones rurales difficiles, favorisant ainsi une meilleure productivité, une plus grande valorisation de la production et une pérennisation du revenu agricole. Ce second pilier a également pour but la reconversion de la céréaliculture en cultures à plus forte valeur ajoutée (ou moins sensibles aux précipitations) et la valorisation des produits du terroir.