The Moorish Wanderer

FPC Tour – Day 1

Posted in Flash News, Read & Heard, The Wanderer, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on June 14, 2011

Today was hellish. The heavy schedule was a bit harsh, and consisted of three meetings with a fairly high echelon of the US-State Department policy makers, then two lighter meetings with State Department officials in charge of implementing these policies (and an occasional interlude devoted to visiting the Newseum, a highly recommended Museum on journalism and News reporting). the Foreign Press Centre Tour people run a pretty tight ship, which is all for the better, but as far as I am concerned, and for all their kindness, I was dead tired at the end of the day. But it really was worth it.

When I met the fellow bloggers prior and engage with them during the day, I genuinely felt humbled and a bit out of place. Many of them have grass-roots activism record, and for some of them, there are genuine and serious life-threatening implications to their web-activism; The best I can come up with, insofar my contributions are compared to theirs, is some thoughts on social engineering and economic policy, which is a pretty meagre record. Furthermore, next to some of these countries, Morocco does sound like a paradise of sorts; it might not be a democracy, and it surely is lacking in safeguards regarding freedom of speech, but it certainly does not have a record in pursuing ruthlessly its dissidence, certainly not in the fashion other countries are know to be dealing with their owns’. It certainly does put some perspective to it, and I have to recognize that, even though there is police brutality and a general sense of soft pressure on their cyber-dissidence, the Moroccan authorities are not as systematic in their repression as Bahrain, or Iran, or Pakistan are.

At the Newseum, next to the Pullitzer Award-winning pictures.

The meetings with the senior officials were interesting and refreshing: I personally did not have much opportunity to interact with senior officials – even in Morocco- but US policy-makers we have had the opportunity to meet do have a very pleasant way of conciliating their silver-tongue-like speech, with what they wanted the meetings to be, namely a free and frank exchange of views. We met successively with Alec Ross, Senior Advisor, Judith Mc Hale, Under-Secretary, and Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary. So that was the first time I met with high-ranking officials, and that might explain the candid way I am about to describe the paradox, for the United States, of being both a supporter of freedom and web-activism, while keeping close ties with repressive regimes.

It was a bit surreal though, because I felt as if they wanted to take us into their confidence -and I felt that was particularly true of Ross and Baer, while keeping the diplomatic traditional codewords and a very pondered, very polished speech to describe the 21st century statecraft doctrine (that’s Mrs McHale’s part). Because Alec Ross, in his quality as a Senior Advisor for Innovation, has been intimately involved with this doctrine, his explanation of its main features gave some insight of what I believe to be a paradox in US diplomacy, especially towards freedom of speech. Now, according to Mr Ross, it was a stated policy for all past and current 67 Secretaries of State, from Thomas Jefferson to Hillary Rodham Clinton, that the United States support and promote Freedom of Speech, the right to have access to information… whatever the leaders of the Free World have to do. And yet, the main features of this ’21st Century Statecraft’ new doctrine are an implicit admission of failure to meet these standards, or shall we say of past complacency about past (and present) alliances with oppressive regimes that do not necessarily allow dissidence to express itself.

All Work and No Play Makes Johnny a Dull Diplomat

This of course does not mean they did not take an interest in trying to study the opposition groups -and I suspect that’s one of the FPC Tour purposes. Nothing wrong with that, as it fits the purpose of the exercise, the exploration of practical uses of web-tools in empowering civic activism and individuals into civic actions;

As for local US involvement, Mr Ross has repeatedly said that US ambassadors have “One Mouth and Two Ears” and should therefore be listening, and at the same time interacting with the local web-activists (he referred to the numerous twitter-feeds embassies around the world set up for their local activities) The trouble is, the impression many have come to form of the American diplomacy is rather that of “Two Mouths and One Ear”, where the United States support democratic principles, and yet are actively considering countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bahrain or countries in Central Asia to be “Strategic Partners”.  And it seems the State Department is funding a $28 Million-program in developing censorship-circumvention software and other solutions to bypass governmental web-access blocking routines, all of which is an eminent contribution to freedom of speech and web-citizen activism.

There were pretty straightforward questions from my fellow bloggers, which concentrated on the shortcomings of official US commitment to democracy and freedom of speech. The remarks were not idealistic, i.e. the bloggers were disillusioned about how effective this support is, but nonetheless did want to know more about how US Support can translate into field and local actions. And that’s where the second type of meetings came in play, where we had had the opportunity to meet two State Department bloggers, Laura Rodriguez and Luke Forgerson in DipNote (the official State Dept. Blog) Both seem to be more aware of the shortcomings of a too grandiloquent commitment to free speech. On the other hand, and because they work closely with USAID programs around the world, they were able to provide us with practical examples of US support to web-activism, and were overall, more in touch with the blogging issue.

Overall, I had the impression high and middle-ranking officials we met today were not trying to convey America’s wholehearted support of a new world order where every citizen has a right to a digital expression of their opinions, but rather their interest in the trends they have recorded everywhere in the world. I am no diplomatic code-breaker, but that’s what I felt was the implicit message in both Deputy Assistant Baer and Under-Secretary McHale’s remarks; As a matter of fact, if it was not for the rhetorical mantra about America as the “moral leader of the free world”, it was  very informative of how the State Department is adapting its scope and how it relates to the rest of the world, and it could gain a lot more credibility that way. But then again, the United States, just like any country, needs to look after their interest, even if those contradict stated moral principles, and that, I believe, was more or less considered as a given among all  participants in these meetings.

State Department Fresco at the Entrance. The building is really impressive: lots of conference rooms, a business centre... and tight security.

That’s all for today! Tomorrow will be the last day in Washington, as we are heading to the NetRoot Conference in Minneapolis afterwards.

The King’s Speech (That Shook Morocco)

Sorry, but the pun was too obvious not to state, and I always wanted to quip about John Reed’s book (‘Ten Days that Shook the World’)

Frankly, I wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting something bland, written in traditional makhzenite with blurry objectives and pompous expressions inherited from the glorious era of Hassan II. I was referring to the speech-writers of course (well, the constitution is bound to be changed, so I can afford to discuss the speech, am I not?) But no. The one thing that eluded the Monarch since he inherited the throne, the constitutional reform is finally on the table. When previous speeches read and minutely deciphered, the upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East, and domestically the stalwart dedication of ‘February 20th’ movement did play some significant part in gently pushing the core policymakers into a major shift in their political tactics (I still have doubts whether there’s a sensible strategy, or any organized thinking on the long-term)

The Blogoma already started to post on the Speech: Larbi, DocteurHo and BigBrother, to name but the well-known few, already spoke their minds (well, some did, others just plugged into propaganda-mode) and the Twittoma is saturating with opinions and 140 characters-strong discussions. I wish I could contribute too and live up to the standards they set (famous or infamous may they are). Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, I would dismiss this very post as too premature and ill-informed, but still, I would like to venture an alternative view; Because let’s face it, historical tough it is, all indicators, hints and symbols are cleat about one thing: nothing essential is changing or likely to change.

His shadow looms over the upcoming constitutional reform

But then again, for all the disagreement with, say, DocteurHo, I should admit my gut-feeling over this: it remains a historical day (I allowed for a joyful shout briefly when I heard about the constitutional referendum!). Not for the upcoming constitutional referendum -a consultation on which I will most certainly vote ‘No’, unless some very, very unexpected project is presented to the People’s will. It is historical because less than two months ago, what was considered to be a definitely confirmed balance of political strength heavily in favour of the Monarchy, has been suddenly reset to a different equilibrium. We have moved from an executive monarchy –with no constitutional reform agenda in sight- to a blitzkrieg-style commission with a June 2011 deadline. In 10 years reign, it is going to be His Majesty’s first constitutional referendum: such electoral consultation is quite different from regular general and local elections. It is a decisive test no doubt. And contrary to ‘classical’ elections, He needs a clear win, overkill: even a 70-80% win is a half-defeat for him. This is my view of the referendum, but then again I am getting ahead of myself.  Overall, the official line is likely to be that of a giant political and institutional spring cleaning, but not in the ‘right way’ (i.e. a genuine political reform agenda). I should exercise caution here, a ‘wait-and-see’ till the commission members are officially called up. Caution doesn’t prevent one from expressing views, or speculating about the future, does it?

I did mention that as a self-defined left-wing radical, and with a lawyer like Abdellatif Mennouni heading the commission, I would find any proposal (again, unless there’s some fireworks surprise) well below my minimal set of grievances: I’d very much doubt the new constitution would abolish altogether Art. 19 or change the succession rules to be gender-neutral. I don’t expect the new constitution to even get close to confirm institutions like the Kingdom’s Mediator and existing institutions as constitutionally independent like the Supreme Court, the Court Audit or the Central Bank, I wouldn’t expect the King to relinquish all executive powers and perform essentially honorary duties. And most of all, I don’t expect the new constitution to write a precise notice of establishing a constitutional convention for all core institutional changes. But still, this is an opportunity window (small, cloistered and actual reforms are unlikely to fit in) but still, a window. I have to pluck up my good faith and summon all my hopes to say that this is a historical opportunity (again, historical because it has been broached on us, and for a long time!)

I’m actually in two minds: best case scenario, the commission gets out of (Royal) hands; a maverick like Mohamed Sassi would do wonderful damages to the cranky Makhzenian legislation, and we end up with a ‘moderate’ but certainly workable constitution that gets unanimous support. Hopefully an election is called up and a strong coalition rules with a charismatic Prime Minister. There’s another dream scenario, whereby the government calls up for a constitutional convention in a year or two years time with nationwide debates, but this is too orgasmic for me to contemplate…

Worst case scenario, the only real thing that changes is the ‘regionalization’ stuff, with an upgraded version of the 1997 local government bill. End of story, end of constitutional changes, end of the line. Next. It depends on how bold His Majesty’s moves are going to be, and whether His circle would now understand it is high time they dealt out substantial scores of Royal prerogatives and transfer them to the people’s representatives.

So here’s my opinion: I’ve heard the speech -live- and then read it in extenso. I had a quick discussion with a number of friends about it.

Realistically, it is not going to be satisfactory to me or those close to my political leanings, nor would it meet the set of grievances put forward by the Feb20 movement and the non-mainstream political parties supporting the protest. But it does show that somehow, somewhere behind the walls of Bab Assoufara, the policy-makers finally awoke to the need to change the fuse. An acquittance of mine has this interesting theory about the Makhzen and its favourite fuses:  whenever a crisis looms, Makhzen elite either hold on to the existing fuse (a political party like the USFP in 1998, or the Sahara issue since 1975) or when the incumbent burns up, there’s a quick switch, and a brand new fuse is brought in and manage to exhaust the dissidence (the fuse in question can be a technocratic don like Jettou in 2002 or Azzimane in 2010, a turned-out dissident like Herzenni or Sebbar), which gives the impression of deep reforms but concedes in reality nothing substantial. It is not remote from the realm of possibility that this seemingly audacious announcement is  a smokescreen constitutional changes.

I would selflessly contribute to such scheme by joining the Central Bank –or the Finance Ministry- for fresh input and ideas. (if anyone scanning the blog from the Royal Cabinet’s office, please contact me for more information, you’d gain a lot with a yahoo, gun-ho leftie within the Establishment, believe me !)

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

The Divided Kingdom Of Morocco

Under the veneer of unity, there are deep divisions running through our society; While population on social networks is not fully representative of the whole body, it gives insights of how different, and ultimately defiant the pro and anti demonstrations are.

Before I start elaborating on that, I should confess something: as an expatriate, I am somewhat disconnected. As a matter of principle, I advocate the February 20th, and yet, on Sunday, I will not take to the streets. Does it sound contradictory? It does indeed, up to a point. Demonstrations as a way of voicing frustrations or grievances is not always effective. In fact it is hardly true. But in Moroccan setting, it emerges as the only way to be heard from the power-holders. it’s not exactly the famous ‘ce n’est pas la rue qui gouverne‘ but it is a way to provide for a signal that a sizeable group of citizens want to voice their concerns.

Now, let us not veil ourselves from the fact that revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the current upheavals in Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen and others yet to come, prompted our leaders to have second looks at the current state of things in Morocco. Why would they pour some MAD 15 Billion in subsidizing strategic commodities? Why do they process rapidly the recruitment of unemployed graduates in the civil service? These instances are a blatant evidence that first the policy makers are cautious not to stir trouble and in effect are afraid of any public anger, and second,these last-minute changes are the counter-argument that ‘in Morocco, everything is well’.
I mentioned above that Morocco is divided. Now, internet is the unfettered space were every citizen can voice their opinion whatever its substance and would expect another one to reply. The numerous facebook threads, the posts and tweets are part of a giant cyber-agora, but not necessarily evidence of democracy.

Why so? The main assumption behind a democracy is that every citizen is a fully informed, rational and policy-committed individual, fully aware of all past and present events, which no one can claim to be. So there is little surprise when two sides who disagree quickly reach a fail-safe point beyond which misinformation, derogatory comments and canards fly around. Pro 20/02 are labelled traitors, anarchists, anti-monarchists and mercenaries, while Anti 20/02 are ‘Cyber-makhzenians’ and conservative reactionaries. I honestly cannot claim to be fair in my assessment. And frankly, very few fellow Moroccans can do so.

Where would we be without our ol'faithful? (the one on the right of course...)

The divisive line is one about a dilemma: should one commit to the ideal of democracy and the perspective of change with a random outcome? Or should one stick with a motley consensus and settle for the existing compromise? For anyone in Morocco, the status-quo, however incomplete, unfair and detestable, there are a few perks that go along with it: certainly the upper class has everything to lose if there are changes of the scale of Egypt or Tunisia (and to some extent, so do even middle classes like me). Lower classes, on the other hand, have some sort of trade-off: to the taxi-driver, if the grima-holder loses their rent, so goes down their living. To the low-grade functionary, there are risks to lose a comfortable stipend if anti-corruption rules were enforced vigorously. Even to the unemployed, a fair and democratic government would never put up with the claim to be automatically recruited in public services.

Incidentally, an acquaintance of mine, whom I hold to be politically conservative (close ties to the Union Constitutionnelle, just to give you the gist), told me he was in favour of the 20/02 demonstration, because he felt the King has too much economic power. ‘what about political reforms ?’ I gleefully asked, sensing a premature flip-flops. ‘no, I’m fine with it. What matters is to dilute economic concentration’. I disappointedly abandoned any effort to prove him that both policies go hand in hand. But his reflection on the present debate is eloquent, in the sense that even among each side, motivations are too heterogeneous for the other side to group them under one single banner. Yet it is hard to try to reason when things are so confused, when the state apparatus plays dirty in circulating false rumours on the demonstration. I mean, if it was really a democratic debate, why would official channels try to discredit 20/02? Stands to reason, that.

One would argue that because such demonstration is planned that we found ourselves in such divided setting. That would be quite extraordinary: if Moroccans were so united, such a (relatively) marginal project would have little impact on our unity. No, this is the tip of an iceberg that has been hidden with smokescreens, like our Sahara struggle, the need for economic development at the expenses of political development, and the house-training of the political field as well as the press corps. Whatever the freedom of expression one enjoys in Morocco, the lack of institutional check and balances to the almighty monarchical power makes it difficult to even consider policy to be applicable if they are not run through the royal cabinet et/or consultancy firms. What good is democracy and freedom of expression if the institutions tasked with implement them are dysfunctional? And here lies the nexus of the current problem: while pro 20/02 are confident and optimistic about the changes a constitutional reform would have on the political powers (hopefully the whole political spectrum), anti 20/02 are more comfortable with the current state of things, because they got used to it, or because of attached perks.

There’s an anecdote that proves my point: a friend from childhood vehemently put the case to me that His Majesty is doing His best in changing things in Morocco. Now, I am sure he does, but the fact my friend volunteered that statement proves one thing: that she lost confidence in the current institutions -as I do- but reaches another conclusion: instead of renewing them, why not rely on the one considered to be functional, and efficient too?

What about the silent majority? Those that do not have access to facebook, twitter or blogoma? What about those that rely solely on newspapers, TV news and rumours to update themselves on the Moroccan news? Are they fundamentally for or against such project? In the absence of reliable statistics, there’s little to be said about their mood, and any comments on their opinions would be idle speculation, and anyone claiming to capture their mood is at best a charlatan, whatever side they might be in. Plus even those on the internet were misinformed about the aim of such demonstration (constitutional reforms? really? is it that serious to be charged with treason for advocating more powers to the representative institutions?), portrayed as a plot to circulate republican slogans, to stir trouble in the Sahara, and God knows what else.

Playing dirty: the young lady on the video is not the one hugging El-Marrackchi (how can we account for the 5 years differences?), and, well, has anyone ever visited Notre Dame of Rabat? It's a beautiful site really.

Whatever efforts put into informing internet-users and even the wider public, misinformation, intoxication -as the intelligence boffins would say- is running high. Plus in troubled times, the less politically committed usually wait by and look on as events unfold. Who would blame them? Plus numbers in absolute terms are not relevant. What matters is how people actually take to the street, how they behaved, and how widespread the protest is going to be.

I don’t know, but if Casablanca and other large Moroccan cities less than dozens of thousands demonstrators took to the street, that would be a storm in a teacup. A rule of thumb I don’t claim to be representative, reliable or normative, though.
On a less conciliatory tone, there are alarming news that pro 20/02 figureheads are being harassed and abused by the police. And I am not referring to children, but to party activists, known for their stand on constitutional reform. The regime seems to be preparing for pre-emptive measures, a scare/intimidation campaign in order to deflate the number of potential demonstrators, and in effect, putting the halt on a basic constitutional right.

I have to say, when the shit hits the fan, I am glad to revert to moderate. Or rather, I am glad to look moderate when compared to others 🙂 But on the other hand, I am sadden by the fact that because the regime has been deaf to grievances of moderates like me on economic and constitutional reforms.
In any case, we need this demonstration: the timing is right, because it puts pressure on our government (the official and the actual) to seriously  consider reforms. At the moment the top brass are messing about with subsidies to calm things down, but this does not help in the long run (for one, I foresee even greater troubles ahead, when all this borrowed money is due to be paid back). The timing is good because in all North Africa, and in the Middle East, leaders are finally aware that the cup is bare, and that economic growth alone is utterly inefficient in stifling dissent, or keeping the rabble under control.

Governments should be afraid of their people, not the reverse.

Best of luck to the demonstrators, may they enjoy a festive and peaceful Sunday (including the security forces)

NB: on a different note, I shall drop political matters for the time being, on this blog and elsewhere (mainly because my views are usually very clannish and divisive) and concentrate on economics and history.