The Moorish Wanderer

What Would the Political Landscape Look Like in a Federal Morocco?

As many may already know, one of Morocco’s plight is its abnormal number of political parties. This has been mistaken for democracy -and often used as an argument that ‘Morocco is a democratic exception in the region‘- and often overlooked as the result of a ‘divide and conquer‘ policy from the Makhzen regime to insure its own political hegemony. What follows is a scenario that provides enough conditions to sort out this motley of political parties, and without substantial threats to political diversity but prevents the undesirable outcome whereby small political parties act pivotal in coalition governments, as it is the case in countries like Israel or Italy.

First, we need to point out that many of these political parties have common history, ideology and even leadership at one time. As a matter of fact, many of the breakaways were mainly ego clashes more than anything else. This is mainly due to the fact that political organizations in Morocco, whatever their professed position on the political spectrum, have been strongly identified with their leader. And the lack of internal democracy, as well as non-existent mechanisms for pacific competition and clear rules of power brokerage, or even the refusal of dissent within political parties in Morocco, whether from the National Koutla heritage or ‘Administrative Parties‘, made it possible for ambitious leaders to justify their departure from the mother-ship.

Abdellah El Hammoudi‘s seminal work, “Master and Disciple” finds ample field application here: without too much generalization or extensive use of stereotypes, political parties in Morocco act like ‘Zawyas’ (زاوية) or religious covens, with a father figure(head), a ” زعيم” whose authority, by means of political capital (as a former resistant, or as a proxy for political martyrdom) is unshakable and uncontested. This Zaim has some disciples gravitating around him (for the political world in Morocco is predominantly masculine) and, when the time comes (literally, when the leader is on his deathbed) a Dauphin is chosen. But it is often not the case; the leader clings to power so forcefully that, out of frustrated ambition, a disciple openly defies the master, and when the coup fails, the disciple leaves the political Zawias with his ‘Faithful’ flock and founds a new one, with him as the new Master, and so goes the story.

Foto de Alal al Fassi

Allal El Fassi (Image via Wikipedia)

As a matter of fact, the splits have played a significant part in the founding myths of modern Moroccan politics: it is often claimed that the oldest political party in Morocco was the Istiqlal (founded with the well-known 1944 manifesto for Independence) what is little know was that earlier on, there were other pre-existing political organizations. Indeed, in 1934-1937, there was a rift between two main figures of modern Moroccan nationalism, both Fes-born Allal El Fassi, and Mohamed Belhassan Ouazzani. It seems a conflict of egos (as well as a dispute over Sherifian legitimacy, which Allal El Fassi lacked) led to a split between both man, and each one founded a new party out of the defunct Committee for National Action: El Fassi founded what became later on the Istiqlal and Ouazani Choura (or Democracy) and Istiqlal party.
The sociology of political parties however, is not always that linear. The script is not always observed, as there are from time to time attempts to unite, with a quasi-nostalgia for the ‘old days‘ when Istiqlal and UNFP, in face of adversity, tried as early as 1970 to build up a Koutla (the chosen word conveys the strong feeling about uniting the parties, at least in the leaders’ minds)

These structural weaknesses were exacerbated, if not outright created, by an explicit policy aiming at weakening the political field as much as possible to the benefit of the Monarchy: in 1959 with the UNFP breakaway from Istiqlal party, the Crown Prince was more than pleased to see the Istiqlal juggernaut split between its traditionalist clan and more left-wing faction. Even before, in 1957, and despite pungent opposition from Istiqlal civil servant, the Monarchy offered more than sympathetic support to the foundation of Mouvement Populaire (MP) as early as 1957.

Mahjoubi Aherdane, a former colonial officer (like General Oufkir and Marshall Ameziane) presented with an award by king Hassan II.

These early examples of political intrigue look very benign when compared to the galloping rise in the number of political parties in the late 1990s. the late Interior Minister, Driss Basri elevated these breakaways to rarefied proportions: in the mid-1980s, and because of a minor row between stalwart monarchy supporter -and MP boss- Mahjoubi Aherdane and the late king Hassan II, Driss Basri orchestrated a breakaway led by a relatively young MP leader, Mohand Laenser. Aherdane had to leave and create his own political party, the MP (ever since, both parties, and a third one, Union Démocratique, coalesced back into the original MP)
This policy was even used against political parties that resisted the Royal Will: in 1996, and because of its uncompromising stand on the upcoming constitutional referendum tabled later that year, the Organisation d’Action Démocratique et Populaire (OADP) suffered a spin-off thanks -or because- of a discreet support from the Interior Ministry.

How would the political landscape look like in a federal monarchy? First, the number of political parties is likely to go down, but not in significant proportions: we stand now at about 30 parties, while a reduction to pre-2002 numbers would at least takes us back to more ‘reasonable’ levels.

Hopefully, with more democracy, transparency and accountability in the federal and regional institutions, political parties in Morocco will also learn that dissent within their organization is not a mortal danger, a fitna that needs to be put down as soon as possible, but the basic element of partisan democracy, and, in the long term, the essential ingredient for political vitality and political personal renewal. That would also mean a lowering in the average demographics from 70+ years old -for partisan politics is still, regrettably, a gerontocracy, though it can be argued that with age, wisdom withers away with politicians like Mahjoubi Aherdane, Mohamed EL Yazghi, Abbas El Fassi or the late Union boss Mahjoub Benseddik.

Parliament House, Rabat. Why not: "Federal Houses Of the Kingdom ?"

Some of the small parties have regional strongholds (sometimes because a party figurehead is popular there) and cannot go beyond that stronghold for a variety of reasons: difficulty to attract resources in an other area, not enough grass-roots activists to try and swing target constituencies back from other political parties, demographics, sociology, etc… But still, these parties can perform better, if given the opportunity to focus on local matters rather than over-ambitious nation-wide representation. In a federalist scheme (that has been ultimately rejected by the Regional Consultative Commission) there could be workable scenarii that can allow nationally  small by strongly established in specific regions- parties to have a say in local matters, and at the same time retaining some leverage over federal issues, without stumbling into parliamentary civil war.

There can be no denying that political parties like USFP, Istiqlal, PJD or MP have de facto a nation-wide vocation for governing (real government in a genuinely democratic Morocco is a sine qua none working condition)  In contrast, PSU, PADS and other smaller parties, cannot, with the current political arithmetics hope for sizeable numbers of seats on the federal level,  but do retain strong majorities in specific areas, and could very well end up holding majorities in regional parliaments, or on par with the national parties.

On a local level, coalitions would therefore be established on ideological, rather than crude tactical reasons: I would argue that a left-left coalition in, say the Souss region encompassing the PSU, PADS and USFP would be much more powerful, much more coherent than the existing own between USFP and Istiqlal.  In effect, homogenous coalitions are needed because, under my proposed schemes, regional houses need to send up representatives to the Federal Parliament, and usually these Members of Parliaments are supposed to reflect stable coalitions and some agreed-upon manifesto, all of which will be more difficult to sustain if currently observed patterns of alliances (with bizarre patchworks of centre-right RNI, centre-left USFP and conservative Istiqlal) are retained. Furthermore, and from a purely game-theoretical aspect, homogeneous coalitions (with respect to the local voters’ verdicts in local elections) tend to be closer to the peoples’ will, and for the senior coalition partners, a deterrent from straying away from manifesto commitment -otherwise, smaller parties can threaten to vote out the ‘consensus’ federal representative.

Does it sound familiar? Yes and no. Indeed, small parties will hold considerable leverage on nation-wide ones, directly on local matters, and indirectly by influencing their federal deputies. However, this mutual check mechanism ensures a ‘toe-the-line’ behaviour from the senior partners, something that is at odds with the observed pattern in governmental majorities since 1963 of weak coalitions and similarly weak governments; quite the opposite, I would argue that this seemingly unstable regional consensus ensure coherent nationwide majorities, and following, consistent parliamentary groups in the federal houses, thus enabling the very existence of a strong government. In effect, regional representatives are double checked and, held equally accountable: at a first level from the local constituents, and on a more institutional level, the regional coalition that send them up to Rabat.

With such heavy deterrent (not to mention party pressure to follow the party Whip’s lines) local representatives’ dissent or ‘transhumance‘ as they usually do will come at a high price for coalition partners, and in the intermediate run, to the dissenters themselves. On the other hand, federal representatives also know that their parties’ national majorities, when in government, are function of coalition agreements at a local level, and though deterrent pressure is mitigated as far as they are concerned, they remain equally compelled to bear with their parliamentary benches.

Of course, all of this is all right, but it remains fairy-tale as long as political parties themselves do not take actions in order to put order in their partisan houses: younger leadership, more transparent and meritocratic competition mechanisms, and more importantly, partisan democracy and the elevation of dissent from danger to democratic virtue.

Tallyho Politics, The Reign of Amateur Policy-makers

The Political apparatus in Morocco is a shambles. I say shoot the old lot, bring the young and let them make mistakes. Sounds radical, doesn’t it?
Joke aside, it’s been a long time since the political parties in Morocco failed to devise policies, and when they do sketch some feeble argument, it is so diluted that if it ever was put into practise, they wouldn’t know where to start first. On the other hand, policy-makers in Morocco lead the charge with formidable support from McKinsey-style consultancy firms. The trouble is, a country like Morocco cannot be run like a corporation. And even if it is so in the minds of the young fellows at the Royal Cabinet (which I expect to join any moment now. There’s always hope, isn’t there?) the corporation is certainly not run in the best interest of its shareholders, only to the board’s benefit.

Policy and social engineering are worked out under the assumption that the objective is to maximize the country’s welfare. There remains a great deal of blur in defining what one might mean by that word: “welfare“. In fiscal matters, it may come to the idea of taxing individuals and companies more than others, while in social policy, it also means helping some social classes more than others. There’s also a great deal of ideology in policy-making, even among the high-brow circles of consultants: under the veneer of technocracy, there’s a political motivation behind strategic thinking like the ‘Plan Maroc Vert‘, ‘Halieutis and the INDH or indeed anything of the sort like the high-speed network.

Perhaps I am over-rating the Palace’s task force. It has been a question I often ask myself: how are decisions taken up there? Whether on economic policy, or on-the-spot decision crisis like the Aminatou Haidar case, or the issue of protest camps in Agdim Izik, how are decisions made up there? Do they meet in a war-room, delineating scenarii then discussing the likelihood of each one until they reach the best decision?  Because we know, we all know it’s not some old-fashioned fool that takes the decisions in Morocco (even global institutions like rating agencies know that) so it must be that the Royal Cabinet has some kind of modus operandi I assume to be ultra-rational (given the high proportion of  engineer and business graduate from the French Grandes Ecoles). And yet, it looks as though only fools and incompetents are in charge. Please allow me to expatiate; and ad absurdo reasoning would be best. Let’s consider the ONA-SNI case: if the firm is really set on pulling the country out of poverty and into prosperity, how come its dividend policy never shows it?

I mentioned before an opinion that has been formed on the economy front: there is, among other things, a consensus that the private business of His Majesty can pull the economy. The idea is that we need the Moroccan equivalent of Chaebol, the Korean conglomerate of Banks and Industries that played significant part in making South Korea what it is today: a first-class country that is now considered to be member of the G20 club, when, 50 years ago, its GDP per capita was lower than Morocco’s, and the best thing they could have ever manufactured at the time was T-shirts. The idea was therefore to imitate, as it were, the Korean experience with companies like SNI-ONA, or indeed Attijari Wafabank and other national heavyweights. The economic model sounds good: at the price of domestic monopoly, Morocco fields a first-class holding able to operate on global markets with the required size to win us some surplus that would be redistributed. In other words, the private monopoly captures the common surplus in order to expand, and then redistribute it through pay rise or investment in intangible assets. This is the semi-official line. The financial statements tell otherwise, though.

ONA Shareholders per share. the only public fund -CDG- has a ridiculous 2.73%

Now, doesn’t it strike you as odd that the fleuron of our largest firms should invest so little and distribute these high levels of dividends to the shareholders? Between 2004 and 2010 -prior to the smoke screen withdrawal of ONA SNI shares- the holding distributed an average of about 3/4 of its benefits (which reached the billion of Dirhams at least);

while the rare investments they undertook where mainly about mergers and real estate speculation. The Chaebols, on the other hand, had a gargantuan appetite for asset acquisition (which also meant that they favoured a rigorous dividend discipline, translated into high levels of savings – something that did not prevent them from using audacious financial structuring) and are, at the end of the day, radically different from our own sketchy, greedy, money-grabbing beloved conglomerate. So much for the economic new era

Even the ‘Grand Workshops’ our 8.00 o’clock news are so keen to laud, the fulsome praises elude the main question of: ‘who benefits from what’. Plan Maroc Vert is a favourite: the official line states that small farmers would benefit from cutting-edge policies like ‘aggregation’. For those who are not familiar with the plan, it has two main implementation strategies: the first one is export-oriented, very monopolistic that favours already existing large domains, industrial-like farms (among which [drum rolls…] the Royal Domains) the other one, which looks like it was hurriedly put together, is designed to help ‘directly’ the small farmers. Cooperatives, micro-credit, etc… just enough to keep their heads above the water. How could Plan Maroc vert be helpful when funding is so biased towards large, wealthy farmers?  Do we need to remind the readers of the figures? Yes we do, it’s always beneficial to  put things in prospective: MAD 80 billion is made available for 961 projects with only 562.000 farmers and 545 projects for 855.000 farmers (Those that should be helped and supported) get no more than MAD 20 billion.  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.

In economic terms, the policies are not, to say the least, caring about the majority. Unless they take the view that the common welfare is that of a privileged minority, the 10% sort that has 40% of the total national income, the sort of passengers able to pay for the TGV between Tangiers and Casablanca. Perhaps the idea is that already rich people would get richer and richer, till they reach a point of satiety such that they would spend money, to the benefit of the less-off. If that’s the view, this kind of rapacious capitalism is bound engender serious resentment from the excluded. Oh, wait it’s already happening !

(Credits to Al Wandida for circulating the video)

Now that the economic model proved its shortcomings, social and political strategies prove to be at best coy, and in any case dangerously hegemonic. Say the Moudouwana was a great improvement (although one can cast doubts whether it was just a return to the 1957 square) it was a show that was full of symbolism: to the liberal side, it was a clear signal that His Majesty is the one calling the shots, and their liberal agenda prospers as long as His pleasure allows it to. To the conservatives, he proved he could block whenever he wanted the perceived westernalization of Morocco, and  confirmed his role as the sole source of religous legitimacy. On this issue and on may others, His Majesty made his King Louis XIV’s apocryphal quote: ‘l’Etat, C’est Moi‘. And all the policies the little helping hand and the shadow army are not, in the long term, to His, or Morocco’s best interest.

FAEH: The Architect of His Majesty's political project.

The PAM project, on the other hand, is the only old-school trick: the infamous Front de Défense des Institutions Constitutionelles, Rassemblement National des Indépendants, Union Constitutionnelle or Parti Justice et Développement (Among Others) all roved to be temporary rough patches when the opposition was resolute in its stand. the PAM is a patch against the abnormal high abstention rate the 2007 general elections recorded; A motley of activists, a bizarre amalgam of renegade left-wingers, rural and Mafioso-like notables and hungry young opportunists. Does it restore confidence in partisan politics? The PAM designers are in for a shock, I dare say.

Events in Tunisia -to which I must confess my complete astonishment, why, a regime like Ben Ali’s to fold like a house of cards!- proved that an excessive concentration of wealth, power and legitimacy is, on the long run, a disastrous fuite en avant.

In these conditions, why should anyone try and give additional credit to a regime so stubbornly greedy, and how long should it take them to realize that monopolising bright minds -and neutralizing their most valuable assets, i.e. ideas- is not going to help them further, and fuels a resentment that I warn might develop into a incommensurable social conflagration.

Human Rights Swatch & MBA Awards

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on December 6, 2010

Warning: This is an MBA-related post. the Maroc Blog Awards are up, and well, One has to turn on the charm and tone down a bit the nihilist frenzy. After all, some of our most prestigious jury members will be selecting the lucky blogs, and well, it always pays off when there’s a proper decorum going on. So, for the benefit of my vanity and indeed what can be perceived as an inherent lack of self-confidence and a desperate seeking of peer approval, I’m a devoting this piece to get into the good graces of the MBA’s patrons. I’ve almost forgotten: I would appreciate if you’d vote for me.

Tucker's endorsement: "Vote for the Moorish Fucker. I know he is fucking retarded, but if you don't vote for the twat, he will put his balaclava on, and he is going after every sad fuck who popped in, break their shin bone and stab them to fucking death."

The topic at hand is somewhat depressing. Perhaps the word is not adequate: hopeless would be more to the point. It certainly fits for those I am claiming to expose for what they are. Setting aside those with islamist -hardcore, not the PJD wets- sympathies, many of those shaping our intellectual future are definitely drawn to hopeless causes. Human Rights for one. Human Rights are the nihilists’ “Ligne Rouge“, as in the one thing all of the motley lot will not compromise upon, and could even go as far as state them as paramount to anything else. It belongs to a whole mystic of human rights as the cornerstone of democracy, the shield of human dignity. It is all honourable, and I do subscribe to this alacrity in defending the case; I really do. In facts my criticism is about the way it is carried out, not the struggle itself. So even if it does sound like a caustic criticism of its inanity, there is a need to defend human rights, and it should not distract attention from the fact that they remain at the heart of principles the organic intellectual in Morocco should not compromise upon; As far as I am concerned, there is just a miss in terms of the specific rights involved here, and the way the message is conveyed.

Truth of matter is, the common man does not give a flying monkey for abstract ideas of freedom of speech, religious belief and sexual orientation. Harsh truth, but some activists and advocates of the UN Universal Declaration of ’48 look and behave as though it is the cardinal thing to spend time and resources on. Human Rights activists include individual with outstanding academic and intellectual standards, the flower of the western bloc of our future leaders, and these are in the danger of becoming, when the time comes, disconnected leaders with superficial, pre-conceived ideas of how to manage a country they certainly cherish. Bright and public-service spirited indeed, but utterly at odds with the majority of their people.

One of MALI's ringleaders. Cute, but not really representative of the Moroccan youth

Let us take a look at the MALI group. Not because I want to target them -there are after all some nice dear ladies among them- but they offer the cheap opportunity for me to focus my criticism on something more or less organized. The most committed members are likely to be, in a couple of decades’ time, part of the governing elite. It is a quasi-law of nature that the Makhzen -or their surviving heir- institutions are very good at absorbing their former dissidents, and so, weakening any future would-be maverick careers. It is the case nowadays with the former left-wingers that explicitly acknowledged their yielding to the Royal power by publicly endorsing specific initiatives, making speeches on the need to emphasise “citizenship” values, and at times, stifling dissent they were in some three decades ago. If thing remain the same, it is very likely some of these heralds of individual liberties would rejoin the Makhzen side, and though they would keep to the libertarian tone, signalled loyalty to the monarchy become more and more obvious. By seemingly harmless twists of words, individuals like Khadija Rouissi still portray themselves like a left-wing figure, but subtle references do disabuse the ingenuous: as Ibn Kafka once stated, these can be labelled as “touche pas a ma bière et a mon commandeur des croyants“. Are the MALI people likely to go down the same road? If hardcore, committed and former political prisoners yielded after these years, what chances do young libertarians stand to stray from their initial claims. Some of them are from well-to-do backgrounds, and so there are limitations for/on their actions on Ramadan and the freedom to fast or not. This is not about individual liberties. Libertarian issues are not the ones common individuals care about. Their activism is not just about Ramdan, far from it. They tried -unsuccessfully- to stage a protest against sexual harassment, too.

Another noble and worthy cause, but hopeless because Moroccans, even of the female population do not consider the issue as part of their thrust for liberty (if they have had any). Even feminism is out of fashion, and some circles once progressive, view it as subversive. In times of economic hardship and a locked political spectrum, libertarian activism looks pointless. Not just on the fasting, but also on sexual harassment, sexual liberty and more broadly individual liberties. The way things are carried out, the background of the prominent advocates and the way messages are channelled are running high chances to end up being labelled “rich-spoiled-kids’-cause”. Unless they are assured of blitz-style political and moral superiority to state their claim, bottom line is, they are just damaging it. And it is a shame: I’d love to live in a country where individuals are not forced into submission because their preferences differ from those conventional in our society. Surely one way not to alienate support is to think of a different strategy other than constant confrontation and mindless provocation.

What’s the lambasting for? Perhaps this irritable claim that civil society can achieve more without any political platform. The libertarians might not know about it, but they do act on behalf of some political agenda; inadvertently, they do act as a sort of a Guy Fawkes for the conservatives, to the Makhzen’s benefit. It is indeed a wicked game, for those believing in the Makhzen theory, that is. It now more or less an openly stated policy that Morocco should and eventually will move towards a more open-minded society. People like MALI could perhaps in a couple of years’ time, switch back and deliver some fulsome support for the regime’s projects. Beyond MALI, many libertarians do operate as franc-tireur, with an obvious apolitical stand, something that harms the cause more than it helps it. The other point was exactly that: the lack of political appeal, or the lack of political ambition, in the short term, beneficial for their cause. On the longer run -and indeed, a year is a short time in politics- it delivers a weak message of an agitate group of people. By focusing only on individual liberties without a structuring project that would conciliate these and the imperative of policy-making, it does look, and I am sorry to point it out, as a rebel phase of rich, spoiled kids.

On the other hand, I’d love to join if they need someone to shape up their claim into policies. I’m just saying.

Founding Myths and the Green March

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Moroccanology, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on November 6, 2010

That’s today apparently. the Green March I mean. As I am writing those lines, I am awaiting by the speech His Majesty the King delivers on that occasion. Awaiting because of the recent troubles down under, at Agdayme Izik near Laayoune in the Sahara.

Dissidents' camps (source: Le Soir-Echos)

These protesters camped up in hundreds and thousands (15.000-20.000 following various sources), apparently expressing their ras-le-bol of a situation that is, to put it euphemistically, delicate.  Will he mention this formidable show of force? Threaten or Assure the dissident masses?

The reason why I wrote this post is not the Green March anniversary itself. I have been baffled by the sheer alacrity a colleague blogger displayed on celebrating the Green March (on Tweeter that is. He did not have the wit to write something up about this glorious second ملحمة الملك و الشعب). Now I am no iconoclast, in the sense that I believe every state-nation, real or artificial, needs founding myths. And Morocco is no exception to that. I am just surprised that someone like him, so well-taught and of such keen insight could be so blatantly blinded by mere propaganda. Why would I then demur the Green March as a founding myth? In broad terms, because it is the founding myth of one side in the Moroccan political spectrum, i.e. the monarchy. We live in interesting times, where one is required to be a patriot, though prevented from lifting the veil off some unpleasant truths. So to the benefit of the one watching us, I would like to remind him of some facts about the Sahara case. what is the fuss about the Green March? I mean any sane individual would note that Morocco got its independence out of France and Spain like a mortgage payment: French zone first, Northern Spanish zone afterwards, then bits and chunks until late 1960’s, when it was sort of frozen up until early 1970’s, when late king Hassan II got things heated up in Morocco to finally reach its apex with November 6th, 1975. Oh, another thing that bemuses me, Rio de Oro and Mauritania. How come a territory that was Mauritanian, and accepted as such by Moroccan authorities (as part of the signed tripartite treaty signed November 1975) was swiftly claimed as own after they pulled out of the Desert war? And how come the Monarchy toned down so vividly the claims on Mauritania itself? My claim is, the Green March, and beyond that, the Sahara issue was means to an end. It was a nationalistic move to overcome the increasing remoteness the monarchy was in. It succeeded in gathering popular support as well as extracting a nation-wide consensus from political parties; Nonetheless, and it is certainly not out of malicious thought, one cannot standby idly looking on a propaganda piece -a successful one, not because it is so, but because generations of Moroccans believe in it.

The Green March walkers, holding flags and portaits of King Hassan II, November 1956

To be sure, the sight of 350.000 peaceful demonstrators hurdling towards the border is chilling to say the least. The vermilion forest of national flags and the remarkable devotion of the walkers boosts up one’s nationalist pride (yes, even the radical crypto-communist nihilist has nationalist feelings). The Green March hymn burnishes the whole thing up. But it eludes an array of facts that are either ill-known to the general public -and it seems, to some of the would be elite- or just belittled because they do not fit their respective weltschaaung. Why, the mere fact that the same monarchy prevented -indirectly of course, and for matters of internal politics- some patriots from defeating the French-Spanish occupation of the Sahara and restoring it back to the Moroccan rule should refrain one from being ecstatic about the Green March; It was no a matter of gaining back our rightful soil, merely a short-term political move that developed into a matter of legitimacy.

Morocco gained formally its independence March 2nd, 1956 following the Saint-Cloud Treaty undoing the Fès treaty -thus effectively ending the French protectorate- (another myth was to promote November 18th as independence day, the day Sultan Mohammed V went back from his exile, while Morocco was still under French and Spanish rule). the Northern zone was retro-ceded to the newly independent Morocco in April 1956. Nothing was said about the Spanish Western Sahara that the Moroccan nationalists -not the monarchy- were claiming as part of Morocco; Indeed the monarchy was much suspicious in its own discretion during this period. Truth of the matter is, it was busy strengthening its hold on power, especially the crown-prince, to the expenses of the other major political players. If it so sordid politics, why an overwhelming majority of Moroccans still identify more closely with the Sahara issue than any other issue, seemingly closer to their common, everyday shores: consumer prices, and level of wages for instance? I would like to venture some explanation by taking a leaf out of “Psychologie des Foules” by a 19th century right-wing positivist Gustave Le Bon. The whole idea of using signs and symbols that are sympathetic to the masses, or in an almost bawdy way, to their instincts is well described in his book: “La foule, jouet de tous les stimulants extérieurs, en reflète les incessantes variations. Elle est donc esclave des impulsions reçues. […] On peut physiologiquement définir ce phénomène en disant que l’individu isolé possède l’aptitude à dominer ses réflexes, alors que la foule en est dépourvue.” I wouldn’t go as far as describing the whole propaganda behind the Green March as one of Pavlovian inspiration, but when one looks at the cornucopia of flags, korans, portraits of the king, and the enthusiastic tune -the famous نداء الحسن– are close to external stimulii. That was in 1975. From that year onward, TV, education, books, newspapers, all possible means of communication have been more or less explicitly marshalled into supporting the cause, effectively waving the patriotic flag whenever internal difficulties arise.

Far from me denigrating the founding myth the Green March became over the years (do I sound like I am?) my point is, the motivation behind it, namely the peaceful demotic demonstration fro bringing back the Sahara to the Morocco has not been motivated by selfless, patriotic means to a rightful end. It is the starting point of a purely political gambling, and the denouement of a hypocritical policy the monarchy followed since the days of independence. How could one be uncompromising about Moroccan Sahara, while they were in the past silent about it, or about the Mauritanian claim too? And why prevent equally if not even more fiercely patriotic people from taking it away militarily -with greater glory no doubt- when they had the means, the motives and good likelihood to achieve it. It is, quite simply, a call for sanity: cheer the green march as you want, cherish it as a founding moment of Moroccan pride and history. Don’t spoil it by ignoring its political backdrops and the hidden conflict for influence that laid behind it. If there’s one thing that can advance the cause, it is surely, for the Moroccan regime, to recognize its past lapses, and be open about it to the widest extent possible. Can one presume things will be dealt with in a reasonable and a grown-up manner? thank you.

Let me go gooey and optimistic a moment: an autonomous republic within a federal monarchy is just as fine a settlement solution as another. One could even think of the Polisario as some sort of regionalist party that would compete for the regional parliament just like federal-wide parties. This supposes that their hard-line people would come to terms (Morocco does not have hard-line people, ony warring tribal interests), that the corrupted officials from one side of the defence wall and the other are routed out, that Morocco delivered a clean bill of health on its constitutional reforms, and finally that the Algerian officials chose to focus on their home issues more courageously.

The Civil Service, The Bureaucracy & The Citizen

This is a piece I wrote for Talk Morocco, the August issue being “Red Tape” in Morocco. You will find some interesting pieces on  how foreigners and nationals alike have to deal with bureaucratic inertia. I thought perhaps a wider picture
is needed
to understand why Civil Service Isn’t Working.

No one can deny it: the civil service is vital for any society. With the level of complexity the post-modern societies reached -including ours- the need for a group of individuals devoted solely for public service is increasingly compulsory. I am sorry I have a bias for the civil service, even though I suffered, like many other fellow Moroccans (and foreigners, when those had the unfortunate opportunity to deal with the ‘idara) who didn’t need a paper for their everyday business? Who hadn’t had enough from long queues, rude civil servants and stupid remarks regarding their applications? But the work of government, the ultimate cement holding society together, has to be carried out. I know the red tape can be of invaluable help when it is rightly and properly managed. My piece here argues some ideas on the issue.

The civil service is an ancient institution in Morocco. It is the institutional aspect of the Makhzen. Whether you believe in its present existence or not, the Makhzen provided the backbone of the Moroccan civil service for many centuries.
The pre-modern civil service was not a public service per se. The idea, as A Laroui or J. Erckmann noted, was more about taming the tribes and imposing the Sultan’s power, rather than serving the public and improve its standards of living. The civil service, as it were, was about maintaining, consolidating, imposing and displaying the imperial power to the rebels or potential ones.
The ultimate goal being of course, the complete submission of the tribes to subjects. The paramount pretext to endless “Harkas” was the Prophet’s saying about Muslims need to be submitted to a Khalifa’s authority. The Sultan, as God’s and the Prophet’s  representative, has the duty to do so.
Laroui managed to see in the Makhzen the first foundations of modern government. The need of civil service is therefore of an early stage. The modern aspect of it might lay in the attempt to “organize” as it were the basic means for collecting taxes and enforcing the Sultan’s power. Despite all the medieval aspects of such arbitrary administration, there remained two arguments for any modern power that were already taken as sovereign symbols: Regal privilege of circulating money and the Legitimate Monopoly of Violence.

One might wonder why they were subjected to this brief historical review-and I do apologise for it is quite incomplete and subject to debate moreover-. It is essential to bear in mind that the past institutions do shape the present ones. However concealed their influence is, it remains so, and perhaps even stronger than one might think. The “modern” -or shall we say, European-style- civil service came in with the Protectorate. For the first time in Moroccan history, the tribes have been tamed; the borders and the land have been controlled, even if it was divided up between the victorious colonial powers. Even with this so-called “modern” state apparatus, the core working hypothesis of the whole she-bang remains the same: square the territory, and squash any glimpses of autonomous will. It has been Morocco’s plight to witness the unhealthy mating of French Jacobin centralism, and the Makhzenian perpetual lust for control over the tribes. It may come to a surprise for many of us, but deep inside every civil servant one meets in one’s life to deal with administrative matter, there’s this tradition that makes administrative journeys of hellish nature.
A bureaucracy like this does not meet the requirements Max Weber designed for the true administration. In facts, the whole post argues that the Moroccan bureaucracy is not really one. That’s because the academic definition of it involves a battery of conditions our civil service cannot meet, because of its intrinsic nature.

Let me now present Weber’s definition of Bureaucracy: “characterised by an elaborate hierarchical division of labour directed by explicit rules impersonally applied, staffed by full-time, life-time, professionals, who do not in any sense own the ‘means of administration’, or their jobs, or the sources of their funds, and live off a salary, not from income derived directly from the performance of their job. These are all features found in the public service” These are features of positive connotation: an organization with pre-defined set of rules is unlikely to block, or for its members to take bribes or to bribe for a specific requirement.
Max Weber tends to use a lot of his Ideal-Type methodology, and in real world, no civil service matches that ideal, though some services managed to get closer than others. Nothing of the sort for Morocco, though. Let me walk you through some facts and figures.

Morocco has an overall civil workforce of some 684.889 civil servants (2004 figures) These figures are of course pre-DVD, the famous Départ Volontaire Demandé, following which the current size of the civil service should be around 640.000, ceteris paribus (a reasonable assumption based on the facts the civil service no longer recruits huge amounts of workforce). This number is distributed as follows
Our civil service is not, in broad terms, incompetent, in facts, according to the Rapport de Développement Humain (a report His Majesty ordered for the 50th independence anniversary), our service is doing quite well compared to African opposite numbers. Its mapped distribution follows quite closely the population’s pattern of distribution. In its own administrative capacity, the civil service has no intrinsic problem of its own.

There are however other problems that out-range these positive points: Though civil servants are evenly distributed among the population, the evidence shows that services are very centralized: central services (Education department not included) gather 80% of the overall workforce. The civil service, in other terms, is mainly administrative, and centralized-oriented on the top of this. Furthermore, the civil service is ageing, 60% is more than 40 years old. (This figure is bound to be a bit lower now, because of the DVD, but no more than 10% or so)
Finally, there is this question of income. The figures are rather confusing. In absolute terms, the civil service absorbs a lowly part of the GDP (about 13% in 2005, 10.2% in 2008, IMF figures) nonetheless when compared to the total taxes the Moroccan state levies on the economy, the figures are much more important. According to the Finance Ministry, the total fiscal levy amounts to some 24.5% of the GDP. That means a huge amount of it is devoted only to the payment of their human resources (basically, some 40% of the total budget income, According to the 2008 Budget).
The issue is the civil service costs quite a lot, and furthermore its income distribution is quite random, all of which creates frustration among all services, and increases the probability of corruption, passe-droits, nepotism and the like.

According to the figures some department are employing large numbers of civil servants, but these receive a lower share of the total income spending. For instance low-grade civil servants (echelon 4 and below) represent 13% of the total workforce but receive only 5% of the total Personnel spending. These are people that didn’t enjoy much real increase in their income for the past years, particularly when one bears in mind the fact that the average working experience oscillates between 20 and 22 years. Surely in these conditions, the temptation of taking a bribe or abusing their position grows on the frustration of income inequality. I would like to add on last batch of data before I can put discuss some policies that could, in my opinion, bring a bit of change about. Remuneration is a plight and is considered so, as the reports points out: “…Pris en otage par une vision purement budgétaire, le système de rémunération qui comporte de nombreuses insuffisances, constitue l’une des problématiques essentielles auxquelles le gouvernement est actuellement confronté.” (p.117)
The report goes on the various shortcomings of the civil service payroll:
– une grille de rémunération obsolète, dont l’établissement remonte à 1973 qui ne joue plus son rôle d’instrument de classification des emplois, car une masse importante de fonctionnaires changent de grade sans pour autant changer de fonction. […] De nombreux fonctionnaires plafonnement dans leur grade après 21 ans de services sans perspective d’avancement alors qu’ils sont encore en milieu de carrière et loin de l’âge de la retraite.
– l’absence d’équité en matière de rémunération, en raison du caractère excessivement large de l’éventail
des salaires : le rapport est de 37 pou 1 entre le salaire le plus élevé et le salaire le plus bas dans la fonction publique marocaine, alors qu’il est de 7 pour 1 dans les pays à économie comparable.”

And finally: “À ces dysfonctionnements en matière de rémunération, il importe d’ajouter l’absence d’un système de promotion fondé sur le mérite. La promotion de grade qui reposait depuis des décennies sur le principe du quota n’a pas résisté aux pressions syndicales qui a amené le gouvernement à plusieurs reprises, à offrir des promotions en masse au profit de milliers de fonctionnaires.”

Just as the bald man from Lena said: “What Is to be Done?” I discussed in another post the possibility of a high level of decentralization (actually, an effective Federal Monarchy) with civil servants much closer to the citizens.
That means an increase in the local administration staff to a ratio of 1 federal (central) civil servant for every 2 local or regional civil servants. One way or the other, the trade-unions as well as the civil servants will have to come to the idea that their income is not guaranteed, that they must produce an evidence of their work, thus introducing a parameter of performance in the service.  These are implemented for the high levels of officials, and they prove to be working. When one speaks of high-ranking officials, one does not refer to the “high-flyers”. Unfortunately, firsts and upper seconds graduates from the Ecole Nationale d’Administration do not count as high officials.
We need a clearer system in the way the civil service recruits its officials, especially for high-entrance levels (those involved in policy-making) a graduate from Polytechnique, Centrale or HEC might be bright, but when lacking knowledge of public service, results can be counter-productive. The problem is, our top-level recruitment is still handicapped by a certain partisanship, and if I may, of tribalism. I do hope that things will change a bit, and allow in professionals, rather than technocrats, to run the job properly.

Finally, there is a need for a firmer and more direct citizen’s control over their civil servants. It is their money that pays for the administration, and they have every right to know what is done with it. Basically, a first step would be to abolish the sacro-saint administrative principle of “indiscriminate channelling of resources” (Principe de non-affectation des ressources), without which things can get clearer for the taxpayer.
Academia provides rich resources for the ways citizens can get involve in controlling the way the civil service behaves and acts. This permanent control deters (or should do so) the service from turning its bureaucracy into an inert body without which nothing can be done. The way I advise to follow is to “hit’em where it hurts”, i.e. the money inflow and the power to produce their own legislation. When those are transferred to local government, say, to smaller autonomous administrative entities, then things become much simpler for the citizen to control.

Please enjoy this fantastic excerpt of “Yes, Prime Minister”