Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Morocco: Elections to Contain Anger

By Mohammad el-Ashab
What is the reason behind the organization of premature elections in Morocco? The answer, quite simply, is that the current situation in the country calls for the formation of a strong cabinet with wide jurisdictions, one that has been embodied by the constitutional reform that was adopted by the Moroccans.
This does not mean that the successive governments, specifically since the experience of power rotation in 1998, were not strong or harmonious. However, the nature of its structure – that imposed the formation of alliances among no less than seven or five parties in order to guarantee a parliamentary majority – has also imposed consensual compromises among the political partners. Perhaps the source of the problem in those experiences was that the opposition seats remained vacant, except for the Islamic side represented by the party of Justice and Development, while the parties of the Left, the Right, and the Middle all lined up within the government.
Some believe that the parties of the former opposition, namely the Socialist Union and the Independence party, were right to move from one side to the other after having remained in the opposition for a long while. However, other parties that had been in power, even during the eras of political tension, had joined the new group; and this was not a necessary choice except when it is approached from the point of view of the requirements of the majority-minority game. Currently, there is no conviction that these requirements can be overcome, since no party or political bloc believes that it is likely to gain a comfortable majority in the elections of the upcoming October.
The scene has changed on several levels. This includes the fact that the political and administrative powers of the prime minister, who will be appointed by the party that will win the elections, now extend in all directions. It is no longer acceptable to publicly complain about the contradicting competences, the restrained decisions, or the differences among the power centers. Indeed, the most important thing in the new constitution is that it has given [full power] to the executive apparatus in issues related to competence. In addition, it has designated the legislative institution alone as a source for the laws.
In addition to the above, one can assert that the country’s tendency to enter the club of the regional system that is quite close to forming small, local governments, has freed the central Authority from many burdens. Indeed, there are some issues and files that can be successfully dealt with on the local level instead of waiting for the center. These issues include the problems of unemployment, poverty, and the fragility of the economic structures. These are not mere hypotheses that can only be connected to the availability of resources. The experiences of the advanced countries such as Spain, Italy, and Germany, when it comes to the regional choice have shown a great deal of efficiency. In the dialogue of the Moroccans with their European counterparts, the problem perhaps consisted of the absence of the local dimension in the cooperation fields. Morocco thinks with the mentality of centralization while its major partners are referring it to a different kind of dialogue since Rome, or Madrid or Berlin are no longer the sole decision makers.
To add to this equation, granting Morocco an advanced position in its relationships with the European Union might ease a lot of burdens such as decreasing the restrictions on its agricultural exports and its fish products. In addition, the Moroccan emigrants in the European countries benefitted from the requirements of the progress to a developed situation, one that exceeds partnership but does not reach the extent of full jointure.
The next cabinet, regardless of its structures, will be faced with strong constraints including the continuation of the youth protests and the sector related demonstrations. The government has definitely no magic wand in order to change the situation at a quicker pace. However, it can define a global strategy for moving forward with the economic and social situations that constitute a source of tension, as it is now free from the restraints that used to block the power of the successive cabinets.
“The Moroccan Street, like other Streets in several Arab countries, has been attracted by the idea of calling for the ousting of the regime. Any cabinet must take into consideration the idea of ousting the scenes of corruption and oppression in order to be more in touch with the concerns of the angry Street. Based on that, the upcoming elections seem different from the preceding ones, as they are the closest chance at containing the waves of anger. But the partisan authorities must lead the way by setting an example. There is no alternative way but to renew the elites and the ideas, regardless of the differences in the positions between the opposition and the pro governmental sides.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 19/07/2011

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