Monday, August 22, 2011

The Experience Of Alternation In Morocco

By Mohammad el-Ashab
The ongoing debate in Morocco regarding who will be the prime minister following the elections, reflects the extent to which ‘al-Tanawoub’ [Alternation] in Morocco, or the peaceful rotation of power, may become a reality without spilling blood, ending lives, and destroying buildings. No matter what the flaws of any nascent democracy may be, the latter is still better than the unknown.
At the end of the last decade of the twentieth century, the tenacious opposition figure Abdel-Rahman al-Yousefi, finally shook hands with the late King Al-Hassan II. They since agreed on reviving a historic agreement and overcoming the mistakes of the fierce clash between the Palace and the opposition, in the course of which no weapons had been spared. All sides had by then exhausted all the roles that they have had faith in, and opted instead to sit around the dialogue table with a view to rescue the country.
This event by itself was the equivalent of a quiet revolution in concepts, convictions, and choices. The dynamics of that moment resulted in swapping the language of conflict with that of accord. Thus, there were no more obstacles preventing the Palace to open up to the opposition, or the latter from bearing responsibility, instead of merely continuing to protest without end. Chance had it that rapprochement was required by all means.
Nothing major happened that would cause a radical change in the life of the Moroccans all at once, in light of the dire outcomes of the economic crisis and the decades of estrangement. Instead, what transpired was that the wager on change transformed into numbers and issues, in the equation of reality that requires a plethora of reforms that match the aspirations.
Moreover, the Moroccans had indeed tried new forms of governance by the opposition, of which several factions experienced what it was like to be in power. Meanwhile, instead of adopting bellicose positions, many parties and trade unions chose to wager on the state, its resources, and its ability to tend to the most sensitive and controversial issues. The result was that the transition of official posts was tantamount to a new school in progression, prudence, and respect for balances and equilibriums.
The most important element of this experience is that the concerns spurred by the portrayal of the opposition’s ascent as a major coup, a claim peddled by certain lobbies that oppose the principle of change – had disappeared as new elites came to power. Adapting with this transformation was less worrisome because realistic policies were adopted, policies that the public hoped would be bolder in touching on the sources of structural economic and social problems. In truth, it is for this reason that some opposition factions were punished in the ballot boxes in previous election rounds.
Above and beyond all this, the political scene in Morocco – as the latter is now on the verge of early legislative elections – seems to be able to accommodate any positive change. Alternation – which the Moroccans like to describe as merry – has confirmed the fact that opening up to the opposition carries no threats and that it is rather the opposite of this that is engenders real fears. This is because the logic of Alternation contradicts exclusion and the monopolization of power. And in order to implement that, the desires of the voters must be respected as expressed through ballot boxes, while these should enjoy the guarantees of being free, fair, and transparent.
Practically speaking, it was out of the question that Alternation would gain support from a parliamentary majority, without the inclusion of parties affiliated to previous pre-Alternation governments. And although the logic of numbers imposed this alliance, this situation did not help many parties in becoming seasoned in opposition roles, except for the “Justice and Development” party, which benefited greatly from the nature of the alliances that cleared the opposition platform of other effective actors. It was only natural that the ascent of the former opposition to government – which was a positive first – would come in conjunction with another development: that of allowing an Islamic party to operate in the framework of democratic legitimacy. This is despite the fact that the “Justice and Development” party had realized the negative connotations of its ties to religious authorities, and proclaimed that it is merely a political party that abides by the laws that regulate political parties. This development was taken to be a major transformation that swept the rug from under the party’s opponents’ feet, opponents who see it as a “terrifying Islamic danger.”
Now, it seems that there will be a second round of political normalization, which would open up to all the various elements. The new constitution clearly states that the prime minister is to be selected by the winning party. It did not define the majority or the bloc that can rally the required majority. This means that the first step to success shall be determined through the voting ballots, in order to select the party that will form the cabinet. As to the details of the alliances, these are left to the equations of the majority and the opposition in a clash that has already started, and of which outcome no one can predict, save for the assertion that this is a bolder version of Alternation, with the hope that the country will move beyond the transitional phase that has dragged on for such a long time.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 21/08/2011

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