Monday, September 19, 2011

Morocco: The Islamists In Power

By Mohammad el-Ashab

Abdelilah Benkiran, leader of Morocco’s Islamist PJD, is known as a moderate pragmatist
It was enough for the opposition powers in Morocco to vote in favor of the constitution amended in 1996, in order make way for the Socialist Union to form a cabinet, headed by the Union’s retired leader, Abdel Rahman al-Youssifi. He was fortunate enough to witness the international changes that came to convince late King Al-Hassan II, of the idea that ruling the country together with the opposition, is better than leaving power in the hands of the technocrats and the loyalist parties alone.
Now, there is no need to tell the political elites that a new chapter has been opened with the constitution that was endorsed by the majority of the population. The vote in favor of this constitution last July was in fact not a privilege for any group, as much as it was a reflection of the desire to engage in deep reforms needed by Morocco, in order to renew its political life and pump additional doses of hope and confidence in the belief that the country is indeed proceeding in the right direction.
But this does not cancel out the idea that there is a need for a political party to take over in a democratic and orderly fashion, and to form the upcoming cabinet, which would constitute the first test for the tolerance for change. In 1998, Abdel Rahman al-Youssifi, the opposition figure that had just come back from exile, worked hand in hand with Al-Hassan II; and this was no surprise. Similarly, the possibility that the Islamic Justice and Development Party would play an exclusive and influential role in the upcoming iteration of the executive apparatus is likely but not certain. However, it must not be restrained by any fears, in case it complies with the new constitutional approach. This is especially valid when it is openly declaring its commitment to the laws in force and pushing in the direction of further pluralism.
Ever since it opted for democratic change from within, the Socialist Union has demonstrated exceptional capacities in conflict management. The experience of the party in practicing its governmental responsibilities indicated that the party does differentiate between the positions that are brandished during partisan demonstrations, and those positions that are dictated by responsible positions.
Some provisions of the constitution amended in 1996 have given the second chamber (the board of advisors) the opportunity to dismiss the cabinet, after issuing a warning to it concerning certain controversial issues. Perhaps the goal of this provision was to confine governmental practices to a certain ceiling. However, the new constitution has abolished these fears through new mechanisms that allow the government to be formed by the parliament, which would then grant it the confidence of the majority or refrain from doing so. The most important implications of this development is that the competition is now open for everybody and the political parties are now playing an influential role in forming the cabinet, without having to resort to technocratic ministers.
And if the Justice and Development party was to win the elections, then it would be qualified, according to all the constitutional standards, to try its luck in moving from the opposition side to the governmental front. Here, it may be useful to examine the early years of the experience of the Islamic Party. Indeed, the party had supported the government of the socialist Al-Youssifi; and in 2002, it nearly made a deal with the Independence Party. This implies that the alliances of this party lean towards full normalization with the necessities of political equilibriums.
Through certain positive stands, the Justice and Development party acts as a political rather than a religious party. This represents a development in the interaction between the spiritual and secular aspects. However, the Moroccan political parties, including the Progress and the Socialist parties (formerly the Communist party) all abide by the principles of the Islamic reference, even when the new constitution has granted a special importance to the international treaties concerning Human Rights. But the partisan actions, when it comes to the major issues, are subjected to the logic of the state’s interest and vision. That is the reason why, the socialist parties have opted for opening up to the market economy. Meanwhile, other liberal parties did not mind the state’s control over the strategic sectors.
Anyone who is scared by the Justice and Development party in Morocco is not democratic. And anyone who makes a link between democracy and the success of this or that party would actually not be thinking in a democratic fashion. Similarly, opting for an Islamic recipe, just for testing it, contradicts with the democratic path. The most important thing is to revert to the ballot boxes. Long gone is the era where electoral maps were created to fit lifeless souls. The only winner in any balanced competition will be the democracy and hope.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 18/09/2011

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