Morocco: Co-opting Everything

Maati Monjib is a writer and political activist who paid dearly for his views: he was exiled from Morocco for years under the late King Hassan II. A humble and highly perceptive man, his recent piece for the Arab Reform Bulletin subtly highlights the perils of a regime that seeks to co-opt everything: sooner or later, it will find itself with no credible mainstream political opponents.

This is what is happening to Morocco's "historic" opposition party, the left-wing USFP, whose leaders have been pried away from a reformist position on a democratic reform of the constitution by the peddling of cabinet positions and other advantages to its leaders. It's a sad statement on the much-touted transition of the last 15 years, with the USFP forming a "government of alternance" (I can never find the right English word for this) in 1997 only to be thoroughly discredited by the process:

In an April 21 letter published in local newspapers, three of the top leaders of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) informed party leader Abdelwahed Radi that they were freezing their membership in the political bureau until the next party congress was held. One of the three was Ali Bouabid, the forty-something son of USFP founder Abderrahim Bouabid, who represents a youthful faction within the party that believes that the policy of unconditionally backing the monarchy has stalled democratic reforms. The three were upset at Radi’s statement, upon his election as speaker of parliament’s lower house, that constitutional reform was in the hands of the king alone. They argued that Radi was renouncing one of the most important decisions of the last USFP party congress, namely to seek “political and constitutional reform to extricate the country from the crisis of its struggling democracy.”

This controversy within the USFP is emblematic of problems inside other political parties as well, which struggle with how to pursue their principles in light of Morocco’s patronage based system and the centripetal force of the monarchy.  Changes inside the USFP—which has participated in every Moroccan government since 1998—over the last decade also are at the heart of the current problems.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.