All the King's Islamists

All the King's Islamists

Maati Monjib in SADA, on an anti-corruption campaign launched by the palace apparently mostly for the purpose of embarrassing the prime minister, who was not consulted, and as a form of revenge for the PJD's own anti-corruption campaign. This is reminiscent of the "campagne d'assainissement" of the 1990s by then-PM Driss Basri:

The PJD’s powerful election campaign focused on what it deemed financial corruption, political corruption, and the rentier economy which benefits the ruling elite—including those close to the monarchy. During the first weeks of the new Islamist government, which the press mocked as “half-bearded,” some ministers wanted to uphold their campaign promises to expose some of the rentier economy practices which are at the heart of the traditional political system. This alarmed the influential elite—including some representatives of the parties loyal to the palace within the ruling coalition—who considered their Islamist colleagues’ behavior to be populist. Then the Islamist Minister of Justice Mustafa Ramid, a PJD hawk whose appointment set off the first crisis between Benkirane and the palace, made the risky decision to open investigations against two figures close to the monarchy: the former minister of finance Salaheddine Mezouar and the current treasurer Noureddine Bensouda, citing financial documents published by the press as sufficient evidence of their corruption. This move clearly upset relations between the palace and the PJD.

In this atmosphere, and in an attempt to allay fears of a witch hunt, Benkirane told Al Jazeera “God has pardoned what is past” (Qur’an 5:95), thinking that this would alleviate the royal pressure on him. But Benkirane did not take into account that the palace would turn his statement against him, and show its own will to fight corruption by arresting dozens of police and customs officials. Benkirane, who sought a moderate, conciliatory stance, was instead blasted by pro-regime media for his inaction in confronting corruption—all the while, of course, praising the monarchy’s own move.

The irony here is that fighting genuine, large-scale corruption in Morocco isn’t really on the agenda of either the palace or the government: it is so deeply entrenched in the state that an actual attempt to uproot it could uproot the regime itself.