Sun, Nov 6, 2016
The accidental death of Mouhcine Fikri, a fishmonger inside a garbage compacter van in the Amazigh/Berber militant city of Alhoceima almost triggered a national revolution.
The political earthquake that hit Morocco on October 30, 2016 following the death of the fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in The Amazigh/Berbe city of Alhoceima can have dangerous consequences in the near future if the root causes are seen to. The political elite and the establishment must, at once, draw the necessary conclusions from this dangerous tremor bearing in mind that the stability of the kingdom is at stake and the renowned “Moroccan exception,” in the Arab world, is in jeopardy.
In today’s Morocco, there are two distinct social classes: the ruling one made of politicians, bankers, rentiers, big farmers, industrialists, etc. well to do and rich, and the ordinary people class made of state functionaries, heavily indebted in the never, never installment credit schemes, and the poor living from day to day. It must be pointed out, as a reminder that the middle class has disappeared from the country’s dashboard in the 80s of the last century, as a result of an acute financial crisis and it has well served, then, as a useful shock absorber between the rich and the poor.
In 2011, at the height of the Arab Spring, the Moroccan monarch, in a good and loyal firefighter, proposed to the Moroccan people a constitution that curtailed his massive powers, to put down the social fires ignited by the spontaneous street protest movement: Mouvement du 20 Février that called for a true and genuine “constitutional monarchy” in place of the, then and still now, “executive monarchy.” The 2011 constitution opened the door for the Islamists to rule and in the ensuing general elections the PJD came first with 102 seats and its leader Benkirane formed a coalition government.
From 2011 to 2016, The Islamists “paracetamol” seemingly calmed the social anger and malaise but failed to come up with a diagnosis of the social ailments to propose a much-needed long term therapy. To justify their inability to cure this ailment during their 5-year ruling term, they circulated an excuse called ta7akkum meaning that the big political decisions are made exclusively by the “shadow cabinet” of the monarch, to avoid naming him in person. There might be some truth in that but the party deliberately avoided activating the new constitution to make a good impression onto the monarchy with the purpose to insure coming back to power for another 5-year term.
The Islamists, fearing the backlash of the voters, came up with this lame excuse of ta7akkum to shift the blame onto the “other,” in a good manner known in cultural anthropology to be a common Arab practice. It is true that there is royal influence on matters relating to foreign affairs and national defense, but the constitution gives the head of government room to make necessary decisions pertaining to all other areas.
However, when the majority of observers were expecting the demise of the Islamists in the October 7, 2016 general elections, they came back more powerful thanks to their regimented discipline, religion-based support and the high voter abstention of 57%.
It is a well know fact in Morocco that political parties lack practical and real economic platforms that can create much-needed employment, national wealth and social wellbeing, for the simple reason that most of the parties are mere political pressure groups with the primary aim to get governmental positions to their executive committees and functionary positions to their adherents only.
Indeed, these parties on the approach of the elections often update their old platforms, which in the end are no more than general party literature stating some very general objectives that are not backed by technical programs and activities.
In this regard, the PJD has followed this general practice bearing in mind that unlike in the Western democracies, there is no accountability in the Moroccan political scene, at all. So parties come to power and go and nobody will ask them for what substantial results their passage in power has achieved.
Since the ordinary people have no power and no means to make political parties accountable and with them, of course, the whole establishment, they take this state of affairs as an insult to their intelligence and a humiliation (7ogra).
Back in 2011, the general public believed, with much euphoria, that the Islamists will create jobs, achieve social justice, and improve life standards. None of that has ever happened, on the contrary prices skyrocketed and subsidies on the staple diets are currently in danger of being scrapped to please the World Bank.
In Turkey, the Islamists of AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partis,) since their arrival to power in 2002 have, in a grandiose fashion, achieved an economic miracle making out of the country a regional power.
The outstanding success of AKP is due mainly to the fact that this Islamist party opened its doors to all Turkish political currents, secular or other and attracted hundreds of experts from all walks of life and entrusted them with coming up with practical solutions to national problems, which they did successfully.
Consequently, the majority of Turkish people, from diverse social and political circles, identify whole-heartedly with AKP, which is responsible for the Turkish economic miracle. Indeed, on the night of July 15, 2016, when announcement was made that the army had overthrown the existing government, thousands of people took to the streets to defend their democratically-elected political institutions with their bare hands using their bodies as barriers and shields.
In Morocco, PJD relies for its political inspiration on its religious mother association known as: MUR (Mouvement de l’unicité et la réforme.) The PJD is a mirror image of Arab parties: tribal in philosophy and patriarchal in practice. As such, outsiders are not welcome into the party unless they bring money or political influence. As a result of this tacit policy, the party is owned exclusively by its religious adherents and has not done anything to attract external experts, national talent or good policy makers.
So, in the end it has remained a party of preachers with no economic program and its only capital is its popular support which uses religion as its ground foundation and the mosque as its medium of influence. In many ways it seems that PJD views unflinching support to the party as the sixth principle of Islam.
Thousands of Moroccan young people, mainly millennials, holding university diplomas and unable to get a decent job for the simple reason that the economy is not producing enough and nepotism is wide spread in a country that does not recognize, in the least, meritocracy.
The Moroccan millennials rather than peddle drugs or indulge in thieving, enroll in informal economy taking to the streets to sell cheap Chinese wares at bargain prices to the population. Because they lay their merchandise on plastic mats on the ground in busy streets, they are known as Farrasha.
In spite of the fact that they are daily chased by police off the streets or have to bribe them to stay, these vendors manage to make some money, in total dignity, to feed their families.
It must be pointed out that the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in 2010, molested and humiliated by the police, immolated himself in front of the municipality of his town and that act triggered the Arab Spring, whose fires are still ravaging several countries today, notably Syria.
The accidental death of Mouhcine Fikri, a fishmonger inside a garbage compacter van on October 30, 2016 in the Amazigh/Berber militant city of Alhoceima almost triggered a national revolution, if the king did not step in, in the nick of time, to bring the culprits before justice and ultimately put down the anger fire.
The PJD, rather than try to find the root causes of this incident, considered that this national backlash was directed at them by external powers and national reactionaries to rob them of their democratic electoral win. A move reminiscent of the wide spread Arab conspiracy theory.
The Alhoceima incident is only a tremor that has spawned much alarm but little damage, nevertheless, the PJD has to draw the necessary conclusions from this dangerous incident bearing in mind that their present popularity is fickle and that they have to seek sound solutions to the present national ailment of youth unemployment otherwise face a deadly tsunami next time.
Would they heed this advice? Only time can show.
Header Image Credit: presstv
Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education at Mohammed V University in Rabat. He is a political and cultural analyst in the Middle East.