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  Global Views
Op-Ed Special
Morocco in the Age of Uncertainties
Special Contribution
By Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui
American University
King Mohamed VI of Moroca

The Arab Spring that brought down the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya does not seem to be slowing down. Arab monarchies have showed resilience, but not immunity to the current events, as the unfolding events in Morocco indicate.

The 48 year-old king - Mohamed VI has been engaged into a series of agile maneuvers to coerce the February 20th Movement, and coax its young leadership to settle for a “Makhzani –solution that wraps a feudal system into a 21st century “costume.”

The Makhzan – term used by Moroccans to delineate a feudal system of royal privileges- gives the King absolute power over his subjects, and subordinates laws to customs. As a result, the Makhzan decides to whom to grant its privileges, and when to suspend them. The King’s favors precede the “will of the people,” and the laws of the land. As such, the fundamentals of the existing regime have never been altered. In every epoch of its historical existence, the Monarchy outwitted popular anger by containing it through a very strong apparatus of deception vividly described by Ali Amar’s banned book - Mohamed VI: the Big Misunderstanding.

Dan Ephron -in the American magazine Newsweek (April 29, 2011)- described Morocco's king as “a survivalist,” who lacks the vision and the strategy of his ruthless father. The “ institutions” surrounding him are mere extension of his absolute rule , and serve the ever expanding system of corruption, nepotism, exclusion and repression. The Moroccan online magazine Tel Quel reported the dismay of Morocco’s public opinion and its distrust of possible evolution of the political system. The July 1st, 2011 referendum is by no means “revolutionary,” on the contrary it reinforces the sanctity of the king, and points at the sterility of the Makhzen to bring about genuine political reforms.

The movement for change in Morocco is not anti-Mohamed VI, but calls for the monarchy to take its right place in history, and becomes symbolic as it is the case of Great Britain, and allow the emergence of a modern state, where the judiciary, and the legislative are independent from the executive power.

Mohammad VI father - Hassan II - ruled with impunity until 1999. His death sent a wave of relief, as the new ruler took power, and branded himself as the king of the "poor." However, such portrait did not last long, as the new “Commander of the Faithful,” reached out to the medieval regimes in Arabia for political and financial support to reinforce his reign.

His sanctity has over the years surpassed that of the Pope in the Catholic world. The young monarch has amassed a huge fortune in the past decades. The Forbes magazine listed him as the 7th richest king in the world with assets of more than $2.5 billion. What is ironic is that Morocco is ranked 123 in the UN Human Development Index, and corruption has earned Morocco the 85th place by Transparency International.

The monarchy unfulfilled pledges, and the growing resentment among the desperate youth are causes for concern in this North African country, and the theory of “divine,” exception of monarchies to the tides of change can be proven to be a mere fabrication advanced by the “soldiers of deception.”

The December 2011 elections gave the Islamist party -Justice and Development- a victory, by winning 107 seats out of 395, although the turnout for the vote remained below 40 percent. However, observers indicated that the real power of defense, foreign policy, religion and interior ministry remained all in the hands of the king, which might increase popular resentment. The continuous challenge to the Monarchy is very strong in Morocco, as the wave of true democracies are sweeping the region.

The Gulf monarchies are in the process of rescuing the Monarchies of Morocco and Jordan by creating a special fund and inject billions of dollars in these countries' economies to postpone the inevitable. The Gulf states went even further to give some form of membership to Morocco and Jordan as a leverage to unexpected future developments in the region.

The 24th February movement in Morocco representing the disenchanted, the marginalized and the unemployed is risking to be radicalized if the government keeps its repressive measures, and refuses to acknowledge that the time has come not for cosmetic reforms, but a constitutional monarchy. Morocco's public opinion expressed its dismay of the country’s decay, and the sterility of the Makhzen to bring about genuine political reforms, and take concrete measures to alleviate the misery of the population, especially in the Berber areas of the Rif, known for their anti-monarchist sentiments.

Mohammad VI father - Hassan II - ruled with impunity, and sent hundreds to their deaths just for voicing their opinion. His death in 1999, -after 40 years of iron rule- known as the "Years of the Lead," and the firing of the interior minister, Driss Basri - known as the "torturer," brought some hopes for an "Enlightened Kingdom." Mohammad VI- after 11 years of rule- showed that he did not have the sadistic cruelty of his father; however, dissidence is repressed and any substantial political reforms are stalled in their infancy.

Since its inception, the Monarchy built around itself a myth of sanctity and benevolence. Like, the rest of the Arab monarchies, Mohammad VI bestowed upon himself a divine title of the "Commander of the Faithful." A status that makes him a ruler over subjects and not citizens.

The Moroccan monarchy managed to shield itself from the constant violations of human rights. At the same time, the monarchy was able to convince its European allies about the priority of the region's stability; and marketed the traditional scarecrow technique of the danger of terrorism and extremist Islam.

The economic crisis that should Europe- Morocco’s long time partner- has brought aid and investments to a halt. This forced Mohamed VI -in a recent tour in the Arabian Peninsula- to seek financial assistance for the Alawite dynasty. The kingdom’s personal visit to the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC) in November 2012, is an indication that Morocco is at the verge of financial collapse, and a social upheaval is in the horizon.

Daily demonstrations and methodological repression has brought strong criticism from human rights organizations, especially in the occupied Western Sahara. The Sheikhdoms of Arabia might only be able to extend the life-line of the Kingdom for some time; however, a remedy to Morocco’s problems lies elsewhere. The Makhzen’s medieval practices are the real obstacle to Morocco’s economic and social development.

Abdelkader Zerougui, Ph.D
Adjunct Professor, American University
Washington DC

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Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui is an adjunct professor of sociology at American University in Washington DC, where he received his MA and PhD in sociology. Prof. Zerougui’s writings have appeared on many respected media including the Washington Times and The Seoul Times.






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