In Morocco, an Alternative to Democracy

The Washington Post published a highly embellished op-ed titled “In Morocco, an Alternative to Iran,” that you can – but you shouldn’t because it’s a waste of time – read here, by Anne Applebaum in which she exhibited Morocco as a progressive Islamic democracy where scantily clad women wouldn’t look out of place, people holding signs peacefully demonstrate before the parliament without harassment, and journalists criticize the government freely. She lauded Morocco’s human and civil rights improvements; she urged the readers to see Morocco as an alternative to Iran, a country where elections are fraudulent and voters are beaten and often killed by police. I sent an email to Mrs. Applebaum calling her op-ed hogwash. It reads like a statement from the Moroccan Ministry of Interior, or an English translation of an editorial from the Maghreb Arab Press. In fact, it amounts to nothing more than a tourist’s perspective on superficial political and social aspects the government flaunts before the West as symbols of Moroccan democracy.

With a modicum of research, a basic understanding of democratic principles, any journalist with integrity and worth his/her salt would write a rather damning account on the state of democracy in Morocco. Moroccan journalists writing for Al Ahdat Al Maghrebia and Al Masae who summoned the courage to denounce the reprehensible infringements of the elite political parties and the aristocratic political figures leading or supporting them, and reported on high level involvement in the conspicuous buying of votes, intimidation of candidates, and falsification of voter registration during the June 12 communal elections, are rotting in jail right now, being interrogated by the judicial police which hastened to arrest them instead of investigating the crimes they uncovered. Moroccan newspapers Al-Jarida Al-Oula, Al-Ahdath Al-Magrebia, and Al-Massae were slapped with stupendous fines for allegedly defaming the Libyan leader Qaddafi; the Moroccan government not only does not intervene in favor of its immigrant citizens who are constantly mistreated and unfairly jailed in Libya, but litigates its citizens domestically to truckle to Qaddafi expecting a favorable stand on Western Sahara. The Moroccan human rights activists, such as Chekib el-Khiari, who stray from the government ‘scripted statements find themselves charged with Kafkaesque crimes and prosecuted. Citizens are often vilified and persecuted for voicing their grievances and challenging the government on unkept promises.

The month of June may as well be dubbed the month of quiescence in Morocco. The population protested one of the most fraud fraught communal elections in the history of modern Morocco with the most disconcerting detachment. Mexican and Turkish soap operas have drawn more emotional outbursts from Moroccans. The ongoing political parties’ acrimonious wrangling over positions is a travesty of the democratic process, a jesters’ act to amuse the palace.

Some candidates like Kaoutar Benhamou and Fatima Boujnah of the Authenticity and Modernity, a political party that in less than six months has turned into a political juggernaut, by virtue of their youth and inexperience, are not viable challengers to the heavy weights of the Moroccan political pit; they won not on the basis of their political acumen, previous achievements in the interest of society, or for espousing a political ideology; they offered nothing more than a promise to their deprived communities: running water, electricity, or an ambulance to service their medical emergencies. But what candidates did not promise the moon to ingratiate themselves with potential voters? Some even promised the hajj. They failed because their backers are not close enough to the king. Benhamou and Boujnah cannot vaunt to have taken the reigns of a daunting and rigged bureaucracy to effectively reshape the face of politics in Morocco. The driving force behind their youthful and propitious veneer is a monarchist, neocon, elitist, and feudalistic mindset whose manipulative techniques have suppressed the Moroccan population even since before 1912. A mindset that holds its pedigree as a mandate to run the country and understands Moroccans would riot for a piece of bread rather than to protest a spurious election.

The Interior Ministry put the election turnout at 51 percent. Independent media and other political parties contested the announcement and contended that voters registration did not exceed 32 percent. Glum Moroccan voters grew tired of mendacious candidates who regard politics as a sure way to buttress their bank accounts. Moroccan voters are well-aware that no candidate can stand against a legislation that ensures an uneven distribution of power; they are skeptical the government is built on the principle of consensus; they doubt an election the legitimacy of which is dubious can change the political landscape; they understand that in a governance that lacks the separation of powers, bars citizens access to potent leadership, and whose abridgement of people’s universally recognized freedoms and liberties is an established practice, democracy can not thrive. Che Guevara said it best when he stated “Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians.” In a country where, by design, over 50 percent of the population is illiterate or of limited educational background – only 27 percent of baccalaureate candidates passed their examination – and where an entrenched conservative political and economic coterie grinds its heels deeper into the nation’s face, democracy is engaged in an uphill battle.

Anne Applebaum’s op-ed is nothing more than a cheap sales pitch conceived to beguile foreign investors from the backstage Morocco. One can only speculate at whose behest such propagandist unstinting praise was written. Considering Applebaum’s professional trajectory, her previous articles on the Middle East and Islam, and her advocacy of all things Israeli, there could be only one answer as to who pulls her leash.

A. T. B. Copyright © 2009

Comments (3)  

Abou Mehdi
0 #1 lah yerhem elwalidineAbou Mehdi 2009-07-06 02:15
now we are talking
0 #2 namename 2009-07-08 00:10
"nothing more than a tourist’s perspective" - very well put
0 #3 COMMENT_TITLE_R E In Morocco, an Alternative to Democracyjj 2010-10-28 05:06
Great piece. Just came across this, but spot on.

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