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Has corruption become sacrosanct in Morocco?

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One reason why Moroccans voted for the Justice and Development party (PJD) in the November 2011 parliamentary election was that the party put fighting corruption first on its list of promises to Moroccans.

Jamal Elabiad
22 October 2012

The problems that Moroccans have been suffering from since independence are many. And all the governments that ‘ruled’ Morocco before the outbreak of the Arab Spring failed to reduce their negative effects on Moroccan daily life. Some argue that the ruling parties cannot solve those problems because they are too preoccupied with winning elections in the time-honoured manner.

Bribery has played a pivotal role in the recent elections of a significant number of members of parliament. Impoverished Moroccans are all too ready to sell their votes. It’s really absurd to speak of transparent elections in a country where citizens live in poverty. They got their new posts through vote-buying rather than convincing strategies of reform.

In fact corruption lies behind many of the social maladies Moroccans are subjected to, including poverty and  unemployment. Trying to solve these problems without rooting out their source is like pouring water on sand, as the Moroccan proverb has it.

So one reason why Moroccans voted for the Justice and Development party (PJD) in the November 2011 parliamentary election was that the party put fighting corruption first on its list of promises to Moroccans. Many PJD candidates delivered speeches to their supporters during the election campaign, shedding light on those responsible for the spread of corruption in Morocco.

Moroccan Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, is an example in point. During his electoral speeches, he pointed the finger at several people who, according to him, were personally to blame for allowing corruption to be prevalent at all levels of Moroccan society. Two of those identified were Fouad Ali El Himma and Mounir Majidi, a close advisor to King Mohamed VI and the person in charge of managing the royal financial holdings, respectively. They were accused of being behind unlimited corrupt practices in the North African kingdom.

Mr. Benkirane promised Moroccans to put an end to corruption as soon as the PJD became one of the Moroccan ruling parties. The first thing he would do, he promised, was to put on trial all the “symbols of corruption” in Morocco. The PJD accompanied this declaration of war with a little mixture of religion to create the perfect election cocktail – but this is a topic for another time.

How popular did this make Mr. Benkirane with most Moroccans? Mr. Benkirane was certainly popular among a cross-section of Moroccans. But he started to lose popularity and momentum soon after the formation of the new government. Why? Because he did a 180 degree turn and simply broke these promises.  Moroccans were shocked to see him say on Al Jazeera TV channel that he had after all decided to pardon all the sources of rampant corruption identified by the Moroccan protesters during their pro-change demonstrations.  Far be it for him, he said, to engage in  “witch-hunts” and “chase goblins”.

Nobody knows for sure why Mr. Benkirane didn’t stay true to his promises.  However, I do add my voice to those who suspect that this is a government whose priority is not to deal with social problems at source.

Take the way the Islamist-led government made public the names of Moroccans who had benefited from transport permits, but made no further investigation into why so many were granted permits when they did not qualify for them. 

It seems that the PJD, like all previous Moroccan governments, prefer to combat the consequences of corruption rather than tackle corruption head on. That’s possibly because corruption has become sacrosanct in Morocco!

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