North Africa, West Asia

Morocco: time for self assessment in the Palace

Amid the tense political environment in Morocco, now is the time for the Palace to assume its responsibility towards the people.

Hassan Masiky
15 August 2017
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A demonstration in the town of Al-Hoceima, Morocco July 20, 2017. Picture by: YOUSSEF BOUDLAL/Reuters/PA Images. All rights reservedMorocco is like a large boat with small holes. If the captain and the crew do not plug the holes in time and firmly, they will get bigger and the vessel will sink.  

As the social mood in the northern region of the Rif remains tense and the political environment in the rest of the Kingdom stays edgy, now is the time for the Palace to take stock of the state of the nation and assume its responsibility for drafting a plan to meet people’s basic social and political demands.

Hence, for those “officials” who want to protect the Monarchy, there is no way around presenting to the King the extent of the crisis and charting new radical solutions to tackle the ever growing social discontent engulfing the nation.

Since the beginning of the Rif’s protests, Morocco has entered a new political era where all national institutions are targets of criticism. The ruling “elite” can no longer cover up a system riddled with mediocracy, incompetence and impunity without facing a popular backlash.

These new realities coupled with an absence of a credible and popular political leadership have put the Palace in the eye of the storm. After years of discrediting opposition organizations, The Makhzen (a group of elite institutions that govern Morocco) stands alone faced with the task of forging a response to a complicated and potentially volatile socio-economic crisis.

For many Moroccans applauding King Mohammed VI’s last Throne Day speech was a nationalistic duty, particularly in the aftermath of the tensions in the Rif. They want to show support and love for a leader who remains popular and a symbol of unity. However, can these same Moroccans afford to continue discounting the Palace’s role in creating a political and social atmosphere where countless citizens feel abandoned and ignored by a “fake” political leadership that seeks Royal approval over popular accountability? 

Many Moroccans do not doubt their King’s sincerity. They believe his stated calls to hold the politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, judges and security officials accountable. The dilemma arises when the public understands the Royal directives to clean house but does not see any results.

The average Moroccan is losing trust and faith in a system that turns a blind eye to widespread and blatant corruption and illegal self-enrichment of bureaucrats and local elected officials. The Moroccan government has yet to show that in fact an anti-corruption purging ever happened. In fact, with few exceptions, the same public faces and names who put the nation in this predicament remain in high positions running the same schemes.

It is hard to blame the public for feeling disheartened when some of the personalities whom the King criticized in his speech were either appointed or “placed” by people close to the Palace. The problem resides in a system that puts loyalty before aptitude.

Actually, The King has called in the past for a similar review of the performance of public officials. However, these investigations rarely led to a persecution or imprisonment unless the target has fallen out of favor with someone close to the Palace. This lack of accountability is hurting the standing of the Royal institution and driving a wedge between the public and the King.

Several of the high-ranking officials who make name recommendations to the King for key positions chose fiends, loyalists and family over qualifications. Because of this flaw process, various personalities holding key functions are incompetent and unfitting for the jobs they hold. Hence, it will be hard to go after such protected “elite” despite King Mohammed’s best efforts.

Attracting and keeping competent and conscientious talent remain elusive in many quarters of the Moroccan government and the public sector where cronyism and nepotism is prevailing. It remains difficult for the honest public servants to remain employed as they either join “the rest” or leave for the private sector or overseas. For the ones who would denounce irregularities, staying away from public service is the answer.

In the name of protecting the Monarchy, elements close to the Palace have gutted the country of opposition leaders, independent political parties, nonpartisan non-government organizations, autonomous social organisms and a true independent press.

It has been visibly evident from the recent failure to address the riots in the Rif and the increase in social and political opposition that the King is not being served by some of the people close to him. This current group of governing officials has set up a nepotistic hierarchy that has been serving them well but has hurt the Royal institution.

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Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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