North Africa

Latest News



Moroccans protest against Islamist government

Moroccans have taken to the streets to protest against the country’s Islamist-led government for failing to deliver on campaign promises, according to AFP.
Rights groups, trade unionists and the February 20 protest movement led thousands of demonstrators in Casablannca, Rabat, Marrakesh and the port city of Tangiers, who chanted anti-corruption slogans, denounced the sharp rise in prices and called for the release of jailed activists.
Slogans were also heard criticizing Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and King Mohammed VI, the country’s sitting monarch.
Activists are also angry about the cost of petrol, which jumped by 20 percent in June, especially in light of the fact the government cut subsidies – a move that drove up the cost of food and other basic goods.
According the World Bank, 30 percent of Moroccans between 15 and 29 are unemployed.

Morocco experienced similar Arab Spring protests as the ones that erupted in Egypt and Tunisia. In all three countries the demonstrations culminated in democratically-elected governments dominated by Islamists. However, Morocco’s Arab Spring seemed like but a moment, before its leaders pursued political reform.
As Foreign Policy’s James Traub has noted, Morocco never possessed a virulently anti-colonial sentiment like other former possessions of the British Empire and Mohammed V, grandfather of the current king, chose a pro-Western, free-market path. The country's dependence on tourism, as well its own cultural diversity, has ensured a very friendly welcome to outsiders. There is generally little tumult internally or with outsiders. Traub spells this out succinctly:
"If Turkey's policy is "zero problems with neighbors," Morocco's is "zero problems with anyone."
Some argue that "the February 20 Movement” simply accelerated pre-existing plans to rewrite a new constitution. Even staunch activists concede that Moroccans' genuine reverence for the monarchy curbed the force and reach of the protests.
In addition, the monarch devolved more power than necessary in the new constitution, which makes the prime minister "chief of government", allows the government to control domestic policy and allows parliament to create all laws. The document also enumerates a comprehensive list of individual rights, similarly found in European constitutions.
However, the ruling party has yet to pass any of the organic laws required to put the constitution into effect and protesters believe the corrupt elite has retained many of its privileges. The bottom line is, as Traub suggests: “Moroccans may increasingly find themselves balancing their reverence for the king with their frustration at their lot.”
Don't Miss