Morocco: Glass half empty

Morocco: Glass half empty
Comment: Since coming to power, Benkirane has focused more on public image than on modernising the system of governance.
4 min read
02 Apr, 2015
Benkirane has been prime minister of Morocco for three years [Anadolu]
More than three years have passed since the Justice and Development Party [PJD] came to power in Morocco on the back of the Arab uprisings that swept the region.

The election loosened the political noose wrapped around Morocco's neck, gradually dragging the kingdom into the club of soft tyranny.

Although three years have gone by, Abdelilah Benkirane, the "moderate Islamist" prime minister, has clearly been busy.

He has not, however, focused on modernising the system of governance or providing insurances there will be no return to the past. The prime minister has focused on normalising his party's relations with the royal palace and the deep state, to overcome many years of misunderstanding between the Islamists and the royal court.

This friction is understandable, after what happened to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and due to the rise of counter-revolutionaries across the region.

"Normal" relations between the government and the deep state can be seen as the oil that makes the political engine run smoothly. However, if schmoozing the power structures becomes the main aim of politicians, it does little to advance the human rights of other political and social issues.

Benkirane has also been busy balancing the state's budget, reducing the budget deficit and public debt, and reviewing fuel and basic commodity subsidies inherited from the previous government.

This preoccupation is also understandable, or rather necessary, because the financial health of the state is part of its economic independence and political stability.

However, the government's limited actions to patch up the economy without providing a complete development plan or structured programmes has made the government more of a technocracy than a politically elected leadership.

Pushing populism

Benkirane has also been busy maintaining his party's strength, expanding its influence, and increasing its popularity by closely communicating with people in their language. However, if political publicity is part of political work then decisions should not be replaced with communication, action with words and reality with a picture.

     Corruption is like a virus - if you do not kill it, it kills you.

The head of government is trying to compensate for what he has lacks in public policy by communicating with the public.

For example, he has stopped fighting state corruption in courts, and has resorted to denouncing it in words and launching media campaigns against corrupt officials without naming them or blocking their interests.

Benkirane has been careful to keep his hands and the hands of his ministers clean in government. He has been trying to do this because he knows the public is sensitive to corruption, especially political corruption.

However, he has not been able to turn this concern into any concrete plans to combat corruption and monopolisation of the market. His efforts not to clash with decision-making centres has made him a spectator to the massive amounts of corruption gnawing at the state.

He has told the public he is fighting corruption when in fact he is not. However, corruption is like a virus - if you do not kill it, it kills you.

Limited progress

Benkirane's concerns do not include, for example, full respect for human rights, freedom of press and speech and setting up institutions or establishing the pillars of the state: rights, law and an independent judiciary.

He has not reformed the security services or its administration, nor turned the interior ministry from a political institution into an administrative institution, nor applied the Moroccan constitution in its entirety.

He has not modernised the system of governance so that it is gradually brought closer to European monarchies, where the monarchs sit on the throne and do not rule the country.

These are big, complex projects that take time, patience, intelligence and willpower - and are the resposibility of all political parties, not just the government. But there needs to be signs that these demands are on Morocco's political agenda.

Attention needs to be drawn to the fact that, if the achievements of this government - which came to power in exceptional circumstances - are not recorded in a democratic legacy, they will be easy to erase from history.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.