Morocco: When a king defeated radical Islam
Morocco’s ruling Islamist party suffered a crushing defeat in the general election this month. It is considered an important event in Morocco, which played an important role in North Africa during the Arab Spring.
During the Arab Spring, the Development and Justice Party (PJD) was the first Islamic party to come to power after winning electoral victories in large parts of the Middle East. But now its dominance has come down from 125 seats to just 12 seats.
The coming to power of the Islamic Party in Morocco in 2011 was seen as a new beginning. PJD had achieved new heights with time in the country.
The trumpet of revolution was first seen in Tunisia during the Arab Spring. After this, it reached other countries.
Due to this movement, the power of Zain al-Abedin Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mobarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya was snatched. Egypt and Tunisia were ready to change history.
At such a time, the King of Morocco, Mohammed, sensing the wind of change, did those things quickly, so that there was no threat to the power. He dissolved the cabinet and parliament.
To stop the growing opposition, he announced the preparation of a new constitution, promising to take Morocco on a new path.
- change was for show
This proposal proved to be a game changer and 98.5 percent people gave their support to it. The Moroccan emperor wants to share power with the common people, this message also reached the common people.
Looking at the changes demanded by the Arab Spring, but many considered the king’s promise of ‘change’ as a mere show.
In Morocco, where people took to the streets to replace the monarchy, people agreed for a constitutional monarchy.
This means that the monarchy will remain like Britain or the Scandinavian countries, but they will not be able to rule..
However under this process, the emperor retained almost all the powers already held by him even under the new constitution. He continued his control over foreign, defense and security policy.
He also maintained his position as the spiritual leader of the nation. He officially retained himself as the “Commander of the Believers”.
However, this historical description is not used anywhere else today. This claim rests on the premise that the emperor’s lineage is said to be directly related to the Prophet Muhammad.
However, the new constitution assured a fresh start for some sections of the political class, including the PJD. The PJD party took advantage of the opportunity and also benefited from the widespread dissatisfaction with the old political parties.
The emperor and his supporters, who had reluctantly tolerated the Islamists, kept the strings of real power in their grasp and allowed them to gain the edge to complete the democratic mask.
The PJD won 125 seats in the 2016 elections, securing power for the next five years.
- Poison Cup
In the elections held on September 8, the party’s support was expected to be low, but no one expected to get such a crushing defeat. Even the party leader and his deputy had to face defeat, after which they submitted their resignations.
It is too early to find out the reasons for this crushing defeat. But analysts believe that the PJD could not fulfill its election promises, so it had to face defeat.
Analysts say that a party that has both ‘Nyay’ and ‘Vikas’ in its name has failed to accomplish either.
For example, the PJD promised to lift people out of poverty, improve public education and health conditions. But none of this was accomplished. On the contrary, the rich got richer while the poor got poorer.
Furthermore, the party disappointed its supporters by recruiting teachers on two-year contracts, as it deprived people of job security. According to many analysts, this was the first step of privatization in education.
The party could not take the right steps even on the status of the French language in the Moroccan education system. This was a very sensitive issue for a French colony and a country with Arab-Islamic identity. Despite this, the party could not stop the law under which it is necessary to teach science in schools in the French language.
Critics of the party say that after coming to power, his demeanor also became royal. It was said that they too have become like ‘Makhzen’. Moroccans use this terminology to denote the king and powerful courtiers and security agencies.
Some commentators believe that the party’s biggest mistake was to assume responsibility for the government without real power, when the real power was in the hands of the emperor. It was like a cup full of poison.
- Important role in the defeat of the election law
It is also being said that the new electoral law passed by Parliament in March also played an important role in the party’s defeat. It is noteworthy that the new law was not proposed by the PJD party.
Lowering the criteria for smaller parties and a rule counting votes based on all eligible voters, rather than just valid ballots, hurt the party.
The party opposed these changes and considered them unconstitutional, but could not prevent them from being passed in Parliament.
At first glance, it seemed that under the new law, new sections would also be represented and political reforms would be widespread, but this led to a more fragmentation in the political landscape. According to analysts, this was the way the state used to weaken political parties.
- post election status
People have expressed great happiness over the defeat of PJD at the regional level. In Egypt and the Gulf, the party is seen as a Moroccan version of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is a national and international politico-religious movement, considered by many countries to be a “terrorist” organization.
Political analysts are considering the fall of the PJD as the final nail in the coffin of political Islam.
In Morocco, it can be argued that the marginalization of the PJD reflects how the emperor and his courtiers together blunted the edge of the Arab Spring.
But the spark of an accountable government and the desire to control the powers of the emperor is still smoldering within.
The emperor nominated Aziz Akhnouch, the billionaire leader of the National Rally of Independents (RNI), to form the government. This party has got the maximum number of votes. He has said that he will implement the policies of the emperor.
Commenting on the party’s announcement, Moroccan veteran Moroccan journalist Hamid Elmahdoe wrote that all previous prime ministers had said the same thing.
He has questioned with astonishment whether this “polling and election was just a sham”.