Saturday, July 20, 2013

... and Morocco

From The Financial Times, 16 July:

  Morocco’s experience shows the persistence of the so-called deep state in Arab nations.
  Ostensibly, an elected government led by a populist Islamist political party shares power with the scion of a monarchical dynasty that dates back to the Middle Ages. But the king, the royal court and the security forces – collectively referred to as the makhzen – still hold sway over critical economic and policy matters.
  [... King Mohamed VI, who came to the throne in 1999,] liberalised the nation’s politics, allowing press freedom and launching a truth commission to assess the crimes of his father’s regime.
  Despite the economic reforms, substantive political change stalled after a few years. Just as in other Arab countries, shadowy figures in the deep state and security establishment feared their various privileges were under threat. The king’s zeal for reform threatened the makhzen.
  [... Following the 2011 Arab uprisings] rather than crack down on protesters with teargas and truncheons, authorities granted demonstration permits. Within weeks of the protests, the king said he would present a revised constitution. The document granted parliament more power, the courts greater independence and the prime minister added responsibilities.
  A crucial provision mandated that the king could choose a prime minister only from the biggest party in parliament. Crucially, the king retained authority over vital national security institutions and foreign policy.
  Banking on the king’s popularity, liberal and secular parties close to the royal court banded together in a general election for a new parliament and government based on the new constitution. In a stunning upset they lost to Mr Benkirane’s party [the PJD, the Justice and Development party..] His hand forced by his own constitution, King Mohamed chose [..] Mr Benkirane as the premier [..]  Lacking a majority of seats, the PJD formed a government with the Istiqlal party and two smaller leftist groupings.
  Tensions between Mr Benkirane and the country’s established order emerged immediately. The party imposed new rules on state television, demanding contracts be put out to tender. They cracked down on judges, government officials, educators and medical workers who drew pay even if they rarely showed up at work. They barred doctors earning state salaries from taking on private sector work.
  The new government’s publication of the names of those who had received licences to operate buses and dig sand from beaches for building materials caused a stir.
  “This was interpreted by the regime as a threat to a pillar of the regime,” says [Karim] Tazi [a businessman and political activist who publishes the weekly political magazine TelQuel]. “The regime was exceptionally angry. No one in 50 years had dared to do this. These are the favours the regime gives to its cronies.”
 
  The king countered the PJD’s rise by establishing a team of royal advisers who serve as a shadow cabinet. When the king wanted to protest about the US report on human rights in western Sahara he humiliated Saadedine Othmani, the foreign minister, by sending one of his own advisers to Washington instead.
  Last week Abdelhamid Chabat, Istiqlal’s leader, triggered the crisis consuming Morocco by announcing the resignation of its ministers over Mr Benkirane’s unilateral style.  
  Few believe the party would threaten to take so drastic a decision as to wreck the government without first gaining a nod of approval from King Mohamed [..]
 Morocco: Dance with the deep state  ..

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