Morocco: Reform With the Taste of an Unfinished Business

This post is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests 2011.

After several months of street protests, King Mohammed VI, submitted a draft constitution to a popular referendum on Friday. According to official results, the proposed document received a 98 per cent approval rating, in a poll that drove massive turnout (73%) among registered voters. Supporters of the new constitution celebrate what they say is an important step towards democracy.

The pro-democracy movement which called for a boycott, considers that the new constitution falls short of the protesters’ demands and challenges the results announced by the government. The youth-based February 20 movement, which has been leading the protests for the last four months, denounces a hollow bid to diffuse popular anger.

Moroccans rally for reform. Picture posted on Flickr by Magharebia under a CC Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Moroccans rally for reform. Picture posted on Flickr by Magharebia under a CC Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Never before has the Moroccan blogosphere been so agitated. The heated debate shaking the Moroccan society was reflected online. Some are willing to accept the result and support the reform proposed by the King. Others question the legitimacy of a process, they say, was grossly imbalanced and marred with irregularities.


Blogger Ibn Kafka publishes [fr] this anonymous voter's comment:

Dans l’absolu, j’aurai pu penser « Oui » mais la méthode en soi m’agace, elle clame le « Oui à la nouvelle constitution » sensé représenter le changement, mais tout le processus crie le « Non » , il veut dire pour moi « Nos méthodes sont restées les mêmes, vous avez quinze jours pour avaler 180 articles et les approuver, et surtout n’allez pas croire que quelque chose a changé« .

Pourquoi ai-je le sentiment d’être victime d’une gigantesque mascarade ?

In absolute terms, I would have voted “yes” but the method [of the campaign] itself annoys me. It suggests that the “Yes to the new constitution” is supposed to represent change. But the whole process shouts “No”. It's as if they were telling me that “Our methods have remained the same: You have two weeks to swallow 180 articles and approve them and, more importantly, do not think that something has changed.” 

Why do I feel like the victim of a gigantic farce?

Myrtus, a Dutch-Moroccan, went out on Friday to vote for the first time. She thinks Morocco should be satisfied with what she considers a gradual evolution toward a full-fledged democracy. She writes:

Installing an overnight democracy could possibly destabilize the nation, so I personally prefer the separation of powers in gradual increments as society continues to evolve.
Let's face it, if we were to hold a new election in a few months, it's not like the current crop of politicians are going to magically disappear from the political scene and we'll have a brand new pool of capable, reform minded politicians to choose from.

Hind is a blogger living in northern Morocco. She, as well, cast her vote for the first time. She explains [ar] what motivates her vote:

يوم 01/07/2011 كنت من أوائل المصوتين وأدليت بصوتي على الدستور الجديد. إن الربيع العربي والحراك الشعبي الذي قام به شباب عربي من المحيط إلى الخليج غير المفاهيم وغير نظرت الفرد العربي نحو السياسة, وبما أني واحدة من هدا الشعب تغيرت رؤيتي نحو المشهد السياسي أيضا وبت أشعر أني مكلفة بأن أقوم بدوري كمواطنة في الاختيار السياسي و تبين لي جليا أن المقاطعة هي من بين الأسباب التي أدت إلى وجود مشاكل ووجوه معينة أو اسر معينة تحكم دون غيرها
On July 1, I was among the first to cast my vote. The Arab Spring and the popular movement sweeping the region from the Atlantic to the Gulf, have helped change my approach toward politics. Today I feel like I have the duty to play my part as a citizen in the political choice before us. I think the boycott is one of the reasons behind the problems we experience today, including the control of politics by some families and familiar faces.

Wordsforchange believes the referendum result reveals what she interprets as a gap between the Moroccan elite and “the masses.” She writes:

[T]his 98.5% shows how much the new Moroccan ‘‘elites’’ are isolated in their virtual world and closed circles with people who look exactly like themselves, to the extent that they really believed for a second that the Moroccan masses will revolt. [T]his referendum is a reality check.

Blogger thestrategist is satisfied with the outcome and says political parties should follow suit and adapt to change. He writes:

The real question is now that Moroccan political conscience is alive and well, with this massive turnout, will the political parties be able to follow suit? We might see a major redefinition of the political landscape in Morocco, as youth, also part of this referendum and society will seek to further explore their political options and look for the most representative [political] parties. Old ones are discredited by their reputations. Their leading figures are not very likable, so either a new younger class of leaders will emerge from these parties or they will disappear, since they don't represent anyone but themselves.

Blogger Citoyen Hmida agrees. He thinks it is time to overcome political differences and translate the newly adopted document into reality. He writes [fr]:

Cette nouvelle constitution n’aura de sens que si elle est suivie d’effet : le prochain parlement aura un rôle historique (le mot n’est pas innocent) car il devra voter une pléthore de lois pour rendre viable ce texte fondamental!
Le Maroc est-il prêt à relever le défi ?
Surement, si l’on reste unis!
QUE CHACUN DE NOUS RETROUSSE SES MANCHES ET CONTRIBUE A FAIRE BOUGER CE PAYS! Le temps n’est plus ni aux slogans vides ni aux gesticulations vaines!

Is Morocco ready for the challenge?
Surely, if we remain united!
Surely, if the proponents of the status quo acknowledge that times have changed and that Moroccans want change!
Surely, if we accept that the Moroccans want change with serenity, with no confrontation and no violence!
Let each of us up his/her sleeves and contribute to the betterment of this country! The time is not for empty slogans or vain posturing!

Veteran Moroccan blogger Larbi has been regularly live-reporting from demonstrations in Rabat and Casablanca lately. For the youth-based February 20 movement, he has this to say [fr]:

J’étais honoré et heureux de partager avec eux le combat démocratique à travers plusieurs manifestations, la répression parfois, les intimidations souvent, et tout récemment la haine d’une foule fanatisée par le pouvoir. Certains sont devenus des amis. Et croyez-moi sur parole, ces jeunes gens sont loin de la caricature de monstres haineux qui leur ai donnée par le pouvoir et ses officines. Bien souvent ce sont des jeunes femmes et jeunes hommes de qualité passionnés et aimant leur pays.

I was honored and pleased to share with them the democratic struggle through the various demonstrations I attended. We sometimes faced repression, often intimidation, and most recently the hatred of a fanatic crowd. Some have become friends. And believe me, these young people are far from the caricature of monsters that the power and its agents have been trying to depict. Often they are young, passionate women and men who love their country.

The outcome of the referendum may have delighted some, but it has frustrated many others who think the changes don't go far enough. There is a sense of uncertainty and discouragement among protesters. Larbi sees no reason for despair. He writes [fr]:

Le regard lucide qu’il convient d’avoir sur le référendum du vendredi dernier, ne doit pas nous conduire au découragement et au renoncement. Il n’y a pas de raison à désespérer. Quelque chose s’est définitivement levée le 20 février et ce n’est pas la parodie de consultation référendaire qui peut l’arrêter. Mamfakinch [nous ne lacherons rien] et nous nous battrons !

We should have a lucid reflection on the referendum of last Friday. It should not lead us to despair and resignation. There is no reason to lose hope. Something has definitely raised on February 20 and it's not a parody of a referendum that can stop it. Mamfakinch (We will not give up), we will fight on!

Thousands of democracy supporters took the streets on Sunday, pledging to keep up weekly protests until they get what they see as real reform.

This post is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests 2011.


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