What the media do not show about what happens in Morocco

9 August 2011 by Jawad Moustakbal

" The real democratic progress is not to lower
the elite to the crowd level, but to
raise the crowd to the elite "- Gustave
Le Bon -“Yesterday and Tomorrow

After the Hassanian [1] referendum result of 98.5% for the new constitution, announced the beginning of this month of July 2011, the Moroccan regime celebrated its so-called “victory”, achieved when the ”majority” of Moroccan people supposedly said “Yes” to the King’s constitution. The King presented a constitution on the 17th June 2011 and submitted it to voting less than 10 days before the referendum date. Ten days were deemed sufficient by the regime for its 50% illiterate population to master the 180 articles. Ten days were also deemed sufficient by the regime to discuss this new constitution that is, in the words of the King himself “for the first time in the history of our country, made by Moroccans, and for all Moroccans".

The regime was quick to declare victory over its islamic and leftists opponents ignoring the large scale public protests against this manipulated referendum. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have taken to the streets of more than 114 cities since last 20th February. In the face of these protests, the regime’s henchmen did not hesitate to bring onto the streets, in so called support, some hundreds of poor citizens, taking advantage of their material and moral misery, itself the result of the regime’s own policies for over half a century.

Western governments and most of their so called independent media wasted no time in sharing the Moroccan government’s ecstasy and fully accepted the official version. They easily and quickly believed the incredible result of 98.5%. A result worthy of the most backward “banana republic”!

 Violations, which preceded the referendum process

Those who objectively followed the referendum process can not ignore the large number of electoral violations. Among these we may mention; urging voters to vote “yes”, including in the king’s speech of 17 June, itself. What can be considered as pre-poll rigging. in addition to demonstrations organized by the authorities in several cities to express “people happiness” with the new project even before the speech had come to its end. Demonstrations covered by all official TV channels along with the announcing of a national consensus, even before allowing citizens to give their opinion about the King’s constitution. This was a flagrant violation of the democratic norms they mention every day! Another violation is the undemocratic time sharing for interventions in the public media. A democratic methodology requires the equal sharing of the presentation time to those in favour and those against and not giving equal time to all registered political parties and trade unions as they did. This is especially true when most of those organizations are rallied to the monarchy and obeyed its orders. They cannot claim to represent the Moroccan people, especially after the shameful 2007 parliamentary elections, where all these parties together, in spite of all their official funding, could not attract the votes of more than 23 % of Moroccans.

Figures of the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior: another reading is possible

A set of objective indicators lead us to question the figures given by the Minister of Interior Mr “Cherkaoui”.

- First, the management and monitoring task of the entire referendum process was given to the same staff of the Interior Ministry who was responsible for the fabrication and falsification of all previous elections particularly during the reign of Hassan II.

- Second, the absence of any independent control organization in the polls. Some testimonies on youtube show the seriousness of the offenses and the blatant nonconformity that marked this consultation, including the methods of counting and control of the number of voters [2].

- Third, the false distribution of voter cards. In some cases the voter cards were distributed with the names of deceased persons!

Despite all this, I will try to give a different reading of those figures announced by the Interior Minister in an exceptional press conference [3] where he only read a prepared statement and excluded reporters’ questions.

According to the minister, out of total 13.5 million registered voters, almost 10 million voted, which means a participation rate of 73.46 per cent. The same source announced that 98.5 percent of the participant’s voted for the new constitution. The government and official media would have us believe that 98.5 percent of Moroccan people are for the new constitution. However, a more rigorous and careful calculation shows that this rate barely exceeds the 40 per cent even based on their very dubious figures.

Indeed, in a total estimated population of 32 million inhabitants, 65% are over 18 years, and are therefore potential voters. The total number of Moroccans eligible to vote in the referendum was 23 millions, including those living outside the country [4]. This number should be the basis for calculating any percentage of participation; including those who supported, those who opposed and, those who boycotted.
If it is difficult to announce that all who did not vote, boycotted the referendum as a political position conscious of the absence of elementary democratic conditions in the whole process, starting with a constitution drafting committee appointed by the King and not elected by the people, we cannot accept a government logic that ignores the millions of Moroccan citizens who preferred not to participate.

Media: once again a tool of propaganda for the regime!

Maroccan media, as usual, became a propaganda tool in the hands of the regime, showing looping images of crowds supposedly happy about this recognition and the fresh “consensus” around the king’s new national constitution.

Unfortunately, many international TV channels simply retransmitted these images, and did not bother to verify the figures, adopting the official version.
Among these we find the famous Al Jazeera which has accepted the official version to the letter. This put into question the professionalism and credibility of this channel, especially after the adoption of the double standards policy it maintained in its coverage of the revolutionary process underway in the Arab region. This policy confirms popular suspicions that a deal might have been concluded between, The state of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States in order to undermine and ignore the latest developments in such countries as Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan and put more light on others, such as Syria, Yemen and Libya...

These suspicions are even stronger after the visit of the Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi to the state of Qatar on February 25, five days after the start of demonstrations in Morocco and the return of the Qatari channel to Morocco a few days before the referendum date. It is also useful to mention that Al jazeera had been banned in Morocco since October 2010.

What the media do not show about what happens in Morocco

What the national as well as international media do not show is the large scale public demonstrations that have not stopped growing since February 20, led by the movement with same name, “The February 20 movement”.

Contrary to the official version, Morocco is no exception and Moroccan citizens and activists are as eager for freedom and dignity as their brothers in the Arab region. Thanks to the enormous sacrifices made by the Moroccan militants for more than half a century, some civil liberties have improved compared to what was happening in neighboring countries especially in Tunisia.

The propaganda spread about Morocco seeks to present it as more advanced than the developing countries and other countries in the Arab region, the following chart shows that this is not the case. The pseudo-advances credited to the “king of the poor” [5] Mohamed VI since his accession to the throne in 1999 has not permitted Morocco to achieve the average level of human development of the other Arab countries.

As far as Democracy is concerned nothing fundamental has changed with the new constitution. It is no more than an eye wash, it gives nothing to the people. The King, remains ’commander of the faithful’ and still holds all powers. For example Article 47 says; The King will appoint the Head of Government. On the proposal of the Head of Government, he will appoint the members of the government. The King may, at his option, and after consulting the Head of Government, terminate the appointment of one or more members of the government.

Similarly the Article 51 gives power to the King to dissolve one or both Houses of Parliament in accordance with Articles 96, 97 and 98. The Article 54 creates a Supreme Council of Security to be presided by the king. This high powered council is a forum for dialogues on strategies for the country’s internal and external security including the management of crisis situations.

The Article 56 Names the King as chairman of the Higher Council of the Judiciary, while Article 57 bestows on him the power to approve the appointment of judges, proposed by the Superior Council of the Judiciary. 

Article 52 states “The King may send messages to the nation and Parliament. The messages are read in front of one and the other house and cannot be discussed

All these articles, and others, demonstrates how the king will continue to ensure the concentration of all powers: executive, legislative, judicial, security and military!! [6]
On another hand, demonstrations are still organized every week by the youth of “February 20 movement” in the 4 corners of the country where the demonstrators chant, full throat, slogans:

- Rejecting the King’s constitution
- Demanding more freedom
- Challenging impunity for economic crimes
- Calling for jobs and a dignified life for all
- Calling for free public services for everyone and ask multinationals “VEOLIA” and “SUEZ” to leave the country
- Asking friends of the King “El himma” and “almajidi” to get out (“Dégage” in French)

The Moroccan regime has tried and failed, to quell the movement by repression, causing many victims in several cities. It is now using “thugs” and “Baltaji” [7] who resort to such tactics as recruiting among the poorest to organize festivities at the same times and places chosen by the young of “20 February movement” to make their protest marches. These festivities remind us of those events organized during the reign of Hassan II, when the poor, gathered in tents, were sent to officially organized festivities to express their “joy” on ’Throne day’.

The regime not only asks the imams to make propaganda in its favor in the mosques but also to organize marches to counter the public protesters.

No surrender to the dictatorship of the “lesser evil”

In his brilliant paper in “Le Monde Diplomatique [8], Serge Halimi shows how the U.S. Administration, decades ago, adopted a “curse” theory designed by an American academic, Jeane Kirkpatrick. According to this theory “pro-Western "authoritarian regimes were in fact always better and easier than the reformed ones that might replace them”.

Today 30 years later, there is no need to show the absolute failure of this theory of “Dictatorship of the lesser evil”. Moreover, what is certain is that this theory has cost not only the lives of many activists and opponents of dictatorial regimes supported by Western governments, but also caused years of underdevelopment and misery for the peoples of these countries.

We in Morocco, like several times in the past, once again find ourselves on a crossroad. We have to choose; either continue to fight for real democracy or opt for the easiest choice, which is simply the most cowardly, and accept the crumbs of so-called democratic change granted by the regime under pressure from the street and in a typical situation when the Arab region is in a stiff grip of revolutionary fervor.
The youth of “February 20 movement” have already made their choice to continue their historic struggle until total satisfaction of their political, economic and social demands.

Our history is unfortunately full of missed appointments; will we be able, this time, to reverse this trend?

By Jawad Moustakbal (ATTAC/CADTM-Morocco)
Reviewed by Abdul Khaliq Shah (CADTM-Pakistan), Virginie de Romanet (CADTM Belgium) and Mike Krolikowski (CADTM France)
30 July 2011


[1Reference to King Hassan II who ruled Morocco with an iron fist for 38 years.

[2“Ali Bouabid” a leader of the USFP, left-wing party that participates in the government,, yet strong supporter of yes, expressed his bitterness about the conditions of illegal voting. He wrote on his Facebook page, just after voting: “I come to vote. I put my voting card. I wonder if we should verify my identity. I was told”we do not do that.“Found my name on the lists. We put a cross in front of my name. I vote. I wonder if I have to sign, I was told” we do not do that “. I say, but you can put as many crosses in place of those who did not come to vote, since no signature is required!”

[3Exceptional conference that confirm the “Moroccan exception” mentioned all the time by the regime and his friendly governments. Read in this regard the testimony of the journalist “Salah Lamaizi” on his Facebook page under the title:« Le Maroc des petits rois » (In French)

[4According to the official website of the Moroccans living aboard at the following address: http://www.marocainsdumonde.gov.ma their number is around 3,2 million, I have considered that the percentage of who are over 18 is the same as in morocco, 65%

[5Nicknamed “king of the poor”, In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked him in seventh place of the richest monarchs in the world with a fortune that has multiplied by five since 2000 and estimated at 2.5$ billion. We can also read on forbes website http://www.forbes.com : “Palace’s reported operating budget exceeds $960,000 a day; much of it spent on clothes and car repairs.”

[6For more details see: “How progressive is morocco monarch’s proposed constitutional change? Not very” on mamfakinch.com website.

[7« baltaji » is the name given by people in all Arab region to describe the miserable thugs taking to the streets to defend the existing system and attack the militants.
Often the system recruit these “Baltaji” among criminals. the name is of Egyptian origin but today it is adopted by all peoples of the region

[8«L’impossible arrive» Serge Halimi, Le Monde Diplomatique February 2011 (In French)

Jawad Moustakbal

Attac/Cadtm Morocco.

Jawad Moustakbal is the country coordinator in Morocco for the International Honors Programme: “Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy” at the School of International Training (SIT) in Vermont, USA. He has worked as a project manager for several companies including OCP, the Moroccan State phosphates company. Jawad is also an activist for social and climate justice, he is member of the national secretariat of ATTAC/CADTM Morocco, and a member of the shared secretariat of the international Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts. He holds a degree in Civil Engineering from EHTP in Casablanca.

Other articles in English by Jawad Moustakbal (9)



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