Moroccan Opposition: Government Reforms So Far Have Failed

Article Summary
In an interview with Azzaman, the leader of the Moroccan Istiqlal Party, Hamid Chabat, questions the success of reforms implemented by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.

Hamid Chabat, the secretary-general of the Moroccan Istiqlal Party, noted that the awaited cabinet reshuffle has to be comprehensive in terms of political platform, planning and its components. Chabat explained that this change must not be a mere reshuffle, but rather an attempt to make a success of the Moroccan governmental experience, which currently sets an example in the Arab world.

Chabat called on Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane to reconsider his positions in order to ensure a successful governmental experience. In the same context, Chabat revealed some secrets about the victory the Istiqlal Party achieved in the struggle for change, when it explicitly announced [its choice] for internal democracy and adopting the policy of consulting people and lending an ear to the pulse of the public. While waiting for King Mohammed VI to intervene, Azzaman interviewed Chabat about the governmental crisis. Below is the full transcript of the interview:

Azzaman:  What are your expectations from the royal arbitration and its results concerning your decision to withdraw from the government?

Chabat:  First, the Istiqlal Party’s decision [to withdraw] was aimed at accelerating the pace of the government’s work and ensuring the success of this experience, which has become a model that is seen by the world as a product of political reform. Morocco has become a model for reform, unlike other Arab Spring countries, which — until this point, after two and a half years — are still undergoing conflicts and struggling with the issue of arms that found their way to each and every house. The war has been ongoing since 2011. This is why we wanted to make the Moroccan model successful.

Then, after meeting with the four parties that make up the coalition government and noting that the majority lacked dialogue among themselves, openness toward the opposition and societal dialogue, we [began to] doubt that this experience could succeed. The Moroccan people have great expectations; the unemployed, the students, the jurists, the entrepreneurs and everyone else are waiting for tangible results. Until now, I believe that the government has not implemented genuine reforms. Thus, we have started questioning — in light of this experience — the performance that is characterized by a monopolization of action and decision-making. We also questioned the ability of the Istiqlal Party to keep its electoral promises made on Nov. 25, 2011.

When the answer was negative, the National Council decided to hold dialogue based on the Moroccan constitution that stipulates a separation of powers. According to this principle, the government, the parties and the monarch each have different responsibilities. Therefore, we referred to Article 42 [Article 42 stipulates that "The king is the Supreme Arbiter of all state institutions, and pays great attention to the sound performance of constitutional bodies" — Ed.] of the constitution when hope in Article 47 — which was expected to solve the issue by entitling the prime minister to interfere — was lost. We proposed a cabinet reshuffle to the prime minister, and by reshuffle we do not mean a mere replacement of ministers but rather a comprehensive change pertaining to political platform, planning and components. However, during the course of five months, the prime minister did not adopt any measure. Therefore, we decided to resort to Article 42, according to which the king is the mediator between the institutions.

Since the government is a constitutional institution, the king is, therefore, entitled to serve as an arbitrator. When the decision was made to adopt Article 42 of the constitution, King Mohammed VI phoned the secretary-general of the Istiqlal Party and demanded that the ministers of the party continue fulfilling their duties so as to ensure the continuity of the state that is represented by the government. We favor this view, because, in any case, the Istiqlal Party does not seek obstruction as much as it wishes to draw attention, accelerate the pace of action, and solve the economic hardships and the moral problem within the government. This is why we responded to the call and are drafting the memorandum — which will also be discussed — to present to the king.

Azzaman:  The administrative court in Rabat recently issued a decision in favor of the unemployed, who signed a well-known memorandum dubbed “the July 20 memorandum.” What is your opinion on the government’s refusal to implement the decision to hire the unemployed?

Chabat:  The decision of the administrative court was in favor of the unemployed. We feel sorry that the government appealed. Such an act is dangerous and adds fuel to the fire. We consider this memorandum to be legal. The government, from an ethical point of view, must fulfill its promises. The unemployed and others ensure the continuity of the state and its institutions. The goal of the Istiqlal Party is to achieve success in this experience, whether through the four-party alliance or any other alliance. The Istiqlal Party has been and will always be a national party that defends the Moroccan people, inside and outside the government. This is why we are ready for all possible scenarios.

Azzaman:  There was not a single battle that you did not win. What are your expectations for this one? Did the Arab Spring and Morocco deviate from the [straight and narrow] path when they supported the Muslim Brotherhood and the Justice and Development Party?

Chabat:  We have lived a real Arab Spring within the Istiqlal Party, given the change it underwent. The winds of change will find their way to the government in order to make the experience led by the king and the Moroccan people a successful one. Success can only be achieved through strong political parties, which cannot exist without internal democracy.

The Istiqlal Party chose internal democracy, the policy of consulting the people, and listening carefully to the Moroccans and the pulse of the public. Such a choice can only usher in success. Chabat and the Istiqlal Party do not engage in a battle unless the results are definite. Why is that? Because we have been sending warnings for six months and we now have the right to take such a decision. During the first session the party held on Jan. 11, 2013, we announced that the national council would tackle the issue of staying or withdrawing from the government during the ordinary session. And so it happened, we waited for 15 days, because the session was held on May 11. We were right, and whomever is right must fiercely defend their rights in order to triumph — God willing, we will. Our victory is the victory of democracy as well. This is the new policy every party must adopt within this country. We will triumph for the sake of the Moroccan people.

Azzaman:  How could the misunderstanding within the government coalition be overcome, especially between the Party of Progress and Socialism and the Communist Party?

Chabat:  There is no misunderstanding; this matter is related to the prime minister. I said it to him before: If the government fails, the failure is that of the prime minister and vice versa. The key player is Benkirane, who must work on holding a serious dialogue with the government coalition. He must thoroughly listen to everyone and stop acting as a party leader instead of a prime minister. This is the message I address to Benkirane.  

Found in: opposition, morocco, moroccan king, government

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