Morocco’s Tamarod Movement Slow to Catch On

While Moroccans have launched their own Egyptian-style Tamarod movement aimed at bringing down the government of Abdelilah Benkirane, many are hesistant to jump on board.

al-monitor Moroccan "February 20" movement activists shout slogans, demanding "freedom and dignity" and wave banners during a demonstration in Rabat Jan. 20, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Stringer.

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tamarod, salafist, justice and development party (pjd), justice

Aug 1, 2013

Since the dazzling success of the Tamarod movement in Egypt, several Arab countries — including Syria, Tunisia and even Morocco — have followed its lead. Born unexpectedly in the wake of the deposition of former President Mohammed Morsi, the Tamarod movement in Morocco seems to have copied and pasted the demands of the Egyptian movement in its call for the fall of the Islamist government, led by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). For now, with only 1,400 “likes” on its Facebook page, the movement does not yet seem to have lured in the crowds.

Who are they?

“We are mostly former militants of the February 20 Movement (M20). After 2011, we learned some lessons and achieved critical work in light of the failures of the M20. We decided to launch a more organized movement more than a year ago,” affirmed Mehdi, who preferred to be identified with a pseudonym. He introduced himself as one of the 11 founding members of M20.

“It is true that he [Mehdi] belonged to the movement and fought there. I also remember that he was among us during the drafting of demands in the Moroccan Association of Human Rights section in Rabat, but he was not the most active in the movement,” retorted a member of the M20.

Mehdi is also a militant in the Democratic Socialist Vanguard Party (PADS), which is at the left end of the political spectrum and is not represented in parliament. According to Mehdi, there are six founders of the Tamarod movement, and they are unemployed graduates or young people from PADS.

He noted, “The party has nothing to do with this initiative. Moreover, the general secretary of youth for PADS does not support us at the moment.”

Youth from the United Socialist Party (PSU), the Party of Progress and Socialism and the trade unionists of the Democratic Labor Organization joined Tamarod, in addition to activists from the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) like Brahim Essafi or Taoufiq Motia.

Both Essafi and Motia are known for having fought in the M20, but also for being close to Driss Lachgar, the first secretary of the USFP. At first glance, the Tamarod movement in Morocco looks like a front for leftist parties — a kind of anti-Islamist coalition.

“For now, we are ready to hold discussions with the leftist parties and with the two unauthorized parties — Al Umma and al-Badil al-Hadari — while remaining independent. Yet, it is out of the question to hold talks with Al Adl Wal Ihsane, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), the National Rally of Independents or Istiqlal,” said Mehdi.

Moreover, the Tamarod movement in Morocco’s Facebook page violently criticizes the former government of Abbas el-Fassi. Yet, the PAM youth will hold direct negotiations with Tamarod so that some activists get integrated in the movement. The son of Ilias el-Omari has reportedly joined Tamarod — a piece of information unconfirmed by Omari.

“My son is 22 years-old, and he does whatever he wants. I am not in the know on anything,” he said. As for Omari’s son himself, he remained unreachable.

What do they want?

Several branches have been established in Casablanca, Tangier, Ouarzazate and Rabat. The Rabat branch has the most members at 24.

“In Egypt, it all started with 20 people too. Through hard fieldwork, they were able to mobilize 33 million people,” claimed Mehdi. However, the difference is that in less than a month, Tamarod Egypt had more than 230,000 fans on Facebook, and the Egyptian political context has little in common with Morocco's. Morsi had established a draconian constitution and had full powers. We cannot say the same thing for Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.

“The PJD is a reactionary and populist party. The country is facing a very serious economic and social crisis and the government is not moving a finger,” said Amar Elouafi, a spokesman for the movement, which is defined as “progressive and democratic.”

“Even with the lack of flexibility, the PJD has accepted to be tamed,” Mehdi added.

In addition to wanting the fall of Benkirane’s government, Tamarod has also called for a revision of the constitution, in addition to a parliamentary monarchy and secularism.

“We are also anti-capitalists, open to pan-Arabism and in favor of the recognition of the Amazigh identity. We are in constant contact with Tamarod Egypt, and we are even thinking of creating a secular leftist front across the Arab world,” Mehdi noted.

Still, his comrades spend more time ranting about Islamists than discussing anti-liberalism, social justice or parliamentary monarchy. One must practically worm these issues out of them.

“Unlikely as it is, we want to bring down the government and re-open the constitutional debate. If it does not fall because of us, it will fall after the reform of the compensation fund,” Mehdi said.

For this reason, Tamarod is counting on reaching out to the popular classes and conducting long-term activist work.

“The leaflets are finished. We're going to see people on the ground, hold public artistic events and open our platform to all those seeking discussion. We will take our time, and within 10 or 12 years, I'm sure a true progressive leftist government will reach power,” announced Mehdi.

Who is supporting them?

Figures like Said Saadi, a former Party of Progress and Socialism minister, or Abdellah Saaf, a political scientist and former minister of the PSD, which merged with the USFP, in addition to certain members of the Democratic Labor Organization, have shown their support for Tamarod. The movement has also been favored by the USFP, at least by Hamid Jmahri, a member of the political bureau.

“I spoke to some of the movement’s members. I'm on their side, and I appreciated the modus operandi of the Tamarod movement in Egypt. It is a movement that we need, and it does not see itself as being better than the M20,” Jmahri said. He added that there is no need to carry out a reform of the constitution. “We simply have to implement the 2011 constitution,” he said.

Last week, Al Ittihad Al Ichtiraki, the USFP's official daily newspaper, published a statement by Tamarod. Moreover, it published a report similar to police reports on some members of the M20 a few days ago. What strange timing …

For its part, PAM adopts a very cautious approach. MP Mehdi Bensaid said, “I have very little information at the moment. I guess that they are not very organized, even though I have already been contacted by a member of the Tamarod movement. If their demands are legitimate and reasonable, we can take a stance.”

The same cautious approach is adopted by the PSU. Nabila Mounib, PSU secretary general, also wants to hear more about this movement. Mounib, who believes that Morocco missed an opportunity for change in 2011, is ready to support any peaceful movement advocating change.

The Moroccan Tamarod movement called for a march on August 17. This call is taken very seriously by the Interior Ministry. If the idea of ​​a unified leftist front may be attractive, the organization of the movement remains very vague. Many believe that Tamarod was created with the objective of putting a spoke in the wheel of the PJD, which has already been weakened by the government crisis. Others believe that the movement’s intentions were sincere. Yet, there is a big risk that it will be hijacked. After all, few are those who believed in Morocco’s M20 from the beginning.

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