Resignation of two Moroccan ministers stirs debate

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Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane asserted that his government is not facing a crisis despite the resignation of four ministers.

There is more that meets the eye when it comes to the change that occurred in the government of Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. If this change has no impact on the current governing coalition — which includes four parties led by the Justice and Development Party Islamists — the political implications of it reveal its motives and background. The resignation of two ministers must have political motives, even if it is linked to an ethically questionable issue.

The earlier resignation of the ministers of Istiqlal (Independence Party) — who chose to return to the opposition — was based on partisan criticism of the government's performance after it failed to achieve harmony. In other words, it was based on the Independence Party’s different vision regarding the management of public affairs, even if it was encouraged by some partisan motives, as trade union leader Hamid Chabat took over the leadership of the oldest party in the country.

However, the prime minister managed to contain the current crisis and opened up to his former rival, namely the Liberal Rally, to secure a parliamentary majority to serves him for the completion of his mandate, unless last-minute surprises occur.

This time around, the departure of four ministers from the government did not have the same effect. Two of them are affiliated with the Justice and Development Party, while the other two are affiliated with the Amazigh People's Movement. But Benkirane downplayed the impact of this resignation on his government. He described the resignation of two ministers from his party as a good step and stressed that not every resignation should be justified. He added that the media pressure, among “other things,” led them to resign, in reference to the conversion of a marriage desire into a public issue used by important international platforms in light of Morocco’s passing of the family status code, which limits the terms of polygamy.

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In other words, the resignation or release from government functions — even if different from one minister to another — shows the growing impact of public opinion on determining the course of events, be it through the conversion of personal matters to the public, or through the outbreak of scandals related to management irregularities, as was the case with the minister of youth and sports. Obviously, the link between responsibility and accountability goes beyond the legislative institution and reaches into the realm of public opinion, which has strong reactions that can no longer be underestimated.

The so-called Arab Spring has the merit of allowing the public to question those in power, which reflects a positive development. The Moroccan prime minister acknowledged that he thought about submitting his resignation several times, after tragic traffic accidents took place in which innocent people, including children, were killed. A draft decision on the mechanisms for citizens to present petitions and objections is still pending at his office. Some believe this step will be reflected in the people’s open participation in political life, not only through the ballot box, but also through open accountability.

There is no government crisis in Morocco, given the ongoing balance between the majority and the opposition. Rather, there is something closer to “a crisis of conscience” behind the resignation of at least two ministers, while the prime minister did not follow up on a matter that is personal, not political.

Whether these rare government resignations have brought down ethical discourse, or helped strengthen it by removing what can be considered a violation, the agreement on separating political practices from what is religious and moral seemed more obvious. The Justice and Development Party noticed the problems that are caused by its affiliation with Islamic currents. It has clearly announced that it is a political party with Islamic references, not an Islamic party with political references. It was probably driven toward achieving harmony between its ideas and practices by accepting with an open mind the dismissal of two government ministers.

The issue is political, and the details will not change much in the course of the current political experience. Perhaps [the Justice and Development Party] has found in the dismissal of two ministers … a justification for its compliance with the emerging pressures. Given that this comes while the country is approaching the elections, all legitimate and even non-permissible means are used to attract the voters. Between the war on corruption and the preservation of the government performance ethics, the battle is open to all possibilities. At the end of the day, the Justice and Development Party has only lost two compensable portfolios, which is minor compared with other political crises.

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Found in: political parties, moroccan society, moroccan elections, arab spring, abdelilah benkirane
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