The Moroccan paradox

Country’s Islamist-led government caught in deep crisis of consensus, yet Morocco remains hailed as political ‘model’.

“Morocco is a country of stability and opportunities.”

That’s how Spain’s King Juan Carlos I summed up the country while addressing a panel of Moroccan and Spanish businessmen here in Rabat on Tuesday.

Nizar Baraka, the country’s finance minister, was amongst the panel listening to the king. Baraka has just resigned from the government led by Abdelilah Benkiran, the leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD).

The resignation, yet to be accepted, was not a personal act. He was forced to tender it by his party, the Istiqlal [Independence] Party, along with four of his colleagues.

The resignations are the latest chapter of a political drama that has been shaking Morocco’s political scene since last May.

It’s yet another Moroccan paradox: the government is witnessing its worst political crisis since the ratifying of a new constitution in 2011, but it’s still hailed as a model to be followed in the troubled Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

Benkiran is taking his time in referring the Istiqlal ministers’ resignations to King Mohammed VI. On Wednesday, he told the kingdom’s senate that he will do it whenever it suits him, ignoring protests by opposition MPs. Defying them, he asserted that the constitution gives him the right to take his time.

Moussawi Ajlaoui, a political scientist from the University of Rabat, confirms Benkiran’s interpretation of the constitution. Ajlaoui says, however, that the prime minister is only buying time in his quest to find a new political ally, in order to save his parliamentary majority.

At the end of the day, Benkiran knows he has no choice but to accept the resignations. He also knows that nobody in the Moroccan regime wants to see the other option: early elections.

Professor Ajlaoui says calling for early elections would be a political mistake by Benkiran. In doing so, the Islamist Prime Minister will confirm the analysis about the Islamist movement’s inability to lead a government. It will, he argues, look like an echo of the ongoing failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ennahda movement in Tunisia to be able to create consensus around their election wins.

In the same senate session, the prime minister was also defiant about the early elections option: He told MPs he was not afraid to call for an early poll, but that no-one – including the king’s supporters, political parties or businessmen – wanted that option exercised.

Pollsters say the results of early elections wouldn’t be different from the November 2011 elections. Analysts say the PJD would once again lead in any electoral race. Thus the King will have to pick – once again – the Islamist leader Benkiran as prime minister, who will have to embark on a new political marathon to try and form a government.

What about ordinary Moroccans, though? Do they care about the crisis in government? The answer is: not really. Ordinary people know the key to Morocco’s stability remains behind the old walls of the Royal Palace, in downtown Rabat . . . those walls house both the royal seat of power, and the office of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkiran.

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