by Ismail Houssaini
A respectable number of my fellow citizens as well as a large number of Morocco’s political experts around the world seem to have reached a consensus about the fact that Morocco is an island of stability in an ocean of bloody revolutions. An old monarchy controls it, with an experience of over 400 years of power that has withstood Ottoman, French and Spanish invaders, gaining both legitimacy and respect from its subjects.
We may add that the monarchy system unified Moroccan ethnic groups around the king. Therefore, Arab, Berber and Jewish cultures were merged, creating what is called “an inspired synergetic lifestyle.”
Many conclude that the “Land of the Sunset” should therefore keep its old system intact and stable even if that means giving up our fundamental rights. The focus – they say – should rather be on economic performance and stability. They also conclude their point explaining that we should protect the country from the chaos instigated by the dark hand of foreigners.
I completely disagree with this stance. I refuse to give up these fundamental rights that our Arab brothers are taking back, one after the other. The current economic performance that a certain social class in Morocco is proud to talk about only benefits a small number of people. The bulk of the population, and I am sad to acknowledge it, lives in total disorder: With a appalling literacy rate, a “Makhzen” system that maintains control of the political parties and a weak justice system that confronts legal amendments enforced by the courtiers for their own interest, this Moroccan system – praised by some – is actually what is holding us back. This combination is really what is threatening the stability of the Kingdom.
Make no mistake. The king’s legitimacy is not what is at stake. The recent demonstrations were clearly pointing towards the discriminatory system used to protect an educated elite coupled with an extensive corrupt establishment that has erected a glass ceiling, limiting young middle class workers’ ambitions. This situation pushes them to cross the sea, toward immigration, throwing their lives into the search for work opportunities and individual rights.
Now, we need to level out the debate. Young educated Moroccans should stop burying their heads in the sand. We should be vocal about writing a new constitution, attaining judicial independence, which might help fight corruption at its core, rather than speaking about an idea of Morocco, somewhere between Marrakesh palaces and casinos in Al-Jadeeda.
Author’s note: This was written on March 5, 2011. On March 9, 2011, King Mohammed VI of Morocco announced a wide constitutional reform.