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What the media do not show about what happens in Morocco

Jawad Moustakbal

Publishing Date: August 3rd 2011

After the Hassanian[i] referendum result of 98.5% for the new constitution announced by the beginning of this month of July 2011, the Moroccan regime started celebrations of her so-called "victory" achieved When according to her ”majority” of Moroccan people said “Yes” to king’s constitution. The King presented a constitution in his speech on the 17th June 2011 and submitted it for a vote less than 10 days before the referendum date. Ten days were deemed sufficient by the regime for its 50% illiterate population to master the 180 Articles of the new constitution. Ten days were also deemed sufficient by the regime to discuss this new constitution that is “for the first time in the history of our country, made by Moroccans, and for all Moroccans" in the words of the king himself in the same speech.

The regime was quick to declare victory over her opponents Islamists and leftists ignoring the large scale public protests against maneuvered referendum, hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets of more than 114 cities since the last 20 February. Faced with these protests, the regime’s henchmen did not hesitate to drive some hundreds of poor citizens taking advantage of their material and moral misery result of the regime policies of over half a century.

Western governments and most of their so called independent media were also wasted no time to share the Moroccan government  ecstasy and adopted completely the official version. They easily and quickly believed the incredible result of 98.5%. A result worthy of the most backward “banana republics”!

 Violations, which preceded the referendum process

Those who objectively followed the referendum process can not miss the large number of violations even before the vote on the constitution. Among these violations we can mention; urging voters to vote “yes” including the king's speech of 17 July, what can be considered as pre-poll rigging. So much so that demonstrations were organized by authorities in several cities to express “people happiness” with the new project even before the end of the speech. Demonstrations covered by all official TV channels that talk about national consensus, even before allowing citizens to give their opinion of the King constitution.  This was a flagrant violation of the democratic norms which they tell us every day! Another violation is the undemocratic sharing time for interventions in the public media about the draft constitution. Democratic methodology required an equitable sharing of response times between the for and against parties but did not give equal time to all registered political parties and trade unions. This is especially true in case of most of them have rallied to the monarchy and obeyed its orders. Those organizations cannot claim to represent Moroccans especially after the shame of the 2007 parliamentary elections, where all these parties together, and in spite of all the possibilities offered of taxpayers' money, could not pull the attention of more than 23 per cent of the Moroccans.

Figures of the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior: another reading is possible

A set of objective indicators lead us to question the figures given by the Minister of Interior Mr "Cherkaoui". The first of these indicators is that the management and monitoring task of the entire referendum process was given to the same staff of the Interior Ministry who was responsible for the fabrication and falsification of all previous elections particularly during the reign of Hassan II. The second indicator is the absence of any independent control organization in the polls. Some testimonies on youtube show the seriousness of the offense and blatant nonconformity that marked the elections including the counting and control of the number of voters[ii], not to mention the forced distribution of voter cards to citizens. Even in some cases the voter cards were distributed in the name of those citizens who are dead!

 Despite all this, I will try to give a different reading of those figures announced by the Interior Minister in an exceptional [iii]press conference where he just read out prepared statements and exclude reporters' questions.

According to the minister out of total 13.5 million registered voters, almost 10 million has voted which means a participation rate of 73.46 per cent. The same source announced that 98.5 percent of the participant’s people have voted for the new constitution. But The government and official media would have us believe that 98.5 percent of Moroccan people are for the new constitution.  However, a simple but more rigorous and careful calculation shows that this rate barely exceeds the 40 per cent even based on their very dubious figures.

Indeed, in a total estimated population of 32million inhabitants, 65% are over 18 years, who are therefore of potential voters. The number of Moroccans in the world including those abroad[iv] who have the right to vote is 23 million. This number should be the basis for calculating any percentage of participation; including those who supported, those who opposed and, those who boycotted.

Though it is difficult to announce that anyone who did not vote, boycotted the referendum as a political position and a decision of Consciousness, but in the absence of elementary democratic conditions in the whole process starting with the appointment of constitution drafting committee by the King and not elected by the people we cannot accept that the government logic that ignores the millions of Moroccan citizens who prefer not to participate.

Media: once again a tool of propaganda for the regime!

The mass media in Morocco as usual turned into propaganda tools for the regime showing looping images of supposedly happy crowds for this recognition and fresh "consensus" around the new national constitution of the king.

Unfortunately, many international TV channels took these images and did not bother to verify the official figures and adopted in most publications the official version.

Among these channels we find the famous Al Jazeera that has taken to the official letter which questions the professionalism and credibility of this channel, especially after the adoption of policy of double standards maintained by the channel in its coverage of the revolutionary process underway in the Arab region. This Policy confirms popular suspicions that a deal might have been concluded among the channel, State of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States in order to undermine and ignore the latest developments in some countries, including Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan and put more light on others, including Syria, Yemen and Libya...

These suspicions are even stronger after the visit of the Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi to the Emir of Qatar on February 25, five days after the start of demonstrations in Morocco and the return of the Qatari channel to work in Morocco few days before the referendum date. Pertinent to mention is that Al jazeera was banned in Morocco since October 2010.

What the media do not show about what happens in Morocco

What the national as well as international media do not show is firstly the large scale public demonstrations that never stopped growing since February 20, led by the movement with same name "movement of the February 20".

Contrary to the official version, Morocco is no exception and Moroccan citizens and activists are also eager for freedom and dignity that their brothers in the Arab region are hankering for. Thanks to the enormous sacrifices made by the Moroccan militants for more than half a century, some civil liberties have improved compared to what was happening in neighboring countries especially in Tunisia. However, the situation in Morocco in terms of poverty and social exclusion remains volatile even worse than many countries in the region as shown in the following digraph well enough on the HDI from the UNDP website[v]

As far as Democracy is concerned nothing fundamental has changed with the new constitution.  The King, commander of the faithful still holds all powers.

The new constitution is just an eye wash, gives nothing to the people. The King is still supreme with all crucial powers with him. For example Article 47 says; The King will appoint the Head of Government. On the proposal of the Head of Government, he will appoint the members of the government. The King may, at its option, and after consulting the Head of Government, can terminate the appointment of one or more members of the government. 

Similarly the Article 51 gives power to the King to dissolve both Houses of Parliament and one of them in accordance with Articles 96, 97 and 98. The Article 54 creates a Supreme Council of Security to be presided by the king. This high powered council is a forum for dialogue on strategies for internal and external security of the country, and management of crisis situations.

The Article 56 gives the King to chair the Higher Council of the Judiciary, while Article 57 bestows power to approve the appointment of judges, suggested by the Superior Council of the Judiciary. 

Article 52 says “The King may send messages to the nation and Parliament. The messages are read in front of one and the other room and cannot be discussed”

All these articles and some others show how the king is ensured to continue concentrate all powers: executive, legislative, judicial, security and military!! [vi]

On another hand, still weekly events are organized by the youth of “February 20 movement” in the 4 corners of the country where the demonstrators chant full throat slogans:

  • Rejecting the constitution granted by King
  • Demanding more freedom
  • Challenging impunity in economic crimes
  • Calling for jobs and dignified life for all
  • Calling for free public services for everyone and ask the tow multinationals "VEOLIA" and “SUEZ” to leave the country
  • Asking friends of the King "El himma" and "almajidi" to go out (“Dégage” in French)

Faced with this situation, the Moroccan regime after failing to quell the movement by force of repression that caused many victims in several cities, is now based on "thugs" and "Baltaji" they now resorted to other tactics by recruiting among the poorest to organize the festivities at the same times and places chosen by the young of “20 February movement” to make their protest marches. These festivities are reminder to those events organized in time of the reign of Hassan II when the poor gathered in tents were used to taken to officially organized festivities to express their “joy” at the occasion of Day throne.

The regime not only pressuring the men of religion to make propaganda in its favor in the mosques but also to organize marches to counter the public protesters.

Not to surrender to the dictatorship of the lesser evil

In his brilliant paper made by the journalist Serge Halimi in "Le Monde Diplomatique"[vii], he shows how the U.S. administration decades ago adopted a "curse" theory designed by an American academic, Jeane Kirkpatrick. According to this theory “pro-Western "authoritarian regimes were in fact always better and easier than the reformed ones that might replace them”.

Today after more than 30 years, there is no need to show the absolute failure of this theory of "Dictatorship of the lesser evil". Moreover, what is certain today is that this theory has cost not only the lives of many activists and opponents of dictatorial regimes supported by Western governments but also cost years of underdevelopment and misery for the peoples of these countries.

We in Morocco, like several times in past, once again find ourselves on a crossroad. We have to choose; either continue to fight for real democracy or opt for the easiest choice , which is actually the most cowardly and accept the crumbs of so-called democratic change granted by the regime under pressure from the street and in a typical situation when Arab region is in stiff grip of revolutionary fervor.

The youth of “February 20 movement” have already made their choice to continue their historic struggle until the total satisfaction of their political, economic and social.

Though our history is unfortunately full of missed appointments; but this time will we be able to reverse this trend?

By Jawad Moustakbal (ATTAC/CADTM-Morocco)
 Reviewed by Abdul Khaliq Shah (CADTM-Pakistan)
30 July 2011


[i] I am referring to King Hassan II who ruled Morocco with an iron fist for 38 years.


[ii] “Ali Bouabid” a leader of the USFP, left-wing party that participates in the government,, yet strong supporter of yes, expressed his bitterness about the conditions of illegal voting. He wrote on his Facebook page, just after voting:

 "I come to vote. I put my voting card. I wonder if we should verify my identity. I was told "we do not do that." Found my name on the lists. We put a cross in front of my name. I vote. I wonder if I have to sign, I was told " we do not do that ". I say, but you can put as much of the cross in place of those who did not come to vote, since no signature is required! "

[iii] Exceptional conference that confirm the " Moroccan exception " mentioned all the time by the regime and his friendly governments. Read in this regard the testimony of the journalist "Salah Lamaizi" on his Facebook page under the title:« Le Maroc des petits rois »


[iv] According to the official website of the Moroccan living aboard at the following address: their number is around 3 million and 200 thousand then I have considered that the percentage of who are over 18 is the same than who are living in morocco 65%


[vi] For more details see: “How progressive is morocco monarch’s proposed constitutional change? Not very” on website.

[vii]«L'impossible arrive» Serge Halimi, Le Monde Diplomatique February 2011

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