Sunday, April 14, 2013

An accurate pronostic?

    On friday April 12, 2013, one of the most controversial figures of Morocco, Hicham Ben Abdallah El Alaoui (King Mohammed VI's cousin) published a piece that was relayed by most of the press in the kingdom. This remarkable essay takes the readers to 2018, the year the author believes will be host to the Moroccan revolution or rather political change. Due to the identity of the author, and the seemingly extremely accurate nature of his anticipations, I will dedicate my entire post to this article Hicham El Alaoui himself labeled "far from political-fiction.

      Hicham El Alaoui is blood related to the King of Morocco and a very close cousin of his, thus he took unprecedented steps when he decided to leave the country in the early years 2000s to engage in vivid criticism of the monarchy in place in his homeland. He is a graduate in politics from Princeton University and lives today in the United States with his family, however he remains fully concerned with Moroccan issues and is constantly involved in international debate concerning the country's problems.The main idea concerning this "revolution of cumin" as the author calls it is the social motives behind it. When looking at the uprisings in the Middle East recently, these are often generalized as clashes between seculars and religious people. It is important to remember that just as anywhere else, when people take down the streets in protests, it first of all for change in their daily life. The principal grievances are always about unemployment, lack of healthcare, illiteracy etc...As a matter of fact, El Alaoui clearly states that this revolution will bring together all of Arabs, Berbers, Muslims, and Jews in a cry for more empowerment and the end of servitude. However, even this man believes in the importance of the monarchy to remain as a symbol for unity even though fully constitutional, and rid of its wealth accumulated via land owning and people's resources.     The changes the author predicts for Morocco are explicitly outlined and honestly full of hope. Finally, Moroccans would leave this lethargic state of "attentisme" (awaiting) that has been cultivating through the thought that every sign of change or wisdom had to come from the King. "These sunflowers which always oriented towards the sun were now freed to orient as they pleased, which did not come without confusion at first."
    Hicham El Alaoui announces a further liberalization of Moroccan economy, as he gives the example of the first Moroccan international food chain. Yet we can sense in his article the idea that Morocco will still strive to develop local industries (here again, he gives the example of the first Moroccan automobile prototype being conceived in partnership with a Brazilian engineering company. Note the judicious choice of the collaborating country...). Also, El Alaoui allocates quite a few words to the emphasis of future Morocco on renewable energy and ecology. This number is not stated in his essay, but Morocco currently imports 98% of its energy, which obviously is not a sustainable situation and has been harmful to public spendings and the economy more generally.
    Lastly in his imaginative tour of 2018 Morocco, Hicham El Alaoui stops in the economic capital of the country, Casablanca, where "one must go if they want to feel the pulse of Morocco."There he makes the single most important constatation of his essay. Indeed he mentions the schizophrenic nature of the Moroccan population, an aspect that each Moroccan can relate to. As the author describes this symptom, it is what makes every Moroccan scream that their country is the most beautiful in the world while they pray to leave it every day. Perhaps in 2018 Moroccans will realize that they do not live in the most beautiful country in the world, but that they can be active in helping their nation gain that status. This dillem-like situation is also faced by the monarchy itself which has to constantly balance between concessions and the maintaining of its authority. That is the author underlines that the issue of our monarchy is its dark double, the "Makhzen", which is the equivalent of the internal affairs (secret services etc.) and has been controlling Morocco with an iron fist.
All in all, this Moroccan intellectual paints us a picture of Morocco that would have been shaken to its core but would have managed a bloodless revolution towards a constitutional monarchy. Hicham El Alaoui imagines a Morocco that will come out united and decided to embrace the wave of modernization in order to reaffirm its role as a key actor in the region. That is all we can hope for a country still discovering sometimes overwhelming mechanisms of democratization at its own pace...

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  1. Moroccans are extremely poor people. While the 2012 GDP per capita was $5,300--close to the necessary amount for democracy to thrive--this does take into account that a Moroccan is typically extremely rich or extremely poor. The wealth is highly concentrated in the monarchy and its allies. I traveled to Morocco last summer and saw the poverty first hand. Housing in much of the country is old and in desperate need of repair. Homeless children and adults can be found on every street corner. Many of the cities are slowly disintegrating and this impacts Moroccans on a daily basis. Many Moroccans would like to see a change in their country--a move towards democracy. However, surviving the daily struggle is more of a concern than democracy and unless the monarchy spends more on its people that in unlikely to change even by 2018. Hicham El Alaoui makes an interesting and hopeful case regarding the future of Morocco; although, the monarchy and its facade of democratic institutions in conjunction with oil producing states will most likely prevent a full-scale revolution in the coming decade. There is little oil in Morocco but oil affects every country in the region, and it will continue to do so until it either runs out or other nations stop using it. Morocco demonstrates that even with unrest oil money can prevent change. This is reflected in GCC desire for both Morocco and Jordan to join the GCC sometime in the next few years. Perhaps Hicham El Alaoui should have considers more aspects before releasing his predictions.

  2. Simply in case it was not made clear in my post, all these pretty predictions Hicham El Alaoui has for Morocco, he of course puts them in the context of much more democratic Morocco than today's. Clearly, with the current state of bureaucracy in Morocco (medieval) and level of corruptions, such prospects cannot be attained. However, Morocco has just taken another loan from the IMF which in my opinion will not help the problems you underlined Lindsay. Again day to day struggles are not solved via huge aid packages designed to further liberalization of economy. Thus, if that is enough of an excuse, the Moroccan government does have a very difficult dilema between pleasing the International Organizations and its domestic population. Sadly, most of the time when a country looks for its own good, that entails upsetting many others...

  3. While I think this picturesque Morocco five years down the road would be wonderful, I feel its a bit of an unrealistic stretch, given King Mohammed's perpetual offers of reform, which generally end up being cosmetic and adding more absolutism and oligarchy to his repertoire. He seems unwilling to actually relinquish power and democratize institutions, and instead liberalizes them, just temporarily opening up political systems to relieve the pressures being put on the monarchy. It's important to distinguish between liberalization and democratization too. If there is one thing the Moroccan monarchy has mastered, it's the art of flaunting to the international community an air of democratic rhetoric. And given the average Moroccan citizen's genuine respect for the monarchy, with it being one of the oldest in the Arab world, the only way a revolution of change will come is true reform from the King... and I just don't if it will happen. Though I hope for the best for Morocco, given the insanely high unemployment rates of recent college grads, illiteracy rates and perpetual corruption among the elites.