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  • Morocco: From Youssoufi to Benkirane
    Thu, 05 January 2012
    Mohammad El-Ashab

    Rarely has any Moroccan government been blessed with as positive an atmosphere as that of the objective conditions that have made certain its formation out of the ballot boxes, in the first constitutional reforms that allow it to bear its responsibilities towards the issues and matters at hand.

    It is the good fortune of the new Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane that he is leading the second edition of the plan for democratic alternation of power, under circumstances that meet with those under which Socialist leader Abderrahmane Youssoufi took the initiative of political concord in 1998. And while the latter is recognized to have been a realist and one who was more open to understanding and agreeing over the priorities of the phase, Islamist maestro Abdelilah Benkirane has begun his task by removing doubts and providing doses of optimism that make some of the impossible possible, to the tune of progress and of benefiting from the times.

    The problems remain the same, the challenges have not regressed, the children who went to school for the first time under Youssoufi’s government have today become young men and women, and their demands of freedom, dignity and social justice have increased. Meanwhile, the economic difficulties faced by the country have continued to expand, from the rising cost of importing oil to the repercussions of the financial and economic crisis on the markets of countries in the South, through the problems of unemployment and the education system’s inability to keep pace with the country’s growth.

    Conditions differ, between the handing over of power in 1998 and the rise of the Islamists to power at the beginning of this year. Indeed, late King Hassan II had at the time addressed what he had called a “heart attack” threatening to strike the country, and conveyed pessimistic reports produced by international institutions specialized in diagnosing the state of countries, while his successor, King Mohammed VI, has paved the way for changing the elites through constitutional reforms with the aim of building a state of institutions and of consecrating good governance, which links responsibility to accountability.

    In the details of the two experiences, that of Youssoufi and that of Benkirane, the former came to the post of Prime Minister full of great hopes for quiet change, and ended with a courageous decision the many years of alienation between the opposition and the Crown. In fact, his return from the long exile he had experienced had been indicative of the end of doubt and fear, and of the fall of the myth of the demonization of opposition figures. As for Benkirane, who in turn experienced a different kind of exile, one which can be even harsher if it turns into seeking asylum within one’s own country, his Islamist party (the Justice and Development Party) has often been depicted as representing a threat to the country and its citizens. Yet abiding by the ballot boxes and bridging the gap between the Socialist Union (USFP – Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires) and its former rivals was the decisive factor in allowing an Islamist movement characterized by realism and moderation to rise to the forefront as a political party that plays its part like all other constituents of the political scene, without using any veto against its legitimate ambitions of having a place under the sun, equally as an opposition or a loyalist party.

    It would be preferable to maintain the spirit of optimism and hope that only wanes when disappointments multiply. And certainly Morocco, as it emerged healed from the “heart attack” that had afflicted it in the past, can do more exercise and gain political points in preparation for the long distance race stretching across the expectations of the street.

    Furthermore, the events taking place in various parts of the Arab World, unrest and uprisings, have found an echo in the Moroccan style at a lower cost. Indeed, the Socialists came to power during a period characterized by receding signs of ideological tensions, and it has now become possible for the left-wing elites to hear themselves think.

    And today, if the Islamists of the Justice and Development Party (PJD – Parti de la Justtice et du Développement) become ministers and statesmen who deal with the larger issues, without any tendency to exclude others or take revenge from them, this would mean that another decade of reconciliation with history and with oneself has begun, one that listens to the pulse of the street which has willingly chosen its representatives. And perhaps the greatest challenge faced by Benkirane’s government lies in preserving the momentum of the hopes issuing from every direction.

    It is a difficult task, one from which it is sought to ascertain that there is a new frame of reference taking shape on a broad scale. It is a frame of reference that is not based on ideological classifications and doctrinal differences of various bases and loopholes. It instead draws its strength from the attractive slogan shaped on the pattern of “the people want”. And that is alright, as what Moroccans want, clearly and simply, is nothing more than a formula of stability and progress. And it is a defining feature of ballot boxes that the time to turn to them returns constantly. And no one can stop the earth from turning.

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