Protests in Morocco in light of a failed development model

Presentation and analysis of "Morocco in 2018" Report

The year 2018 was highly marked by the surge of protest phenomenon in various forms, some protests took conventional forms like marches, rallies and strikes; others are new and expressive such as economic boycott and campaigning via social media platforms. These protests have one common aim: rejection of the policies adopted, especially in social sensitive sectors like health and education, the call for fair policies for vulnerable and poor social classes, and the repudiation of all forms of rent distribution employed by the power to benefit a specific class in society.

What is striking about these developments is that social protests now have evolved to voice more political aspirations as many Moroccans deem it inconceivable to condone the illegal domination of wealth and power.

Protests have taken more creative forms and have become a deep-seated reality, in particular for the aggrieved middle class –assuming there still exists a middle class given the entrenched disparity between the upper class and the lower class- they are expanding and evolving so to become more adapted according to the gravity of problems, the category of protesters and more able to disrupt the state’s policies. Especially as the ruling power opted for suppressing any rising social movement like other Arab regimes, particularly after the voice of the Arab Spring has a little faded.

We are witnessing a dramatic shift in the concept of protesting as its impacts now go beyond the scale of sectors and regions. It is quite clear that these developments call for more in-depth studies and researches as they can at any moment catalyze dramatic transformations.

When dialogue and co-optation methods fail, the ruling power usually resort to more repressive methods such as physical violence, detentions and trials harnessing all state agencies like the judiciary and intermediate institutions to repress protestors, brand them as traitors and put them in prison with heavy charges. All this raises the alarm of a looming anger, because not only such measures violate the basic civil and political public rights, but even worse they might threaten the social cohesion as they reinforce the image of two opposite societies on one common land (the official Morocco and the popular Morocco), a society of a political elite wielding all the powers and taking advantage of the overall situation and the society of the marginalized mass majority who have to sacrifice and hold patient to express their loyalty and affiliation to the nation.

The protest movement today has set a historic turn in Moroccan social history. Morocco now is more mobilized to fight for freedom, dignity and social justice. New dynamics are evolving and the new edition of protests is not purposeless, it extends to reflect the current social situation, the levels of struggle and social co-existence. Therefore, looking at its expressions, forms, organization, goals and transformations means watching a social system on the move. It is a question of strategies, areas and directions of influence and the potential openness-confinement in the relationship between the official Morocco and the popular Morocco.

With the tenth edition of “Report: Morocco in a year”, the Moroccan Centre for

Research and Policy Analysis is honored to lay before intellectuals and experts this special report which examines the most important events from a particular perspective; the perspective of public rejection of the unfair policies adopted by the ruling power through the surge of protests in 2018. This special report is by no means a change in the strategy of the project “Morocco in a year”, but it comes as an urgent need for the center to deal with a growing phenomenon worthy of consideration and analysis, especially when it potentially impacts the Moroccan political, economic and social life.

The report covers the most significant forms of protests throughout the year 2018.

Five Moroccan researchers have submitted papers tackling the issue from different perspectives.

Mr. Abderrahman Khaizouran explores the underlying political meanings of the popular protests by analyzing the pivotal turning points of the Moroccan social movement in a year and some. Mr. Said Belfellah submits a paper on the issue of human rights and addresses the wide gap between the official rhetoric replete with slogans and the actual situation of isolations and protests. Mr. Hassan Bella analyses the new wave of protests in the context of continuity/ discontinuity of previous similar protests. In his swift reading of the implications of certain forms of protests, Mr. Hicham Marzouk tackles the phenomenon of economic boycott marking a fundamental change in the protest movement standing against the combination of power and wealth, in other words, the use of power to monopolize wealth. Lastly, Mr. Youssef Mzouz addresses the protests of civil society organizations that retreat from playing their due role as they are crippled by the state’s lack of seriousness, which results in a direct showdown between the protesting public and the state.

The report also brings into focus the stark contrasts between the serious developments and the response from the government organs. The government remains loyal to its strategy of ignorance, repression, detentions and trials which all confirm the ruling power’s strategy to manage public policies in the same manner as before.

The papers presented demonstrate how marginal is the current offered government’s role to address the issue of protests; even this margin is firmly controlled and framed by the ministry of interior and other sovereign powers in the shadow. The government does not have any clear strategy to deal positively with the social movement, not only because it lacks viable propositions, but also its prerogatives are so restricted from the condescending establishments which address issues in accordance to their exclusive interests, unknown to the public. For this reason, the government often resorts to the ministry of interior to fix the problem of protests.

One of the major conclusions of the report is that social protests either would push decision-makers to remain loyal to security approach like other Arab regimes in dealing with the post-Arab Spring which might urge the public to embrace the neighbors’ methods of protest, or the ruling power is persuaded that there is no hope for success of the upcoming development project unless there is a genuine political and social openness; especially the prospect of a new wave of social movement is looming large.

The global concluding points of the report are as follows:

1- The social nature of the social movement should not hide the direct political causes and implications. The Rif movement for instance has seen a direct intervention of the highest echelon of the ruling power as the political and security tensions were high. Though the political factors are kept unstated, they definitely lie behind many tensions and social protests.

2- The Moroccan protest system is steering towards a turning-point with two different courses: the conventional course which continues to adopt the security approach along with a firmly controlled policy to suppress any social movement. And another course that favors social openness discussing all issues and figuring out viable solutions. The protest movement in Hussaima and Jerada are still reverberating to trigger a more powerful movement than that

of “20th February”.

3- The boycott campaign was a distinctive form of protest against rent distribution policy and economic monopoly. This boycott campaign reveals how the public has lost confidence in the conventional institutions such as parties and associations and have pushed protestors to resort to social media platforms to speak out their grievances; this also shows the level of awareness people now hold in their fight for their rights.

4- With the success of the boycott campaign, many social segments have acquired skills and training as an asset for their future struggle to wrest their political, economic and social rights.

5- A real challenge facing Moroccan associations in the “hegemony era” is how to shift from being a state’s manipulation tool to a social movement of resistance, proposing independent alternative ideas to reflect national interests and the social will.

6- The social demands have revealed how wide the gap is between the official discourse and the reality of human rights practices by the state agencies including the judiciary. Also, most human rights reports have recorded a regression of the state in honoring international commitments with respect to matters of human rights.

7- Such developments underscore the absence of political resolve from the state to abide by the international commitments and instead, it took advantage of the Arab Spring regression to take away more citizens’ rights and privileges. The ruling power might be contented with the present grim situation as an indication of a lasting stability, but the ongoing degradation will only fan flames of anger towards a new wave of a much deeper Arab Spring.

8- Many winning points have been recorded by the social movement: it results in the birth of a “society of resistance” facing a more “embattled power”, the movement also underlines that the “repressive deterrence” is no more an efficient weapon to quell people’s aspirations. What is more exciting is that the public has been empowered to wrest the meaning of politics from the state’s organs, elites and lawmakers and take it to public deliberation. The public has actually disrupted despotism to exhaustion leaving the doors open for prospective opportunities.

These are advantages, the social movement should safeguard and reinforce for future phases.

This introduction is necessary as it paves the way for more understanding of the cohesiveness and complementation of the papers presented. Studying the Moroccan situation aims at digging in the analysis of public policies in economic, social and political areas. Therefore, the study of a single phenomenon sheds light on the outcomes of these policies in practice.

The global goal of this report and the previous ones is to address the extent of people’s acceptance or rejection of the state’s policies and the impacts on their daily lives<