December 29, 2006
Islamist Election & Moving MENA Forward: Any Real Meaning in "Moderate" Elections?
A somewhat Arab News-ish article from FT on the Moroccan PM - who's on shaky ground according to the movers and shakers of the Maghreb biz community - comments that the Islamists can't really win in the upcoming elections, given they're structured against them.
I continue to be frustrated with this short-sightedness.
Returning to the question posed in the title, is there any real meaning in "moderate" elections? Am I the only observer that feels this sort of game has the tendency to bring long term discredit on the concept of "secularism"? (well, actually my opinion is that it already has.)
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Driss Jettou, Morocco's prime minister, has reassured French businessmen on a visit to Paris that an Islamist victory in next year's legislative elections would have no impact on the country's policy.
I don't know what irks me more, that the PM thinks this signals "reform", or that a promise that elections will be gutted of all meaning is assumed to be what the West wants to hear.
"The King is not accountable . . . elected institutions are failing to learn how to exercise power and political parties are losing their credibility while the Islamic movement makes advances."
I'm not sure they should even use present tense here. Are there today any significant parties left in Morocco that could pressure the monarchy and its satellite classes, except PJD (and apart from in the rather thin slices of middle class)? USFP and Istiqlal etc all seem to have been sucked into the system for good, despite having once been (unusually for Arab countries) the real deal: independent and self-supporting opposition parties with a reasonably broad popular following.
I remember a seminar with a lady from the Carnegie Foundation, I think it was, who pointed out that the danger for democratic reform in Morocco is perhaps not so much that the PJD is Islamist and could come to rule the country, but that parts of its leadership is actually too close to the monarchy and it may end up just another voting machine for the ruling class, à la Mouvement populaire and the others. I would expect factional battles within the party over the attitude to the monarchy as these elections draws nearer and it seems the monarchy wants to block a fair election -- and perhaps corresponding infighting on the side of the Makhzen, over the attitude to popular Islamism? Fill me in, whoever knows Morocco!
With Moroccan political liberalization losing steam (NB, after considerable and impressive progress), with US/France determined to prevent Western Sahara from moving either way (CORCAS autonomy seems stillborn, and would never have been a healthy child anyway with Khellihenna Ould El Rachid and such Hassan-era apparatjiks in charge), and with M6's long honeymoon with his people probably over, I do get the sense that these elections could in some ways be a defining moment. Even if -- or precisely because -- an Islamist victory could very well turn out completely meaningless.
Posted by: alle at January 3, 2007 05:02 PM