A Year After: The February 20 Protest Movement in Morocco

A February 20 Movement protest in Marrakech, Morocco

Feb 21 2012

by Mohamed Daadaoui
On the one-year anniversary of the February 20 protest movement in Morocco, (henceforth referred to as Feb. 20), the kingdom boasts relatively meager political progress. Despite the much-vaunted reforms and constitutional changes, Morocco has reinvigorated its state edifice, managed to outmaneuver an inexperienced Feb. 20 protest movement, and engaged in a crackdown on freedom of the press and speech. In the last couple of weeks, the regime has arrested three Moroccans for crimes against his majesty’s person and “defaming Morocco’s sacred values.” In a country where the monarch is inviolable, the use of cartoons depicting the king is considered an outrage to a symbol of the country.

More importantly, a year after the initial mass protests, we need to assess the record of the movement in terms of appeal and success in Morocco. The Feb. 20 movement has undoubtedly sparked a national discussion for institutional changes, but fell short in exercising enough pressure for deeper structural changes to both the political system dominated by the king, and a system of crony-capitalism that has for decades crippled the national economy. The new constitution is an impressive exercise in state management of dissent. Groundbreaking only in its style and cosmetic in terms of real effective change, the constitution allows for greater executive power for the Prime Minister, but falls short in tackling the vast discretionary powers of the monarchy.

The constitution does not address aspects of direly needed reforms. Kleptocracy and nepotism are endemic in the Moroccan administration and economy. No matter how inchoate institutional reforms are, they have to be complemented with stringent, implementable guarantees against abuse of power, corruption, and inequality of the laws. Individual freedom and liberty of the press are guaranteed in the constitution, but have to be safeguarded from the arbitrary abuses of the state. The result is the same maladies of yesteryear: a regime suffering from institutional schizophrenia, promoting inconsequential reforms, and tightening its grip on power and individual freedom.  Continue reading