New Islamist Government Caters to Moroccan King
By: Imad Estito
Published Monday, January 9, 2012
Despite promises by the palace for a new start in Moroccan politics, it appears the king has managed to get his way in the new government line-up.
Rabat – After many days of debate, a new government was announced in Morocco last week. But diverging and contradictory analyses concerning the makeup of the government have persisted, while some question the value of a government formed by Islamists who do not really control it.
Islamist parties had promised to reduce the overall number of ministerial portfolios in the government but they were not able to do so, meaning the government now has 31 ministers. They were also unable to stand up to the “veto” by the palace, which refused to divide the interior ministry into two sections.
They accepted last minute deals which dropped certain names and imposed others in negotiations conducted by those loyal to Dar al-Makhzen (the Sultanate Palace).
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s Justice and Development Party’s (PJD) loss of strategic ministries such as finance, health, and education has fueled predictions that the party’s ability to run the government will be practically paralyzed.
The palace’s strongmen succeeded in imposing their favored nominees on Benkirane – who had to handle difficult negotiations with parties in the governing coalition on one hand, and the regime, on the other – in order to ensure that the outcome would be palatable for both sides.
This is why key ministries were reserved for the king, even though the Moroccan constitution does not stipulate such an arrangement. People who were loyal and obedient to the regime were appointed as ministers under the cloak of being independent technocrats.
They will be the new guardians of the palace, alongside an army of advisers who have been appointed by the king in the last few weeks to finalize the shadow government.
One of those loyal to the regime in the new government is the Director General of National Security, Charki Draiss, whose name was selected at the last minute as a delegate minister in the interior ministry.
Although the interior ministry has gone, for the first time, to a political party member, Mohand Laenser, the regime itself will still supervise important security files through their obedient servant, Draiss.
The same thing will happen at the foreign ministry, which will be headed by the Islamist Saad-Eddine El Othmani, but he will be supported by Youssef Amrani, the delegate minister at the foreign ministry, who will act as the eyes of the palace in this sensitive ministry.
This has led several observers to say that royal control continues even though there have been some superficial changes with two political ministers taking over the interior and foreign ministries.
The fact that people who are close to the regime have taken on the posts of delegate ministers in the two ministries is a thinly veiled assertion of the king’s desire to keep both ministries as part of his domain.
Another surprise was that Ahmed Toufiq remained the Islamic affairs minister, despite objections from imams and high-ranking religious scholars, who have long protested against Toufic’s policies.
Driss Dahhak remaining the secretary-general of the government came as no surprise. Everyone expected the “son of the palace” to remain in his post because of his vast legal expertise and because he is trusted by the king.
The king also confirmed Abdellatif Loudiyi as the delegate minister tasked with running the national defense, while businessman, Aziz Akhannouch was named Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries at the last minute.
Akhannouch will be able to continue as the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries after he quit the National Rally of Independents (RNI), as it became clear that they would not be in the majority, emerging triumphantly on his own.
Najib Shawki, who is active in the February 20 movement, believes that the new government is simply a continuation of the old tyranny in a new guise.
“The appointment of 6 sovereign ministers is proof that the palace has forcibly appointed part of the government, that no one will hold them accountable and the voters cannot punish them,” Shawki says.
“Therefore, the problem lies with the constitution, which does not guarantee a separation of powers and does not connect power to accountability and responsibility through monitoring by the public.”
As for the academic and political researcher, al-Sharqawi al-Rawdani, he thinks that time will tell whether the new government is up to the expectations of Moroccans.
“Moroccans do not judge the government based on who ministers are; they want the promises that were made during the elections to be fulfilled. Otherwise, we will sink into another form of fraud — the defrauding of consciousness,” he warns.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.