Throughout the Arab Spring, there have been protests in which the Morrocan people have called for constitutional, economic, and human rights reforms. On February 10th, the International Press Service released a story that detailed some of the latest protests that have occurred within Taza, many of which have been plagued by police brutality and violence. While the Moroccan government has appeared to maintain a relatively calm political tide, the recent protests in Taza suggest that many Moroccans are all but content with the performance of their country’s government. Yet, in order to monitor the drift of this political tide, it is important to understand the origins of this current civil unrest.
On July 1st, 2011, changes to the constitution were enacted which granted more power to the executive branch, while allegedly reducing the power of the monarch. These changes were granted in response to demands made by protestors throughout the country on February 20th, 2011, in an effort to maintain calm during a time of regional turbulence. Furthermore, during the general elections of September 2011, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane was elected while running on a partial platform of job-creation and economic reform. However, according to the article, almost nothing has been done to reduce unemployment throughout the country:
“For instance, the promise to completely eradicate unemployment, which currently touches 19 percent of the working population, evaporated soon after his [Benkirane’s] appointment, giving way to a negligible decrease in joblessness of a single percentage point.” (IPS)
While the government determined that it would “completely eradicate” unemployment, it failed to present a viable way to do so. Furthermore, Benkirane’s promise to increase the minimum wage to 3000 dirham has been pushed back to 2016. Benkirane just presented his proposal to Parliament last month, and no increase to the minimum wage has been enacted, indicating that accomplishing the proposed goals has taken a backseat to creating the illusion of political calm.
As a result of this inaction, public opposition has been strong and incensed; in particular, recent college graduates have been protesting throughout the country, demanding jobs and economic reform. On January 21st, 27-year-old unemployed graduate Abdelwahab Zaidouin set himself on fire at a political demonstration held by other graduates in front of the Ministry of Education in Rabat.
Three days later, Zaidoun died, igniting the current wave of violent protests within Taza; the most incendiary of which occurred on February 1st.
The new government violently quelled the protest, according to an eyewitness to the events:
“ ‘At first, the protests were peaceful. The police surrounded the city. They blocked Internet connections and cut off the telephone lines before beginning to club everybody,” he told IPS.’ ”
The actions of the new government are a clear indication that the “Moroccan example” of political calm is not as true as it might seem; in my opinion, the Moroccan government has done a very good job of creating a front of political acceptance and tranquility, while operating with violence and indifference behind the scenes. Although the government has decided to legislatively enacted changes, the Moroccan people have barely seen the results because the changes haven’t been physically acted upon. While preserving the Moroccan people’s civil rights and economic security might appear to be the new government’s number one priority, the recent use of violence to quell the Taza protests, and the government’s negligence in enacting economic reform, says otherwise. It might appear that Morocco has a relatively calm political tide; yet, the new government is merely operating under a reputation bolstered by partial truths, and riding the resulting wave of international approval.
For further reading: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106714
Taza citizens clash with police during Feb. 1st protest