Search

 

Cablegate: Casablanca Reformers Focus On Education, Parliament,

VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHCL #0281/01 0291114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291114Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL CASABLANCA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7949
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 2954
RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0251
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0842
RUEHRY/AMEMBASSY CONAKRY 0026
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0271
RUEHLC/AMEMBASSY LIBREVILLE 0044
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0334
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3766
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 2311
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 8198
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 2074
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0618
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0084

UNCLAS CASABLANCA 000281

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND NEA/PI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV ECON SOCI MO
SUBJECT: CASABLANCA REFORMERS FOCUS ON EDUCATION, PARLIAMENT,
CONSTITUTION


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please handle
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: At a reform advocates' luncheon for visiting DAS
Kent Patton and Tunis MEPI Director Peter Mulrean on January 16, 2008
in Casablanca, discussion focused on three types of reform:
educational, parliamentary and constitutional. The discussion
preceded a letter calling for the defense of civil liberties, signed
by elite Moroccans to solicit support for tolerance and an end to
hatred and violence. The letter reflects the mood of Morocco's
reformers and therefore adds texture to the conversation at the
luncheon, where participants called for reform of Morocco's sub-par
educational system, as well as of Parliament, which suffers from
numerous problems, including a lack of qualified MPs. In addition,
the group held that there would be no significant progress without
constitutional reform, though the political will for this is lacking.
Optimistic about Morocco's prospects in spite of the challenges,
participants encouraged USG support for resolving the Western Sahara
conflict and reforming Morocco's political system. End Summary.

-----------------------------------
CALL FOR DEFENSE OF CIVIL LIBERTIES
-----------------------------------

2. (U) On January 16, a reform advocates' lunch held for visiting NEA
DAS Kent Patton and Tunis-based Middle East Partnership Initiative
(MEPI) Director Peter Mulrean generated dynamic conversation about
the way forward for a democratic Morocco. A few days later, a letter
entitled "Call for the Defense of Civil Liberties" appeared in the
January 19-25 issue of the French-language weekly Telquel. The
letter, signed by 128 artists, journalists, academics, businessmen
and civil society actors, laments a disturbing rise in intolerance
against so-called "deviants," often in the name of religion and
virtue. It outlines seven points vital to the protection of civil
liberties, including guarding against hate-mongers and respecting the
preferences, beliefs, opinions and life choices of others. The
letter, which was signed by one of our lunch guests, indicates the
degree to which elite Moroccans are concerned about their country's
capacity to embrace democratic ideals. Lunch guests suggested
several reforms they deem necessary to move Morocco forward.

-----------------
SUB-PAR EDUCATION
-----------------

3. (SBU) The need to reform Morocco's educational system was one
point on which all reform advocates agreed, for numerous reasons.
First, Moroccan schools are considered sub-par. To illustrate this
point, Ali Belhaj, a political activist, Member of Parliament (MP)
and President of the NGO Maroc 2020, cited a study showing that while
95 percent of Moroccans send their children to public school, the
same percentage would opt for private school, given the choice.
Second, the drop-out rate for students is extremely high. Though
primary school is compulsory, many students fall by the wayside by
the time they reach high school. One lunch guest estimated that as
many as 25 percent drop out before their first year of high school.
Another projected that as many as four million children are not in
school. In a country where about 50 percent of the population is
under the age of 20, this is a significant problem.

4. (SBU) In addition to widespread dissatisfaction and a high
drop-out rate, the educational system also suffers from a lack of
foresight or planning. Professor Mohamed El Amine Moumine, Director
of American Studies at Hassan II University, explained the disconnect
he sees between the skills students are taught and the demands of
Morocco's growing economy. He believes the former should be designed
with the latter in mind. Another participant added that teachers are
not properly trained. As an example, she recalled that teachers
received no education in how to teach using classical Arabic when it
replaced French as the language of instruction in public schools.

5. (SBU) While the Moroccan educational system's problems are
formidable, Belhaj advised that the country does not need money to
reform it. Education is already a high priority and there are funds
to support it - 25 percent of Morocco's budget currently goes to
education. Instead, he said, "We need your help for political

reform."

------------------------
PROBLEMS WITH PARLIAMENT
------------------------

6. (SBU) Reform advocates talked in depth about what they view as
problems in the 325-seat Parliament. Several guests agreed that
while some MPs are qualified and competent, many are not. Those who
would be qualified to serve often are not interested in doing so
since they are well-off and content with the status quo. The lack of
enough willing and able participants in political life contributes to
another problem: MPs often hold multiple offices, preventing them
from giving their full attention to their work in Parliament.
Mohamed Sajid came up as a prime example, as he is not only the Mayor
of Casablanca, but also an MP from southern Morocco's Taroudant
region. Lunch guests were quick to defend Sajid's good reputation
and noted that his administrative experience as mayor may well
improve his abilities in Parliament. Nonetheless, the feeling
remained that Morocco would do well to follow France's model and
prohibit politicians from holding multiple offices simultaneously.

7. (SBU) Compounding the problem of ill-qualified representatives and
those who wear multiple hats is the fact that Parliamentarians have
no staff. Belhaj recounted a conversation with a French MP who
expressed shock at Morocco's system and swore he could get nothing
done without his staff. In Morocco, some MPs use the resources of
their personal businesses to attend to parliamentary matters, but not
everyone has this option. Lunch guests agreed that a budget is
needed for MPs to staff bona-fide offices.

8. (SBU) The group discussed not only Parliament's personnel issues,
but also the inefficient way in which the body conducts business.
Bouthayna Iraqui-Houssaini, President of the Association of Women
Entrepreneurs of Morocco (AFEM) and a newly-elected Parliamentarian,
described with incredulity the scenario at parliamentary meetings.
Not only is there no agenda and no notion of limiting the time spent
discussing various topics, but her colleagues sit idle for hours,
doing little more than reading the paper. Coming from a private
sector background, Iraqui-Houssaini is dumbfounded by the lack of an
organized and professional ethic in Parliament.

----------------------------
CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM NEEDED
----------------------------

9. (SBU) Without exception, every guest agreed that with no
constitutional reform, significant advances in Morocco are not
possible. However, according to Abdelmalek Kettani, a local
businessman and President of the NGO Alternatives, some MPs may not
be ready for such change. All concurred that political will remains
an issue when it comes to constitutional reform. According to
Iraqui-Houssaini, the old guard clings to the old ways and is not
eager to see the status quo upset. In addition, the constitution is
currently written to make it impossible for one party to win a clear
majority in Parliament. "When you have a mosaic of parties in the
government, they will never be able to reach the kind of consensus
needed to make real change," Kettani said.

10. (SBU) The group also agreed that without buy-in from the palace,
constitutional reform would never be achieved. When asked if the
palace was ready for such reform, Kettani answered with an
authoritative 'yes.' Others confirmed Kettani's assessment and
claimed that the King wants reform but understands that it will take
time. "The King is a good listener," claimed Belhaj. Other guests
backed him up, saying that ideas and proposals percolate up to the
King, where they often get repackaged as royal initiatives. For the
moment, they accept this system, since at least it means that some
reforms go through.

11. (SBU) Without a doubt, the guests agreed that constitutional
reform was high on everyone's agenda and that a transparent system of
power sharing was an essential element for Morocco's future growth.
Kettani, however, was adamant in his belief that until the Western
Sahara issue is resolved, there will be no constitutional reform in
Morocco. He claimed that the Sahara issue will always take

precedence and urged the USG to continue its help on this front.

------------------------
WHO'S AFRAID OF THE PJD?
------------------------

12. (SBU) When discussion turned to the subject of Morocco's widely
popular Islamic Party of Justice and Development (PJD), the reaction
of the reformers was unified. All agreed that the party was
organized, dedicated and well-run. One guest stated that since the
PJD garnered the most popular votes in the 2007 parliamentary
elections, its chance of winning numerous offices throughout the
country in the 2009 municipal elections was great. "Give them a
chance," Belhaj stated, "let's see what they can do." Kettani
followed up by citing the case of Islamic Turkish Prime Minister,
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as an example of what could happen if the PJD
does well in 2009. "Erdogan," he said "was elected Mayor of
Istanbul, did a great job, and is now an extremely popular Islamic
Prime Minister in a secular country." None of the guests registered
concern about the PJD's popularity and indeed seemed to welcome the
party as part of the truly democratic system all would like to see in
Morocco.

13. (SBU) Comment: This group of elite and farsighted reform
advocates spoke with feeling about Morocco's shortcomings and the
need for change. Iraqui-Houssaini explained that she began to get
involved in politics when she realized that her children might leave
and never return if Morocco remained the same. As this comment and
the lunch debate indicated, a cadre of smart, engaged individuals is
committed to institutional and constitutional reform. They are
optimistic that it can happen, but only as part of a long-term
process that requires broader buy-in from their countrymen. End
Comment.

GREENE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: