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Cablegate: Mr. El-Himma Goes to Parliament: Ambassador's

VZCZCXYZ0008
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0154/01 0501719
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191719Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8155
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 4674
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 5909
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 3659
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 4930
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 9509
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 3893

C O N F I D E N T I A L RABAT 000154

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND DRL/NESCA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/19/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM PINR MO
SUBJECT: MR. EL-HIMMA GOES TO PARLIAMENT: AMBASSADOR'S
CALL ON CHAMBER FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEAD FOUAD ALI
EL-HIMMA


Classified By: Ambassador Thomas T. Riley for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: In a February 13 meeting, prominent
parliamentarian and royal confidante Fouad Ali El-Himma
discussed with the Ambassador his efforts to better
coordinate local, regional and national governance in the
poor constituency he represents. El-Himma asserted that
Morocco's legislature has "all the legal authority it needs"
and complained bitterly about mismanagement of resources and
lack of vision among the parliamentary leadership.
Interestingly, El-Himma declined to engage on issues like
Western Sahara (in which he was intimately engaged as Deputy
Interior Minister) and did not even mention his "All
Democrats Movement," an initiative which has prompted
clamorous speculation in the domestic media about his
political ambitions. End summary.

2. (C) The Ambassador met on February 13 with Fouad Ali
El-Himma, Chairman of Parliament's Foreign Affairs, Islamic
Affairs, and Defense Committee. El Himma is also leader of
the parliamentary bloc with provides lynch-pin support to
Prime Minister El-Fassi's minority government. The former
Deputy Interior Minister and childhood friend and confidante
of King Mohammed VI, is still commonly viewed as perhaps the
most influential person in Morocco, after the monarch. In a
90-minute, one-on-one meeting, El-Himma talked at length
about his efforts to help Skhour Rhamna, the poor
constituency north of Marrakech he was elected to represent
in September 2007. El-Himma said he had been leading a
continuing dialogue between local officials, NGOs, and
private sector leaders to discuss ways to attract investment,
generate employment, and upgrade economic development
activities in the district.

3. (C) El-Himma claimed that Skhour Rhamna was the poorest
district in Morocco and lamented that it had not been
selected as a beneficiary for Millennium Challenge Account
projects, the first of which are being launched in early
2008. El-Himma urged that the USG look closely at Skhour
Rhamna as it planned future assistance activities, pledging
that he would make sure the USG received the full cooperation
of all levels of the GOM in such an endeavor. If you invest
in Skhour Rhamna, "we will give you your success story," he
asserted. One potential asset he mentioned was the air base
at Ben Guerir, the former NASA alternate landing site.

4. (C) Asked about his perspective as a new parliamentarian,
El-Himma complained bitterly about the mismanagement of staff
resources at the institution. Upon arrival, El-Himma
discovered, to his dismay, that he could not hire even one
staff member of his own choosing. Parliament's entire human
resources budget was already tapped out, with 600 persons on
the staff payroll, of whom "maybe 30 or 40 actually do
something," he complained. He directly criticized former
lower house speaker Abdelouahed Radi (now Minister of
Justice) for having allocated jobs as political party favors
and paybacks rather than on merit. El-Himma also clearly
implied that his relations with Radi's successor, speaker
Mustapha Mansouri, were chilly. (Comment: We had heard this
from independent sources.)

5. (C) El-Himma challenged the widely held view that
parliament was a weak institution because its powers were
circumscribed by the constitution. The existing legal
framework provides all the power it needs to effect change,
he argued. The problem has been the myopic vision of the
political parties in the parliament, he contended. If
parliament got together and presented effective legislation
based on strong consensus, the GOM could not and would not
say no, he argued.

6. (C) Returning to the theme of helping his district,
El-Himma told the Ambassador he had decided to step down from
his post as Minister-Delegate for the Interior (i.e. Deputy
Minister) to go back to a quieter life in his home town and
focus on his family and his community. Once there, he
decided he needed not to rest but to work hard to improve his
community, concluding that he could best do so by
representing his district in parliament.

7. (C) Comment: As Deputy Minister of the Interior from
2002 to the summer of 2007, he overshadowed the actual
Minister (Chakib Benmoussa) and was widely considered, mainly


because of his proximity to the King, to be the second most
influential man in Morocco. Many still believe this is the
case. It is hard not to think him disingenuous in claiming
that he stepped down from his ministerial post in the summer
of 2007, not to enter parliament but to return to his dusty
and rural hometown to spend time with his family.

8. (C) Comment continued: Perhaps most significant in the
conversation was what El-Himma did not say. He ignored the
Ambassador's question on Western Sahara, an issue on which he
worked in the Interior Ministry and as a leader of numerous
diplomatic missions to press Morocco's case in world capitals
and the first Manhasset meeting. El-Himma also declined to
say anything about his leadership of the "All Democrats
Movement" (reftel), an initiative which has provoked
clamorous speculation in the domestic media about his
possible plans to form a new political party that would seem
well placed to steamroll its rivals and transform the
political landscape. Instead, with the Ambassador, El-Himma
clung to his pose as a newly minted parliamentarian who has
come to the capital determined to do something good for his
district.

9. (C) Comment continued: This is doubtful, at least in
part. El-Himma's proximity to the King has apparently not
been diminished. In fact, we have heard that he was called
to join the King on his early February skiing vacation in
France. We think more plausible the commonly held view that
El-Himma has been tasked by the King with going into
parliament, seeing why it doesn't work well, and ultimately
fixing it. Perhaps by forming a dominant new party, or
perhaps through more indirect approaches. We are reminded of
the 1980 Robert Redford film "Brubaker," in which the newly
appointed warden enters a corrupt and brutal prison disguised
as an inmate, to see for himself what the problems are from
the ground level. El-Himma watching will continue to be a
major sport for observers of Morocco's domestic political
scene and will likely yield interesting results in the months
to come. End comment.


*****************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
*****************************************

Riley

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