Cablegate: Democracy in Transition: Moroccan Youth Speaks Out


DE RUEHRB #0711/01 2141126
R 011126Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: Educated Moroccan youths are concerned about
Parliamentary dysfunction, constitutional imbalances, and
corruption among elected officials. During a conference
attended by young academics and opinionmakers, debate focused
on problems related to the mismanagement of public resources
and the need for constitutional reform and devolution of
central authority. Private conversations held with students
and other participants for the most part echoed the
sentiments of panelists: life is becoming tougher for
ordinary Moroccans while their elected officials and those
with connections become richer and more powerful. End

If You Have Power, You Have Everything
2. (U) On July 10, about 100 young researchers, academics,
and journalists gathered in the northern city of Tangiers for
a four-day conference to discuss the state of Morocco's
social, political, economic and democratic transitions. The
event was sponsored by the Center for the Study and Research
in the Social Sciences, a Rabat-based academic organization
founded by a group of universities, researchers, and social
science practitioners to promote a better understanding of
Moroccan society at the regional and international levels.
Ali Karimi, a panelist from the University of Casablanca,
spoke about the links between constitutional reform and its
connection to the economy. He said the style of government
influenced the economy, and that in Morocco, the Government
needs to reassert control over the private sector.
Currently, he said, private interests subvert the
Government's oversight function through influence peddling
and bribery.

3. (U) Although he did not mention specific members, Karimi
spoke of those who profited from their position in
Parliament. "If you have power, you have everything," he
said. Karimi criticized elected officials for being out of
touch with the people. He lamented that Morocco is a state
where "everything is for sale," and complained of how some
people were using government connections to purchase public
property for below-market prices. He bemoaned the weakness
and lack of credibility of the Government, which he believes
has become a "slave" to the private sector.

4. (U) According to Karimi, democracy should be used to spur
economic progress, and constitutional reform should be given
priority to enable both. (Note: In the Moroccan context,
"constitutional reform" is code for taking formal legal steps
to limit the king's almost absolute power over the running of
the nation. End Note.)

5. (U) One female participant, who disagreed with the need
for constitutional reform, commented that too much time had
been wasted on fruitless debates and fighting among political
parties. She said that in order for Morocco to move forward
in its democratic transition, people needed to encourage
elected representatives to participate constructively within
existing political space rather than discussing esoteric
constitutional issues.

6. (U) Said Saadi, a panelist from the University of
Casablanca, disagreed. "We don't debate enough in our
country," he said. Saadi said the lack of political
participation by the general population has contributed to
the weakening of NGOs and civil society, and has hampered
overall national development efforts. He questioned the
credibility of the National Initiative for Human Development
(INDH), an anti-poverty program touted as the king's most
important social legacy. He said that a new social movement
is emerging, born of the unemployed yet highly-educated and
organized college graduates who hold daily protests in front
of the Parliament. Youth are rebelling against
globalization, he said. Good governance and reforms are
needed to ease its attendant pressures and frustrations, but
the Moroccan state does not have the resources to meet
societal needs, he complained. Saadi added that there is a
growing frustration with civil society, as it too seems
unable to effectively address or ameliorate broader societal

7. (U) Ali Bouabid, a panelist from the Abderrahim Bouabid
Foundation of Rabat, said that Morocco is not a liberal
country, either politically or economically. He disagreed
with the concept of a state for sale. He believes that the
government is interested in citizens' interests, but that it
lacks the technological and material resources to realize its
objectives. He bemoaned the lack of transparency in the sale
of public services, and advocated a more successful process
of economic liberalization, though not necessarily

A Car with Two Drivers
8. (U) One participant described the Moroccan government as a
car with two drivers: the King and the Parliament. To which
one student wryly replied, "A car like that doesn't work."

10. (U) One married female student said that daily life is
becoming harder. "The rich are becoming richer and the poor
are becoming poorer. It is difficult for young people to get
married, because there are not enough jobs for the men to
make a living and raise a family. Those in power are only
concerned about their own interests."

11. (U) She said that young couples find it difficult to
start families because affordable housing is difficult to
find. "There is much construction going on, but it only
benefits the elite. What good is it for society if some
people own five apartments and others have none?"

Not Our Fight
12. (U) When asked what the United States could do strengthen
the democratic process in Morocco, two students said the U.S.
should not intervene. "The U.S. should let other countries
find their own democracy. Morocco has yet to solidify its
democratic identity," one female student said.

13. (U) During a workshop on decentralization, facilitators
discussed social mobilization and the growing tension in the
country. One facilitator spoke of the importance of
including more women in the national assembly. Many
complained that the central government has been slow to
devolve significant decisionmaking powers, and management
functions, to local governments (away from Rabat and
ultimately, the monarchy). Both the Government and King have
made decentralization a centerpiece of Morocco's broader
democratization strategy.

14. (U) During the discussion phase, one female participant
said that the political parties must open and lead the debate
on decentralization, the success of which rested upon
political will. She said that unfortunately, the parties
were weak because their internal processes remained opaque
and as a result they could not garner broad support.

15. (U) One participant advocated for the development of a
new culture in which democracy springs from the bottom (the
citizens) towards the top (the elites in power). Another
participant bemoaned, "The elected officials will not give
away their real powers."

16. (SBU) Comment: The sentiments expressed at this event
mirror the broader complaints we continue to hear: the
Government is ineffective, and its members lack credibility.
Constitutional reform is a sensitive issue among the people.
There are tensions between a strong and reform-minded
monarchy and the evolving parliamentary governmental system.
There is a need to devolve power, but the elected and
executive governmental arms are weak and riven by infighting
and graft. Additionally, people are loathe to criticize the
monarch (even constructively), who is still revered as both a
person and as an institution, thus precluding true debate on
the subject of devolution of authority. Yet, without
meaningful discussion of reforms that increase transparency
in political and economic processes, and give more power to
national and local elected governments, frustration will
continue to simmer. End Comment.

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