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Cablegate: Morocco: Ambassador's Meeting with Minister Of


DE RUEHRB #0087/01 0341812
P 031812Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met Minister of State
Laenser, the Secretary General of the Popular Movement Party
(MP), on January 25. Laenser discussed the need for the
King's entourage to devolve powers to the Parliament and the
problem of a saturated political environment with too many
parties and no party discipline. He maintained that the
Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) had no real
political platform. However, he conceded that the MP
probably would align with the PAM in the 2012 parliamentary
elections, as it had in the 2009 local council elections.
His position on having three main political blocs in Moroccan
politics is a familiar one that Moroccan political pundits
suggest is the goal behind the creation of the PAM. The MP
by default -- and not because of common ideology or shared
programs -- seems to fall into the PAM bloc. On economic
issues, he portrayed himself as pro-free market and discussed
the challenges to reducing unemployment. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Ambassador Kaplan met with Minister of State Mohand
Laenser, one of two Ministers of State without portfolio, on
January 25 in an introductory call. Laenser, who is also the
Secretary General of the Popular Movement (MP), a political
party that has traditionally supported Berber interests,
thanked the Ambassador for strong U.S. support to Morocco.
He stated that as a minister holding various portfolios for
over 17 years, he had had the privilege and honor to
experience directly the close relationship between the two
countries. In friendly and honest discussions, Laenser
appeared to give his sincere opinions on political and
economic issues in Morocco.

The Political System is Sick

3. (SBU) Responding to the Ambassador,s question about the
political party system in Morocco, Laenser discussed the
major problems, from his point of view, facing the system.
He first clarified that -- unlike other parties -- the
Popular Movement felt that constitutional change was not
necessary; instead, there was a problem with the application
of the Constitution. The "cement" that the King brings to a
tribal society and the strength of his role in the country
were essential. The role that his entourage played, however,
should go to the Prime Minister and Parliament.

4. (U) Laenser opined that the political parties and
Parliament were "sick." First, having a governing coalition
of five parties, as currently in Morocco, was unwieldy. When
the Ambassador asked whether a two-party system like in the
U.S. would suit Morocco better, Laenser replied that he
envisioned three blocs: leftists, conservatives (PJD and
Istiqlal), and centrists. Governing coalitions needed to be
made up of two to three parties at most. The next major
challenge was a lack of political maturity among parties. He
cited that many Members of Parliament, after their election,
only attended the opening session of Parliament that the King
inaugurates. He also discussed imposing rules on party
members to bring higher standards to political life, such as
limiting when members can change parties or punishing
absenteeism. He explained that in Belgium and Turkey, for
example, when a Member of Parliament wants to switch parties,
he must run again for election because he was switching the
platform on which he originally was elected. He also
lamented that elections were personal rather than party
affairs. In other words, a candidate for election that was
not chosen by one party could just switch to another and
still win the election because of his personal popularity.
Laenser argued that reform of the political system could not
wait until other challenges such as poverty and illiteracy
were addressed but that there must be parallel reform

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Nothing New in the Party of Authenticity and Modernity
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. (SBU) In the context of political system reform and the
role of political parties, Laenser brought up the Party of
Authenticity and Modernity, claiming that it had no real
platform besides modernity, which "everyone agrees on." He
opined that the PAM stated its intention to bring in new
political elites but in the June election, it formed
alliances with existing ones. The MP, however, has "no
problem with the PAM in principle." As for working with the
PAM, Laenser stated that the MP had already aligned with the
PAM in the 2009 elections and was likely to repeat this
practice in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Free Trade Beneficial But Unemployment Difficult
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (U) Laenser also brought up economic reform and
challenges facing Morocco on several occasions. He claimed
that he and the MP have consistently supported free market
policies, even going against many dissenting voices on the
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S. He stated that his
position has now been justified by the increase in exports
and would continue to be justified by the FTA,s long-term
benefits. He gave another example from when he was Minister
of Agriculture and supported -- again, in the face of much
opposition -- the opening of public agricultural lands to
sale to the private sector. The Government had a role as
regulator of the market and in creating standards but not in
interfering in the economy, he explained.

7. (U) When the Ambassador asked about unemployment, Laenser
replied that unemployment was not limited to youth who have
university degrees and cannot find employment but extended to
those in rural areas, those in inner cities and middle-aged
Moroccans. There were some solutions for unemployed youth,
such as credits for hiring youth for projects or to open
businesses, or helping young people obtain jobs in companies
through temporary exemptions from taxes or social charges.
Overall, the biggest contributing factor to unemployment was
the education system, which was neither adequate nor did it
correspond to supply and demand in the Moroccan economy. He
explained that often a job was available but the right
candidate was not. To fix this, he suggested, for example,
that a student who did not succeed in school should go into
vocational training rather than remaining unemployed.


8. (SBU) Laenser appeared to give his unvarnished opinion of
the political and economic situations in Morocco to the
Ambassador -- even going so far as to state that the king's
entourage should delegate power to Parliament. That said,
the MP has managed for decades to represent Berber interests
without running afoul of Moroccan laws that explicitly
prohibit parties from organizing along ethnic lines -- and
one of the keys to that long-running success has been the
MP,s devotion to the monarchy. His stance on creating three
major political blocs is an opinion expressed by many
political analysts here, who suggest that this is exactly
what the Makhzen, i.e., the country,s political and economic
elite, is trying to force with the formation of the PAM. End

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