Surveying the Moroccan media’s coverage of today’s election, I got the impression the political parties are locked in a vicious, but healthy fight for power. I have intently read, listened, and watched as the leadership of the thirty political parties vying for a parliamentary majority reveled in exposing their grand vision of Morocco under their governance in newspapers and magazines and on national radio stations and television channels. They vowed to put the people’s interest before their partisan agenda; to ease the collective anxiety and earn the people’s trust, they bemoaned the irresponsible and undemocratic practices of erstwhile governments. They passionately pleaded with the citizens to denounce electoral graft and demonstrate civism by committing to the newly voted constitution and aiding in the construction of a more democratic culture.
The Moroccan government cranked up a robust campaign to urge people to vote. It commissioned three twin-engine planes to drop leaflets in remote areas to animate voters. The airwaves have been saturated with countless programs and ads sensitizing people to the importance of voting. Actors, singers, intellectuals, and politicians have been mobilized to tell the masses, in almost personal pleas, that it does not matter whom they vote for so long as their voices are heard. The streets are littered with fliers, banners, and posters reminding them to head to the polling stations to cast their ballots. The government’s efforts to educate people on the value of electoral participation as a public entitlement that should never be relinquished is indeed commendable and should be encouraged.
I felt the urge to vote. I did what I usually do in similar situations. I lay down and let it pass.
Somehow, millions of Moroccans are skeptical. They wonder how could a government that has lacked responsiveness to their most basic grievances for the past five years all of a sudden pay lavish deference to them. Since the electoral campaign started, ten ministers, as crass as they come, have left the comfort of their swanky homes and parked their Audi A8’s to tread through impoverished neighborhoods and among the commons. They danced for the people and laughed with them, they shook their hands, told them jokes, made promises and served meals. Most people know exactly how long this paroxysmal kindness will last. Not a day past 25 November. These are the same ministers who for the past five years have shown utter indifference to the plight of Moroccans. Something is rotten in the state of Morocco.
While the media is promoting the practice of democracy, the government’s security elements are arresting those calling for the boycott of the election and instigating criminal attacks on young activists leading demonstrations and organizing sitting-ins. The latest to be attacked is Sarah Soujar, stabbed Tuesday night during a demonstration in Sbeta in front of a swarm of suddenly lethargic police force.
I step out of my house one morning and I come face to face with Karim Ghellab, the Minister of Equipment and Transformation and Provincial Secretary of the Istiqlal Party. He was flanked by the Qaid and other sycophants. The streets were cleaned spotless as if the King himself was coming to visit. Before becoming a minister, Ghellab had campaigned for a parliamentary seat three times and won. He and most other candidates see the people though the prism of election. Once the election is over, Ghellab wouldn’t touch my neighborhood with a ten-foot pole. Why would he? The guy never experienced the life the majority of Moroccans endure; he attended Lyautey and finished his studies in France before returning as an engineer to a privileged professional post as a regional delegate of the Ministry of Transportation and a reserved seat within the Istiqlal Party leadership where his father, Abdelkarim Ghellab, was a prominent figure – one of the signatories of the independence document. Looking at the background of most of the well-heeled candidates, one quickly realizes that what needs to be changed first is the old guard.
Twice or thrice every hour, Moroccan viewers are invited to participate in a trivia game on TV; they are asked a simple question such as: what color is the white polar bear? Viewers are urged to send the correct answer via text message to a number displayed on the TV screen to win between five thousand to fifty thousand Dirhams and a brand new car. Each text message cost the participant ten Dirhams – a little over a dollar. Millions of Moroccans participate generating tremendous revenues to Maroc Telcom, Meditel, and Inwi.
The Moroccan government is using the same strategy. The results, I suspect, are already secured. What matters is a large turnout to give the fabricated results legitimacy.
So far, only 35% voted. We Moroccans are not easily duped. Then again, it wasn’t so long we were swept by Mawazin.
A. T. B. © 2011