TheGuardian – M. Monjib : The king of Morocco and PAM must separate

Maati Monjib and Intissar Fakir

If the king is serious about reform, he must sever all ties with the Authenticity and Modernity party in a clear and definitive way

eneficiaries of the monarchy’s patronage have come under increased scrutiny in Morocco – and none as much as the Authenticity and Modernity party (PAM). Although PAM has generally been regarded as a political tool for the monarchy, it could become a royal liability now that people are demanding greater accountability and an end to cronyism.

The extent to which the palace dictates political development and progress in Morocco is shown by the speed of the party’s rise.

PAM gained notoriety almost as soon as it first emerged in 2007, as a fluid association called the Movement for all Democrats. The following year, it turned into a political party and came to dominate the 2009 local elections. The party currently holds 55 seats in the lower house of parliament and controls the presidency of the upper house. Yet only three of the party’s founding members were elected in the 2007 legislative elections; virtually all the others migrated to PAM leaving old parties and coalitions behind. PAM certainly held many attractions to ambitious politicians who understood that political success depends on blessings from the palace.

Elected officials joined the new party despite a law that forbids them from changing parties until the end of their mandate. The backing of King Mohammed no doubt helped to ensure that they got away with it.

This process created deep fears within political and civil society groups but few were able to protest against the party’s murky rise to power. Jaafar Hassoun, a judge known for his courage, tried to enforce the law against PAM (in the aftermath of the June 2009 municipal elections) but ended up silenced. He was relieved of his duties, with his salary suspended and his reputation slandered by the ministry of justice and media close to the regime.

Such behaviour has raised a wave of indignation among the youth and civil society activists. This is why the February 20 movement protests targeted PAM leaders Fouad Ali El Himma and Ilyas El Omari and called for the party’s dissolution or a severing of the king’s ties with it. Activists are likely to persist until they see the end of what they consider the epitome of political manipulations.

It follows that if the king’s promises of reform are followed through, the existence of PAM will be in question. And as the king presents himself as the driver of reform during the coming months, it is likely that the party may become a casualty.

As for the party itself, its embrace of the monarchy remains strong as ever. Party leaders were against the recent street protests, and while others have called for more and clearer concessions, PAM declared the king’s promised reforms sufficient to bring democracy to Morocco.

Some party members have, however, understood that precarious times are ahead and have decided to resign in the past few weeks – including Samir Abdelmoula (the former mayor of Tangier) and several other elected local officials. Even El Himma stayed away from the public following the protests, but he is now back on the national scene defying those calling for the party’s end. However, following his return, newspapers known to be close to intelligence services appeared to give up on him and his party. They attacked the party leadership and allowed accusations to surface against El Himma himself.

The party’s fate – much like the outcome of the promised reforms – will be influenced by the strength of the February 20 youth movement that has engineered the past two major protests. And as PAM hangs in a delicate balance, what happens next will affect the direction of Moroccan politics.

If the king is truly endeavouring to usher in a new era of political transparency, separating himself from PAM in a clear and definitive way is a good place to start. While everyone awaits the recommendations of the constitutional reform committee, the king can show good faith by staying away from party politics.

• Intissar Fakir is writing in a personal capacity and the views expressed here do not represent those of the National Endowment for Democracy

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