Since Mohammed Bouazizi set up fire on himself, Tunisian events resulted not only in stepping down Ben Ali’s dictatorship but also in sparking a domino effect as other Arab people rediscovered the power of taking down to the Street.
Before tackling the Moroccan very special case, let us first remind some contextual details about the spreading of Arab protests:
Starting in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, protests were sustained and virulent in areas non likely to be well covered neither by mainstream media nor by the Internet, when it started to spread, Tunisian regime committed it biggest mistake: The Kasserine Massacre. This tipping point of the Tunisian revolution resulted in spreading protest to Tunis and Carthage and to make it that Sidi Bouzid events did not finished like Gafsa one in 2008.
Arab citizen were carefully observing Tunisia, with this idea that “if it work with them, it should work with us”. And while Tunisian revolution was not planned to start on the Internet, but was suddenly started after a dignity rally; Other Arab uprising were largely planned on the Internet, “every one was booking his hashtag”.
Egyptians were the first ones to set up a date: January 25, and they decided for it even before the final success of Tunisian revolution. Then again all other Arabs followed when Egyptian president Husni Mubarak resigned: This time no one was waiting for the success of the next revolution: all started in nearly the same two weeks: Feb12 for the hesitating algerian uprising, Feb17 was the sparking of Libyan tragedy etc, and what is interesting us: February 20th was The Day, for Morocco.
In the 400 years well established Monarchy which is Morocco, the call for uprising faced not only regime’s but also popular resistance, Egyptian uprising also faced some conservative resistance, but differences have to be detailed here, following points may help:
i) Few years before his death in 1999, King Hassan II appointed a government lead by the former leftist opponent Abderahman Youssoufi
ii) Right after acceding the Throne, Mohammed VI adopted a quite liberal governance and press freedom was quite important in Morocco
iii) In 2003 the King appointed a non-elected prime minister, which was a step backward in the democratic transition
iv) After Mai 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca, Morocco adopted a very strictAntiterror Law and securitarians started to get back the importance they have lost during the so-called “democratic transition (1999-2003)”
v) Followed the securitarian year 2003 a gradual decrease of freedom of speech for which 2009 was a special year for jailing Bloggers or seizing newspapers; 2009 was also the year of creation of the so called “friend-of-the-king-party”: ‘Authenticity and Modernity’ a political party that won the municipal elections 6 months after its creation
For the average Moroccan getting the news from mainstream media, especially television since the readingness of news papers is very low compared to other Arab countries, the points iii, iv and v do not really matter or are not known. And the regime’s use of public media is oriented to give this idea that the King’s project work well while everything politic is the fault of political parties, this strategy is very succefull: Only 30% of Moroccan in the age of voting voted in 2007, and in 2009 French well-established Newspaper Le Monde and Moroccan Magazines Telquel and Nichane organized a poll in the occasion of King’s tenth year on the Throne, the poll showed that 91% of the expressed opinion is very favorable with King’s policies.
These considerations explain why February 20th movement faced social resistance which is largely spontaneous (but not all the resistance was spontaneous).
One good question to ask is whether Moroccan would have been that skeptical to Feburary 20th movement if public media were really free?
I humbly think not. An highly recomand that you read this piece on the role played by both mainstream media and new media.
Before jumping to March 20th demonstrations, let us first see what happened in the month between the 2 major protests:
– Minor demonstrations took place right from February 21st to sustain the pressure. Unlike Sunday major protests, quasi-all the week protest were violently repressed.
– March the 9th: The King’s speech:
Qualified ‘Historic’ by many observers and diplomats, this speech has nothing to do in theory with the actual Arab context: In 2010, the King appointed a commission for regionalization, the same commission that was said to propose some constitutional amendments to set up the required constitution giving more power to regions.
Indeed, the speech started with ‘Regionalization’ and announced the results of the commission’s work, after what the Monarch announced the appointment of a new commission to accommodate constitution with regionalization.
No explicit mention of the demonstrations neither the Youth movement, but two major points:
–> Prime minister will automatically be chosen from the winning political party of the legislative elections
–> More power should be given to local elected corpus instead of the non-elected authorities indirectly appointed by the King
The speech ended with a promise that the new appointed commission should propose a draft of a new constitution in June, to be adopted with a referendum.
The speech was followed by a flurry of enthusiast positions, especially among the moderate wing of the February 20th movement and political parties. Some even started to argue that any protest has to be cancelled!
This enthusiast among moderates lasted until March13th: After the King’s speech, interior Ministry distributed a note to local authorities asking them to repress any protest, what they did, and in Sunday 13th, the local coordination of Feb20 movement in Casablanca was organizing a peaceful demonstration when police violently attacked them, the young protestors ran to Agadir Street to enter into the local of the Unified Socialist Party, a non governmental party, among the rare legalized parties supporting the Feb20 movement. Ironically, a meeting of the National Council of the party was preparing a positive reaction to the King’s speech.
The young protestors entered the local and asked protection, while some leaders of the party went out to play a mediation role with the police, some of them were beaten and the party drifted its position to go back to a more radical position, which was the case of all the moderate parts of the Feb20 movement.
While many said there is no need for additional protests after King’s speech, March 20th protests were event more successful than the previous ones: people feel now more safe to support the Feb20 movement and self-censure is in an astonishing downward trend in morocco. But it becomes also clear that while the King is announcing reforms, there are forces playing inside the regime lobbying against any reform and trying to provide public opinion with some calming tricky reform which only matter is to calm the so called radicals and give an illusion to superficial analysts, in a perfect remake of 1996 constitutional reform.
 Many compared this trend with Tunisian Ben Ali’s regime http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/inside.php?id=1333
 read about French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé’s reaction http://www.mamfakinch.com/point-de-vue-de-la-france-et-du-mouvement-20-fevrier/