A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jail for Moroccan Human Rights Activist

It has become customary to report state attacks on freedom of expression in Morocco. The latest episode in this unfortunate trend took place Tuesday. A court in Casablanca upheld an earlier court's three-year jail sentence against human rights activist Chakib Khayari, who previously accused some high-level civil servants of aiding in the cannabis trafficking. Khayari is the head of the Human Rights Association of the Rif region in the north of Morocco.

As I reported in earlier posts, this regressive trend of stifling dissent is becoming the norm in the kingdom. The margin of tolerance is lower and lower and indicates the regime's inability to deal or absorb this form of dissent. The future trajectory of the state and its purported commitment to democratic reform inevitably has to go through the path of political expression. Such continuous repression of all forms of journalistic and individual criticism of the government and the regime will only serve to erode the last vestiges of entente between regime and society.

Morocco and its people deserve at a minimum the right to address the most pernicious of topics. Drug trafficking is one of those dossiers that has to be subjected to open investigation and debate. The fact that the state moved quickly against Khayari only reinforces his allegations against state officials. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Hereditary Republicanism" in MENA

The Middle East and North Africa is a region known for authoritarian innovations. Their menu of institutional manipulation and political engineering is extensive, and will soon feature yet another innovation. Authoritarian republics are setting the stage for a new political system: "hereditary republics." This is of course not without precedent in the region following in the footsteps of Syria's late Hafidh al-Assad, who bequeathed the Syrian republican "kingdom" to his son Bashar. 

Several aging dictators are positioning their offspring for an eventual changing of the guards. In Egypt, it's Mubarak's son Gamal; in Libya, it is Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam. Now it is Tunisia's and Ageria's turn. It is rumored that Algeria's Bouteflika is grooming his brother Said for power. As for Tunisia, allegedly increasingly under the sway of  Ben 'Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi, it is Sakhr al-Materi son in law of Ben 'Ali, who is favored to succeed the aging and ailing president.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Girls for Qaddafi

Brother leader Qaddafi is in the news again. According to Der Spiegel, the Colonel in Italy for a World hunger Summit, has put ads for Italian beauties to come join him to "exchange views. " Instead, Qaddafi gifted them with a Quran and 50 euros. He never ceases to surprise the king of all kings of Africa.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Royal Dahir in Morocco

The Moroccan French weekly Tel Quel, recently censured by the state for its attempt to publish a public opinion survey on king Mohammed VI, devoted its centerfold to an article on the Dahir. A dahir (royal decree) is a royal discretionary act in regulatory, administrative and legislative domains, and one of the manifestations of the unbridled institutional powers of the Moroccan sovereign. During the process of modern state formation, the constitution replaced the old system of consultation with a new representative body. However, the legislative body is a rubber stamp institution not characterized by democratic practices such as those present in western style polities. The dahir, on the other hand, persisted as one of the main features of Morocco's political system.

The use of dahir in Morocco is different than the discretionary powers that extra-presidential systems possess in Latin America. The dahir emanates from the monarch’s religious authority and is treated by the legislature and the cabinet as a sacred text. In keeping with Islamic traditions, the parliament and the local assemblies are consultative branches of the royal power.

This was made apparent after Hassan II’s accession to power, when he addressed the parliament in 1963: “I shall bestow upon you part of the powers that have been with the ruling family for twelve centuries…I have made the Constitution by my very hands, and it has not given the deputies any powers, only obligations.” This authoritarian feature is characterized by the absolute power of the monarch, who can at his will, dissolve the parliament. It is noteworthy here that the monarchy has never considered its perennial status as authoritarian. On the contrary, it has maintained its Islamic-democratic nature, since any constitutional pronouncements are subject to plebiscitary powers of the jam’a (community). However, in the absence of free competitive elections, strong legislature and political participation, the consultative process is far from its Islamic ideal and has since the independence been used to legitimize royal absolutism.

Consultation is also buttressed through royal discretionary power of dahir, which constitutes the single most important source of legislation in Morocco. All royal decisions are taken under the guise of dahir. These are above the political system and all constitutional texts. In fact, the constitution itself was promulgated according to the 1963 dahir, which effectively enabled the king to exercise his dominance over all political aspects of the Moroccan system.

Dahirs have the force and appearance of laws, always begin with a religious greeting and are signed under the title of commander of the faithful. This is done to invoke the religious stature of royal decrees, which are not subject to annulment or appeal. Dahirs were codified into an “official bulletin” in the years after 1969 with the publication of the finance law. The continuity of this institutional decision-making practice is invoked in all royal appointments and is given the formal status similar to that of ancient sharifian letters and correspondence. The dahir is a sacred act of sovereignty, immune to all judicial processes and inviolable.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Free Fatma Riahi

In support of a fellow blogger, I post this for Fatma Riahi, Tunisian dissident, whose weblog, Fatma Arabicca blog, was shut down by the Tunisian authorities. Fatma Riahi was also arrested for running the Debat Tunisie weblog and its parody of Ben Ali's landslide election of October 25th. There is a facebook page dedicated to Fatma calling on Tunisian authorities to free the blogger. As Michael Dunn opines Arab regimes have to realize that shutting down blogs and restricting freedom of expression on the Internet, brings more attention to the set of issues, cartoons and parodies they seek to censure.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Hardline Approach towards the Press in Morocco

Just an update on the case of the two journalists from the Arabic daily Akhbar al-Yawm, who published a cartoon deemed insulting the Moroccan flag and Prince Ismail, cousin of King Mohammed VI. Editor Taoufiq Bou'achrine and Cartoonist Khalid Gueddar were found guilty of "desecrating the national flag and failing to show proper respect for a member of the royal family." They were sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 100,000 Dirhams.