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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ahead of Morocco's Communal elections

I have been in Morocco for a few days now and have been following the various debates ahead of the communal elections. It seems that old electoral practices are alive and well. There is a complete disregard for campaign rules and an utter disinterest and cynicism on the part of most Moroccans I talked to. A feeling of futility dominates most conversations on these elections. There are also some new developments in the Moroccan political scene. The party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), which just announced its departure from the government coalition and joined the opposition, benefits from a wider coverage in Moroccan newspapers and web blogs. The party of Fouad Ali-Himma seems destined to victory in most of the 22,000+ communes subject to the June 12th electoral contest. Out of 96 deputies who changed political affiliations, in what has been labeled as an act of "transhumance," 50 joined PAM. Sources tell Journal Hebdomadaire that several of those (maybe 20 candidates) have been refused by the Ministry of the Interior. Le Maroc Hebdomadaire online featured the battle between Ali-Himma and the Ministry of the Interior in its May 22 issue. This massive political exodus towards PAM is unparalleled in Moroccan politics and showcases the fragility and ideological immaturity of most political parties in the kingdom. PAM has created a palpable malaise within Morocco's political parties with its populist and pragmatic approach to politics. So as I close these lines, I keep wondering about that day when our politicians would reach the level where they can show genuine strategic, rational and ideological vision.

Fracture in Libya?

Sarah Leah Whitson provides an optimistic view of the Libyan political landscape in the aftermath of the death of its most visible dissident, Fathi al-Jahmi. Whitson writes that the regime is showing signs of fracture as there is a noticeable space for open dissent. This space is still monitored by the state through organizations such as the Qaddafi Foundation for International Charities and Development run by none other than Gaddafi's own son Saif al-Islam. Whitson and others rightly wonder whether this is an attempt to set Saif as heir apparent to his father's rule.

Elections in Mauritania

As Mauritania's June 6th elections approach, no major opposition figures will participate and the election of General Muhammad Ould Abdel-Aziz, who led the August 2008 coup, is almost the forgone conlcusion. Christopher Boucek provides a reading into Mauritanian politics and the likely victory of Ould Abdel-Aziz. Boucek argues that Mauritanian politics are dominated by military personalities despite Abdel-Aziz’s resignation from the High State Council and his subsequent announcement that he would run as a civilian candidate.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jailed Islamists in Morocco and Algeria

According to Hespress, hundreds of Islamist prisoners have launched a hunger strike in protest of what they called "arbitrary and summary" detention in the aftermath of the May 2003 attacks in Casablanca. speaking of Islamists in jail, Algerian Islamist Amar Saifi, alias Abderrezak El Para renewed his calls for reconciliation and went as far as repenting for his past actions. In a public letter addressed to his commanders, El Para acknowledges the efforts of GSPC founder Hassan Hattab to end the fighting in Algeria: "I'm sorry for what I have done, and I have prayed to God that those who remain in the underground will feel the same," he writes. "Hassan Hattab's action is laudable, as he has put the interest of the nation, an end to the spilling of Algerian blood and an end to fitna, above all other considerations."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Forum on the Maghreb

Maghrebia has launched a new service to serve as a platform to engage readers more thoroughly on important issues to the Maghreb region. The forum called Zawaya includes panelists from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and soon, from Mauritania, with diverse backgrounds in human rights, human development issues, democratisation, and women's rights.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lahcen Daoudi of the PJD on "Transhumance"

In a recent interview, PJD Deputy Secretary General, Lahcen Daoudi, laments the recent trend ahead of the June local elections in Morocco of politicians switching from one party to another in order to improve their chances at the polls. Daoudi warns that this is "dangerous for our democracy, ” and raises concerns about the difficulty with meeting the new quota of 12% for women. According to Daoudi there is just not enough women interested in going through the process of being candidates for elections.