The Political Situation in Morocco
Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem
The Political Situation in Morocco
The political changes in Morocco started to shift towards the American influence before the demise of Hassan II and gathered pace with his son Mohammed VI assuming the reins of power in the wake of his father’s demise.America had succeeded in the last days of the Hassan II era in enabling her men to reach the authority after her agent Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi assumed the prime ministerial post in the Moroccan government.
Once, Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi took office, the American Under Secretary of State for the Middle-East and North Africa, Martin Andick declared: “The change that occurred in Morocco is a leading project and an example to be followed in the region.” This was in reference to the so called opposition assuming power.
The United States president Bill Clinton for his part sent this message to Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi in the wake of the successful surgery he had underwent, and this was on 25 June 1999: “I have for a long time been impressed with your tremendous devotion in the work you are doing for your country and we are aware that your speedy and full recovery is very important for the efforts that king Hassan II and yourself personally are performing in order to develop improve democracy, freedom and human rights throughout the kingdom.”
It is worth mentioning that Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi returned to Morocco in 1980 after 15 years in exile in France. He became the leader of Socialist Union for the Popular Forces party in 1992 after the death of Abdul-Raheem Bouabeed. In the wake of the legislative elections in 1993, he rejected the royal proposal that stipulated the arrival to the rule by way of succession, under the pretext that the elections were rigged. He returned to France where he remained for a year.
After the elections of 14 November 1997, which were fraught with rigging and which were described as depressing, he accepted to take office and he declared that the popular forces in Morocco must unite with the throne. It is clear that America was aware Hassan II poor health, thus she brought Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi to prepare the grounds in Morocco in order to secure the transfer of power to the heir apparent Mohammed VI.
As for the Moroccan foreign ministry, it was headed by Abdul-Latif Al-Filali since 1985, then the post was assigned to America’s agent Mohammed Ben Issa who used to hold the post of Public Relations Officer at the Moroccan Mission in the United Nations, and since 1993 he became Morocco’s ambassador to Washington. He also enjoys a great deal of support from the White House and the United States Congress. Hilary Clinton expressed to him during her visit to Morocco the importance of the ties between America and Morocco.
In addition to the appointment of Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi as prime minister, Hassan II carried out a host of major changes within the armed forces. He dismissed the Chief of Staff and introduced significant changes among the high ranking officers.
As for the Moroccan relationship with the neighbouring countries, the Moroccan-Algerian relations and the Moroccan-Tunisian relations improved dramatically during the last days of Hassan II. Once Abdul-Aziz Bouteflika assumed the posat of president in Algeria, Hassan II sent him a message of congratulation while Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi issued a series of statements calling upon Bouteflika to solve the outstanding problems between the two countries, such as the reopening of the borders and the crisis of the Western Sahara.
Bouteflika responded by saying: “The relations with Morocco must be based on good neighbourly relations, as for the issue of the Sahara, it is in the hands of the United Nations.” This means that it is in the hands of America, because the United Nations Representative, in charge of the Sahara file is in fact the former United States Secretary of State, James Baker.
As for the relationship with Tunisia, it has been strengthened since the arrival of Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi to head the Moroccan government. His first visit outside Morocco was to Tunisia. Zein El-Abedeen for his part visit Morocco on 15 March 1999 and he was greeted warmly by Hassan II. Then a series of visits by parliamentary and economic delegations took place between the two countries.
America has also succeeded in putting pressure on Morocco through the project of economic partnership between the countries of the Maghreb (Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco). She started this first with Tunisia and after two years, she managed to lure Algeria and Morocco to this project, and this was when the deputy of the American minister for economic affairs met with the finance ministers of Algeria and Morocco and with the Tunisian minister of cooperation and foreign investment, in Washington at the end of April 1999.
Then came the meeting of the Arab Maghreb Union representatives in Algeria on 17 May 1999, and this was the first meeting of its kind after Morocco had requested the freezing of the Union’s activity in 1994, when she accused Algeria of supporting the Polisario front. Hence, the authority in Morocco submitted to the American dictates by establishing a rapprochement with the agents of America in Algeria and Tunisia.
In the wake of Mohammed VI’s accession to the throne on 23 July 1999, the paces of the new era that indicates the America orientation of the regime hastened.
At a domestic level, the king undertook a catalogue of widespread changes within the old political milieu, which was replaced by personalities who accompanied the king during his academic and professional life. He appointed many of these personalities in a host of official posts, such as the Royal Palace Spokesman, the Chairman of the Protection of the Homeland Committee (domestic intelligence), the Director of the Arab Maghreb Press Agency among other official posts. The most important change was reflected in the dismissal of Al-Basri from the Ministry of the Interior, which he occupied for 25 years.
It was a well known fact to all the observers of the Moroccan political life that Idriss Al-Basri had been the effective prime minister of Morocco, especially prior to Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi taking office as head of the government. The star of Al-Basri started to fade since Mohammed VI seized the reins of power; for instance, the daily routine meeting between the king and the Minister of the Interior disappeared, and Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi acquired this privilege in his quality as prime minister. Then the competencies of Al-Basri started to shrink in succession. He was relieved of the supervision of the internal intelligence, then the political parties and the newspapers launched an attack on Al-Basri. Magazines published photographs of people that had been tortured and Al-Basri could not find anyone to support him and justify his behaviour and stances.
The dismissal of Al-Basri on 9 November 1999 and the appointment of a personality that is despised by Al-Basri’s men at the head of the Ministry of the Interior, and who initiated a comprehensive purge within the ministry, is not a mere ministerial reshuffle, but rather a termination of one pattern of ruling to be replaced by a new pattern which started ever since Mohammed VI assumed the reins of power in Morocco.
Some of the other measures undertaken by the new era in order to occasion a political détente in Morocco were reflected in allowing the Moroccan dissident Ibrahim Al-Sirfati to return to Morocco, knowing that prior to this the Ministry of the Interior used to vehemently oppose this. The family of Al-Mahdi ben Barka was also allowed to return to Morocco from its exile in France.
As for the chronic crisis that has depleted Morocco, i.e. the Moroccan Sahara crisis, it has witnessed some developments indicating that it is on its way towards being resolved now that there is no longer a need for America to pressurise and deplete Morocco.
The deadline for establishing the identity of the three tribal groups, with the aim of holding a referendum to determine the fate of the Sahara was December 1999; however, a report compiled by the SeGeneral of the United Nations, Kofi Annan on 28 October 1999 revealed that the referendum had been put back for several years. As for the Polisario Front, it has started to lose the support of the countries of the region. The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi stated on 21 June 1999, while on a visit to Sudan: “I founded the Polisario and I trained it and armed it in order to liberate the “Red River” and the “Valley of Gold” from the Spanish colonialism, but it has been exploited by the imperialists and the Zionists in order to generate a crisis between two Arab countries, Algeria and Morocco.” He added: “We did not establish the Polisario in order to cause a cleft and declare a midget state. We did not struggle in order for the Western Sahara to become an independent state.”
Once Mohammed VI seized the reins of power, and during the meeting that brought Gaddafi and Mohammed Abdul-Aziz, the Polisario leader together, on the periphery of the extraordinary African Summit, Gaddafi stated in a speech directed at the Polisario leader: “I advise you to return to your country. There is a new king and you must join your country quickly, for the Polisario we had established to face the Spanish colonialism has completed its mission and it there is nothing else for it.”
As for the new era’s viewpoint towards the Sahara crisis, it has also changed in accordance with the change in the American stance towards Morocco. Prior to the change, the option used to be a security solution to the crisis and the file of the western Sahara used to be under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, whereas the option at present is the economic and social solution, through a comprehensive development project for all the Sahara regions, while the file of the Sahara has been withdrawn from the Ministry of the Interior and coordination with the United Nations has been assigned to Mohammed Lulsheeki from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
What is clear is that the crisis of the Western Sahara will be solved within the state of Morocco now that the Polisario has lost the foreign support and now that the new regime has moved towards the economic and social solution, which will lead in few years time to a vote in favour of remaining part of the kingdom of Morocco.
All these changes in the pattern of the authority in Morocco and in her relations with the neighbouring countries indicate that America’s men, headed by Mohammed VI himself, dominate the ruling.
The Media Forum of Hizb ut-Tahrir
23 Ramadhan 1420
30 January 1999