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Friday, 14 February 2014 12:00 AM

Morocco's "Arab Spring" - Latest Update, 2013

This article discusses the most recent events (2013) that stemmed from the protests in early 2011, discussed in the previous article and the changes to the constitution and Government of Morocco in late 2011.

Holiday makers in Morocco were largely unaffected by these events, other than those near the infrequent demonstrations in major conurbations, which were largely peaceful.

Subsequent to the Demonstrations of 2011 - Events in 2013

On 20th February 2013 the Movement planned protests to mark the 2 year anniversary of the first demonstrations in Rabat. The demonstrations coincided with, and joined with, protests by unemployed graduates in Rabat and riot police were active although no arrests were made. The main demonstrations only attracted a few hundred people, showing the lack of support or leadership for those demonstrations. On 24th February a second demonstration attracted less than 1,000 demonstrators and was reported to have been peaceful.

In May to July 2013 the nationalist Istiqlal Party, the key coalition partner of the ruling party, withdrew support from the government due to its inability to solve social problems (including cuts to subsidies, most significantly to fuel) and fix the economy.

On 6th September the ruling PJD, still with widespread support in the population, formed a new government with the main opposition, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), ending months of uncertainty and political deadlock – at a time when the budget deficit was running at more than 7% of GDP.

On 10th October the King announced the replacement of 15 ministers that also resulted in 6 ministerial posts being held by women – this happening just a few days after around 2,000 unemployed marched through Rabat demanding more government sector jobs.

Continuing Social and Economic Issues to be Addressed

Unemployment remains the key issue for the limited protests that still exist, especially amongst university graduates (double the national average) and the young – around 30% unemployment rate for the under 34s compared to an average rate of around 9% across the population as a whole. With private sector jobs having few wage guarantees or benefits, the call is for more government jobs to be created but the PJD has stated that that will not happen as government bureaucracy has been swollen with useless jobs created for that reason in the past.

Other issues still lurk and there continues to be calls for action on wealth inequality, corruption, lack of public health and failing education systems (illiteracy is almost 50% for Moroccans over 15 years of age).

The 20th February Movement is now largely marginalized and is seen as waning, its relatively small number of radicals now being infiltrated by Islamists. The demonstrations caused some concessions in governance and free speech was, on the whole, respected – moves that have been welcomed by the general populace, but calls by protest groups for further changes and greater social justice are unlikely to ever stop but appear at present not to have significant support amongst Moroccans.

King Mohammed VI has very strong support across Morocco and is generally believed to be working in the best interests of the country. Moroccans are very aware that the continuing upheaval in other countries that underwent an Arab Spring, most obviously Egypt and Syria, demonstrate the enormous dangers of demands for a radical change in leadership which have to be set against the possible positives that can be gained through such upheval.