Monday, October 17, 2011

Morocco in the News, Oct 17th

Peace Corps Volunteer Organizes Journalism Workshop for Students in Morocco
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 7, 2011 – Peace Corps/Morocco volunteer Maureen Sieh of Syracuse, N.Y. organized a four-day journalism workshop in southern Morocco for more than 50 high school and college students focused on news reporting and photography from Sept. 7 to 10, 2011. The U.S. Embassy in Rabat donated more than 100 journalism books and other materials to the workshop.

“My goal is to get Moroccan youth in a variety of training programs so that they can continue their interest in journalism long after my service,” said Sieh, a graduate of Indiana University who has 20 years of experience working in journalism. Her career began in Liberia, where she was a newspaper reporter covering the Liberian civil war for six months before leaving on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1990 to pursue graduate studies in the United States.

During the workshop, participants formed a journalism club that will meet twice a month to develop an online youth newspaper written in Arabic, English, and French. The students also learned about using social media to report community events. They created a Facebook page, which now has more than 200 followers, to share local news until the newspaper is launched.

“The students are really excited about the club. Nearly all of the workshop participants attended the first club meeting, and they brought friends who had heard about how great the workshop was,” continued Sieh.”

Peace Corps/Morocco volunteers Erik Syngle and Aaron Zimmerman assisted Sieh during the workshop and taught sessions in photography techniques to the participants.

About Peace Corps/Morocco: Currently, there are 289 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Morocco. Volunteers are assigned to projects in five primary areas: youth development, health, environment, NGO development, and small business development. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Darisha (Moroccan Arabic), French, Tamazight, and Tashelheet.
“Tazz’unt, Ritual, Ecology and Social Order in the Tessawt Valley of the High Atlas of Morocco.” documents social structures, and depicts the everyday life of Imazighen in the High Atlas of Morocco, describing one of their major rituals, with an analysis of the meaning of this ritual and the help of poems collected in that valley.
The book is based on anthropological research spanning several decades of the history of Morocco, from the era of Protectorate Days (1912-1956) to the contemporary Amazigh movement of North Africa.
I first conceived and wrote this book as a Spring paper for the Department of Anthropology of Stanford University in 1982; I recently updated and embellished it with the spectacular photography provided by two remarkable individuals who visited the Tessawt Valley in the spring of 1984, Olivier and Anne Fougerat. The Fougerat traveled through the Atlas Mountains with an expedition led by one of their friends, who is one of the most prominent Amazigh militant personalities of our time, as well as a poet and an artist, Mr. Mahjoubi Aherdan.
French Moroccan born Olivier Fougerat and his spouse Anne have themselves contributed enormously to the publication of Amazigh literature over the years in Morocco, as editors of a couple of journals. It privilege to combine an anthropological essay based on my own research with their extraordinary photographic record of Amazigh life in the High Atlas of Morocco, and, as an immigrant to America, to produce this book in the English language. It is a unique book and collaboration in the production of Amazigh literature in the U.S.
I strongly believe that this book belongs on the shelves of university and public libraries across the US. I encourage each one and all to recommend it to their favorite library, on or off campus, as well as to the bookstore(s) of their choice. I am looking forward to your comments on this latest effort on my part to disseminate aspects of the North African Amazigh culture in the English language.
Moroccan innovation centre aids start-ups
2011-10-11 By Rachid Jankari for Magharebia
Small businesses in Morocco have a formal avenue to receive government backing for research and development.
The Moroccan government offers assistance to small enterprises helping to expand the national economy. The Moroccan Innovation Centre (CMI) is designed to support businesses in critical sectors to implement new projects.
The CMI was founded in July by the industry ministry, finance ministry and the National Agency for the Promotion of SMEs (ANPME), on the principle that encouraging innovation helps to stimulate job creation and foster a culture of entrepreneurship.
"Specifically, the purpose of this public centre is to provide funding to young medium-sized Moroccan companies so that they can invest in high-priority global sectors with a view to national development, namely off-shoring, automotive, aerospace, electronics, textiles and the agro-food industry," CMI chief Samir El Aichaoui explained during a presentation about the new body given to companies based at the Casablanca Technopark.
With a three-year budget of 450 million dirhams (40 million euros), the centre forms an integral part of the "Innovation Morocco" plan, which was launched in 2009 with the goal of promoting cutting edge ideas by providing funds to businesses with innovative projects.
Information technologies are another key aspect of the centre's work. The agency seeks to support ventures involving a variety technology, including mobile phones, video games, Arabic content, e-government, electronic payments, nanotechnology and biotechnology.
The centre has two programmes designed to help entrepreneurs. The first, Intilak ("launch"), supports development of innovative start-ups that are less than two years old by granting interest-free loans and advances that must be repaid over a five-year period if the business is successful. This support mechanism will cost up to one million dirhams.
"The financing will support innovation when a business is developing by taking risks associated with innovative projects. Up to 90% of financing requirements will be met," El Aichaoui said.
The second programme launched by the CMI is called Tatwir ("development"). It is aimed at businesses that are more than two years old and will provide them with up to 50% of the funding they need for research and development (R&D) projects.
The R&D sector in Morocco is growing steadily, with the level of investment in this area now equivalent to nearly 1% of GDP. To request funding, young entrepreneurs pursuing innovative projects can download application forms directly from
In addition to the CMI, this year has also seen the launch of a software centre that will support innovation in the field of software research and development.
"This software development centre will help companies in the information technology sector by enabling them to produce innovative software cheaply," said Jamal Benhamou, the head of the centre, which is located in Rabat within the National Post and Telecommunications Institute (INPT). The software centre seeks to harness the skills of researchers, PhD students and engineering students at universities across Morocco.
Fragile Morocco weighs its economic priorities.
Florence Beaugé Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 11 October 2011
Subsidies and high-speed rail signal Arab nation's efforts to balance stability and growth
Morocco's high-speed train is emblematic of the flagship schemes King Mohammed VI has initiated since he came to the throne 12 years ago. Work has just started on the line, which will be the first high-speed train in an Arab country, and also in Africa. But with a population of 33 million, 40% of whom are illiterate and 15% of whom make do on $2 a day, the scheme is perhaps not a priority.
Criticism in the independent press has been severe, though Moroccan authorities say the train will streamline travel between the economic centres of Tangiers and Casablanca. They say Morocco is consolidating its position as a prime industrial power.
King Mohammed has always wanted to modernise, but times have changed. "With the economic crisis and the Arab spring Morocco can no longer boast about its prestige projects," says political scientist Khadija Mohsen-Finan. One of the benefits of the Arab spring, she says, is to force the government "to stop putting up a pretence and to moralise, or at least rationalise, spending".
With growth forecast to reach 4.7% this year, Morocco is weathering the global crisis, especially given its lack of oil and gas resources. But economists are cautious. "The first place to show signs of revolt was Tunisia, which had good growth. What matters is the redistribution of riches. Morocco has the biggest poverty gap in the Maghreb," said economist Driss Benali.
Larabi Jaidi, a professor of economics in Rabat, endorses this view, saying inequality "is set to continue for a long time" and may well get worse.
In an attempt to contain protest, the government made concessions that included subsidies on essentials and a higher minimum wage.
With the budget deficit running at about 6% of GDP, Jaidi warns: "We will be footing the bill for the Arab spring for years to come."
This story originally appeared in Le Monde
Southampton Woman Returns From Three Peace Corps Stints
Publication: The Southampton Press
By Colleen Reynolds   Oct 11, 2011
As soon as she returned to American shores this summer from her latest Peace Corps service in Armenia, the first thing Sharon Keld wanted to do was donate blood. She was thwarted.

She could not do so yet, she was told, because of mandatory time constraints based on her travels to far-flung points of the globe.... MORE
PayPal service launches in Morocco through E-Commerce Council, its partner in the MENA region.
"Online Buyers and sellers can make and receive payments through e-mail, quickly and in a secure manner", said Khachani Ismail, CEO of E-Commerce Council. "This product aims to liaise consumers and businesses, key accounts and TPE. It offers a Moroccan merchant payment solution fast, flexible, integrated and secure way to expand their Internet activities without sharing the credit card information or sensitive data" he said.

"There are over 500,000 sites worldwide offering this form of payment, which should allow commercial sites to have a Moroccan international exposure through this service that is available in 190 countries", he added.

This service is a new driver of economic development and will be a source of foreign exchange earnings generated by the use of its services by more than 230 million consumers, particularly in the tourism sector.

"Morocco is one of the key markets of the MENA region, evidenced by the development of e-commerce, government support plans, the Internet penetration rate is highest in Africa ( 33 pc) and the number of Moroccans with Internet access has increased by over 80 pc in 2006", he said.

"This service will participate, in collaboration with Moroccan banks, to the growth of e-commerce and help optimize the use of the credit card for online payments, which will improve the level of national banking" said Khachani.

A Moroccan consumers may, from the first half of 2012, open an account and use, through a Moroccan bank account, PayPal services, which has generated a volume of $ 92 billion in 2010.

Paypal was Founded in 1998 in California and is a subsidiary of eBay since 2002, it has offices in 20 countries. E-Commerce Council, a partner of PayPal, offers services to sites to facilitate financial transactions.
Understanding Morocco -- Opportunities for Business and Trade 1/3
Cactus Farming in Morocco
Friday, 14 October 2011 By NOORA FARAJ
The cactus may be an inexpensive fruit, but Moroccan farmers see economic potential in this humble fruit.

The government intends to develop and expand the industry, following in the footsteps of Mexico, which is a global leader in cactus farming. The plan is to include cactus in a broad range of products from cosmetics to food.

A group of Mexican academics paid a visit to Ben Guerir, northwest of Morocco and shared their expertise on the topic in front of the Moroccan Association for the Development of the Cactus.

"The production of cactus in Mexico is very important now because this product is used in many ways as food for animals and human beings and also for cosmetic and medical uses. In Mexico, we make many products out of cactus and we export them to many countries abroad. This plant is very important for our health because it reduces cholesterol and also sugar levels for diabetics," said Mexican academic Dr. Ana Lila Vigueras during the visit to Morocco.

Abdelrahman Ait Hammou, the association’s director, says awareness of the benefit of cacti is crucial in stimulating demand which in turn affects farmers’ production.

The first attempt in increasing the cactus industry was six years ago, with the aim of generating job opportunities, especially for rural women. Currently, eight varieties of cactus exist nationwide and the fruit can be found in markets year-round.

Morocco plans to plant 300,000 more square meters of cactus plants over the next five years.

Speaker: Dr. Ana Lila Vigueras - Mexican academic
Give Young Boys in Morocco a Camera ...
Published: October 14, 2011
FOR the last five years the Spanish filmmaker Oliver Laxe has lived mainly in the northern Moroccan city of Tangier, where he developed a film workshop at a shelter for disadvantaged children. At first glance, Mr. Laxe’s debut feature, “You All Are Captains,” looks to be a straightforward reflection of this experience: he appears as himself, lecturing on photographic optics and showing his young charges, all preadolescent and adolescent boys, how to operate a 16-millimeter camera.
But the film, which won the international critics’ prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 and opens at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan on Wednesday, soon steps into a hall of mirrors. Scenes are replayed, actors break character and at around the halfway point Mr. Laxe is ejected from the movie, after the children complain about his self-absorption and the confounding collaborative project he has foisted on them. (“This isn’t a film.” “A film needs a story.”)
His replacement, a local musician named Shakib, leads the children on an outing to the countryside. Their film project seems to have been abandoned, or perhaps, it has been absorbed into the film we are watching. With the on-screen Oliver banished but Mr. Laxe still behind the camera, “You All Are Captains” becomes a pastoral of sorts — lingering on the landscapes, olive trees and animals that the boys had earlier said they wanted to film — “but with a little bit of fiction,” as one of them puts it.
A shape-shifting movie that becomes increasingly hard to categorize and contain, “You All Are Captains” has been described as a documentary-fiction hybrid. But it is perhaps more instructive to call it a metafiction, concerned with the way stories can be activated and reframed, or a documentary of its own making, revealing both the conflict and the labor of the creative process.
Mr. Laxe said that he came to a crucial realization early on: “I am the biggest child in the film,” he said by e-mail. “I had to accept that the film was not about the children but about me.”
Born to Spanish parents in Paris, Mr. Laxe, 29, studied filmmaking at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. He first traveled to Tangier in 2006 on what he called a “purely random” impulse, drawn in part by the mythic portrayals of earlier expatriates like Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs.
Mr. Laxe is the first to admit that there was an element of self-interest in his decision to work with children: their curiosity inspired him, and he valued the freshness of their perspectives.
“I wanted to rediscover a part of my personality,” he said. “I wanted to film in a much freer way, as children do, shooting just what you think is interesting and stimulating, with the constant feeling that the world is strange.”
The goal of seeing the world anew also underlies Mr. Laxe’s short film, “Paris #1” (2007), made in collaboration with friends in Galicia, in northwest Spain, who were entrusted to “film what they like, without preconceived ideas.” Likewise, “You All Are Captains,” shot in a limpid black and white that resists the usual touristic depictions of colorful Morocco, emphasizes the transformative act of looking from the first scene, in which the children debate the color of a chameleon and gaze up at a passing plane. One boy suggests they close their eyes to “see it better.”
Self-consciously framed as the misadventures of a foreign interloper, “You All Are Captains” takes a deceptively light hand to quandaries that have long plagued filmmakers who approach their subjects from across cultural and economic divides. Mr. Laxe doesn’t solve these problems so much as delight in complicating them. The imbalance of power between the filmmaker and the filmed, the troubling subtext of many a documentary, is front and center here, and as the struggle between the teacher and his students plays out in unpredictable and not always visible ways, this tricky dynamic is highlighted, critiqued and reversed. (Even before their midfilm mutiny, the children are seen training their cameras on a group of European tourists, who grumble, “They should ask for our permission to film us.”)
Mr. Laxe’s boldest strategy is to insert himself into his movie, and more than that, to implicate himself by playing the nominal villain: “the typical European neocolonialist artist,” as he put it. He described his dual role of protagonist and director as “a negotiation between my cynicism and my romanticism” — in other words, between the sometimes callow figure on screen and the more thoughtful and generous one making the movie.
“What struck me about Oliver’s work is how successfully it occupies this no-man’s-land between fact and fiction,” said David Wilson, the co-director of the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Mo., where “You All Are Captains” had its United States premiere in March. “He forces the viewer to stop caring about whether something is factually true or not and instead asks us to follow him into this space which is uniquely his.”
Down to its title, the movie could be seen as a gesture of empowerment or of ultimate empathy: an attempt to see the world through the eyes of its subjects. But it is of course Mr. Laxe the director who remains the movie’s guiding hand, its true captain.
“I chose the title for its musicality, but for me it’s a film about the cruelty of creation, which is undemocratic,” he said. “We all are captains or have the right and opportunity to be, but it will be some more than others.”
Both in his work and his remarks, Mr. Laxe seems less interested in resolving contradictions than in embracing them. He described his next project, “Las Mimosas,” which he said would deal with Moroccan caravans, the myth of Faust and a Sufi wise man, as an “idealistic film about the absurdity of idealism.”
Mr. Laxe’s insistence on taking play seriously recalls “Homo Ludens” (“playing man”), the seminal 1938 work by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, which argued for the central role of creative play in society and culture. Mr. Laxe said he thought of “You All Are Captains” as a game, played with his collaborators and the audience, in a spirit not of trickery but of openness and discovery. He invoked the iconoclastic Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who said that the liberated viewer rejoices in “the freedom of the artist.”
“What surprises me most about filmmaking is to constantly rediscover that all the director does is to put things in motion, to provoke,” Mr. Laxe said. “Art becomes a matter of attitudes and gestures. Everything depends on the energy that triggers things.”
 A newly opened riad in the Fez Medina offers a garden of earthly delights.
Dynamic is the word that springs to mind when meeting John Twomey. The night after holding a large party, he is hosting a large dinner at his new guest house in the Fez Medina, Riad Idryssi and is on the phone to London with a contractor about installing a kitchen in his new restaurant there. Meanwhile he is also monitoring what is going on at the 250 year old pub he already owns. In between juggling all this, he is regaling his guests with jokes too risque to be recounted. At 41 years old, Irishman Twomey is making the most of his event-filled life.

"There are two ways of living - vegetating and getting on with it," he says. Naturally, he is passionately aligned with the latter group. "I am aware of the length of time I've got left, so believe you should live everyday like it is your last."

Born in Dublin, Twomey spent twenty years fencing for Ireland - for a decade he was the National Fencing Champion. "I've lived in Germany, Spain, Estonia, Hungary and spent a lot of time in France," he says. Along the way, he picked up a bevy of languages, including Russian and Estonian. Then he got involved in starting a bank, "so I was able to enjoy careers in banking and fencing hand-to-hand".

But when he moved to London in 1996, he went off on another tangent altogether. Twomey fell in love with the Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields, an old area of the city  notorious for the Jack the Ripper murders. The heritage-listed Ten Bells was built in 1753 and had previously been run by Jamie Oliver's grandfather.

"Restoring the pub was good training for a 500 year old building in Fez," Twomey says. 
It's taken six years to restore Riad Idryssi to a high standard. Complementing the traditional painted wood and intricate plaster carving that are a significant feature of the interior, are an eclectic collection of objects from around the African continent.
Twomey first came to Fez on an exploratory trip with Mike Richardson, the proprietor of the renowned Cafe Clock in Fez and Scorpion House at Moulay Idriss. By the end of their first weekend, both had purchased properties.
The guest house, which has just opened, has four guest rooms with ensuites. Twomey and Stone have bought a bit of London luxury to Fez, with heated towel rails and anti-fog mirrors. "You can come for the weekend and spend it in one of our bathrooms," Twomey quips.
A distinctive feature of the property is the ruined riad behind the grand traditional house. When Twomey puchased the site, it was under several metres of rubble. When cleared, this revealed tiled floors and Pompeii-like remants of walls. Riad manager, Robert Johnstone - who worked in senior roles at prestigious London restaurants The Ivy and The Wolseley - has converted this area into a delightful garden, where meals can be served.
Twomey clearly has a talent for creating situations that bring people together. Riad Idryssi promises to be both a retreat and a place where many more enjoyable gatherings will be held.
Prince of Morocco, political activist, environmental crusader
By Illyana Green Friday, October 14, 2011
Q. The Occupy Wall Street protests have gained much momentum in the U.S. these past weeks. According to the, the movement is defined as, “a horizontally organized resistance movement employing the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to restore democracy to America.” What’s your take on this?
A. The Occupy Wall Street protest in some ways reflects the spirit of this new public sphere … one need only see the many signs of the protesters in New York saying ‘Turn Wall Street into Tahrir Square’ to recognize that the Arab Spring has global implications.
Q. Your talk focused on the new generation of actors in the Arab world who are imbued with a sense of dignity and a sense of self but who yet still are reluctant to enter politics. How will this dignity translate into the rewriting of constitutions without their involvement?
A. This is the big problem of the Arab Spring movements. These movements have a sense of idealism but also have an unexplainable sense of purity. They do not want to dirty their hands in politics. But politics is part of the problem and without politics you cannot fix the problem of the government. This is the great conundrum facing the Arab World.
Q. The Moulay Hicham Foundation for Social Science Research on North Africa and the Middle East has highlighted and helped organize seminars such as the one that took place at Stanford University this past May. What has been the actual impact of seminars like this on the Arab Spring uprisings?
A. Everything plays a role in movements like this. The presentation of ideas, the diffusion of ideas, the dialogue and exchange of ideas help movements, of course.
Q. Your renewable energy company, Al-Tayyar Energy, is committed to the triple bottom line, which is very impressive. Are you using your influence in the Arab world to promote renewable energy?
A. Energy initiatives are not geographically constituted …
Q. What then do you think is the energy future for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf?
A. To be frank, petroleum has got a long way to go. It is here to stay for a long time.
Q. In researching I found many articles that referred to you as the ‘Red Prince’ because of your leftist political views. Do you agree with this characterization?
A. I honestly do not like that name … I hate that metaphor because it is too simplistic. When people encounter novel situations they try to understand them by putting them into known models. The obvious model here is that of the French.
Q. How is life on the West Coast as compared to Morocco?
A. I miss my country terribly, I miss it a lot, but when I am in Morocco I miss the West Coast …
Q. There are many Yale-affiliated programs that allow students to study in Rabat. What would you say to students looking to make the cultural leap?
A. Go to Morocco! It is an extraordinarily open and welcoming place with a fascinating and enriching culture.
Q. Yale vs. Stanford?
A. I want you to know that I was accepted to Yale in 1988 and really wanted to go but my parents were concerned about my safety in New Haven and so I went to Princeton. No regrets though…
Q. What’s the best part about being a prince?
A. The best part … to tell you the truth, here in the U.S., I forget that I am a prince – that’s the best part.
Cab driver has learned volumes about human nature Edward Guthmann, Special to The Chronicle
 Monday, October 10, 2011

Read more: driving is his trade, but the way Sulaymaan Cherif approaches his work, he's also a life coach and dispenser of wisdom.
Cherif, 43, emigrated from Morocco in 1996. Divorced, he lives alone in a Richmond District apartment where he served Moroccan mint tea and bread while discussing his job and his life.
I recommend everybody to drive a cab because it's very fun job. You have so many experience. You learn from people, and what you learn from people you teach other people. It's like a circle.
I have a guest book in my cab. When I have a good conversation with somebody, and they're nice and say they like me, they start writing in my book.
You advise people, people advise you. Somebody gets in your cab, they cry. Having a problem with their parents, their boyfriend, their husband. You have a communication. You are like in the doctor office.
A woman ask me, "What can I do? I am spending 10 years with my boyfriend. And right now he want to leave me because he doesn't like to get married with me." I tell her, "If he doesn't like to get married today, I don't think he's going to marry you five years after."
I tell her, "There is no difference between me and Dr. Phil. Only difference, Dr. Phil has a studio and camera."
I'm from Casablanca. It's my city, where I born. I have three older brothers and two sisters. I am the baby of the family. My dad got married when he was very old. He died at 105, in 1984. He lived through six kings in Morocco.
I moved to United States in 1996 and lived two years in Fresno. I moved to San Francisco in 1998. To be cabdriver, you took a class for one week and they give you a certificate. You learn, like, the names of the hotels, the locations of the hotels. Museums, hospitals, cross streets.
When you get a certificate, back then, you take a written test at Hall of Justice to get a license to drive a taxi in San Francisco. When you pass that test, you are recognized from the city as a cabdriver.
In the beginning, driving a cab was hard. The good part is, most San Francisco people are very helpful. They tell you which way to go, shortcuts. They don't scream on you. They say, "It's OK, you will learn." Back then, there is no GPS.
I work for Luxor Cab. I share a cab with my friend; we have a lease. We trade shifts and when you finish your shift, you have to put the gas. You return your waybill to the company, and if there's any problem with a customer, you have to report it.
Once I pick up a guy with his girlfriend and he's drunk. His girlfriend is telling him how he treating his mom kind of badly. "Your mom, she's nice to you." I take them to Leavenworth and Filbert.
One week later I pick him up. He get in my cab alone; now he is not drunk. I say, "Leavenworth and Filbert?" "How do you know?" I tell him, "You have an Asian girlfriend?" He say, "What! You know everything about me?"
I tell him, "Last week you were drunk and I pick you up from 16th and Valencia. You have a very nice girl. You have to take care of her. And more than that, you have to be more nice to your mom!"
The fare was $12, and he gave me $20. He say, "You give me a good advice. Thank you very much."
Do you or someone you know have a work story to share? E-mail us at
Weighing Morocco's New Constitution
by Paul Silverstein | published July 5, 2011
2011 has been a year of unprecedented political tumult in Morocco. As neighboring North African regimes collapsed under the weight of popular pressure, demonstrators have convened in Moroccan cities as well, naming their uprising after the day of their largest initial gathering, February 20, and calling for greater democracy.
Theirs has been a “quiet revolution,” according to Nadia Yassine, spokeswoman for the banned Islamist Justice and Charity movement, [1] for King Mohamed VI has seemed to hasten to meet citizens’ demands. The international media hails the king as a broadly popular visionary engaging in proactive political reform to avoid the fate of Egyptian and Tunisian dictators. In the eyes of the Moroccan government and mainstream political parties, the country has seen a “Copernican revolution” [2] led by a wise potentate, a “watershed event in the process of completing the construction of a state based on the rule of law and democratic institutions.” The king used the latter phrase in his June 17 presentation of a radically revised constitution that was subsequently overwhelmingly approved in a July 1 referendum. If, as per ancient Ptolemaic astronomy, the sun of Morocco’s people has long revolved around an earthly monarch, Morocco’s rulers would like everyone to believe that henceforth the country’s political order will be heliocentric.
But for the February 20 movement, the revolution is still to come. The protesters regard the new constitution as a half-measure, heavy on inclusive rhetoric and light on actual reform. The events of spring and early summer have not quieted them, but galvanized them to push for more. The February 20 movement draws heavily upon a youthful population that had long given up on the political process and unifies a diverse opposition whose interests rarely align. The rebirth of politics in the shape of this movement calls into question the monarchy’s long-standing ability to manage the country through patronage and the king’s symbolic position as “commander of the faithful.” And it may fundamentally challenge what is in fact at the heart of the constitutional reform: a thinly veiled effort to make Morocco transparent for global investment, welcoming to the wealthy diaspora and secure for international tourism.
The King Is Dead, Long Live the King
Moroccan political life was stillborn upon the country’s independence from French colonial rule in 1956. King Mohamed V, grandfather of the current king and inheritor of the Alawite dynasty, emerged as the totem of national unity for a largely rural, illiterate and impoverished population divided by race, ethnicity and language. An urban elite based in Fez occupied the political vacuum, principally through the Istiqlal party, which proceeded to extend its administration across the countryside. The first three articles of the original 1962 constitution, promulgated by Hassan II (who had succeeded his father the previous year), declared Morocco to be a “constitutional, democratic and social” state, located sovereignty in the “nation” and assured a multi-party system. In reality, the formal opposition was nominal and actual politics occurred within what is called the makhzen, the complex (and sometimes fraught) power sharing arrangement among the monarchy, Istiqlal, the military and what remained of the rural notables empowered under colonialism. The political history of Morocco up to the 1990s consisted of Hassan II consolidating power in the palace, coopting those challengers who could be bought with civil service positions or financial rewards and crushing those who could not. Moroccans knew his reign as the “years of lead.”
King Mohamed VI took the throne in 1999 with a promise to “turn the page” on the worst abuses of the past, but there are few signs of him ceding power to elected officials or seeking to enshrine civil liberties and rule of law. For all the political prisoners released over the years since his accession, activists and journalists are still regularly arrested and convicted of “threatening state security” or stepping over one or another “red line.” The chief “red lines” forbid questioning the integrity of the monarchy, Islam or the “national territory,” a reference to Morocco’s claim upon Western Sahara. In October 2010, the Ministry of Communications banned Al Jazeera from broadcasting in Morocco for its “irresponsible journalism” on the question of Western Sahara, only reinstating the channel’s license after the July 1 referendum. As late as April 26, Rachid Nini, populist editor of the al-Masa’ daily newspaper, was arrested and then sentenced to a year in prison for writing of the existence of a secret military base where detainees were tortured.
Police routinely crack down with violence on technically illegal demonstrations by Islamists, Berberists, human rights activists or those without food, jobs or housing. Morocco has been an active participant in the US-led war on terror, dismantling Islamist associations and accepting “rendered” suspects for interrogation and possibly torture, though it was an early signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture. The kingdom has also been a proxy defender of Fortress Europe, deporting African transmigrants by the thousands, though it endorsed the UN Convention in Relation to the Status of Refugees.
As the public sector has been progressively sold off to private interests, more and more of the nation’s wealth is in the hands of the royal family and other elites, with the king’s personal holdings estimated at $2.5 billion. In the latest Democracy Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Morocco placed number 116 of 167 countries judged for the fairness of the electoral process, civil liberties, government functioning, political participation and political culture. Indeed, Moroccans regularly accuse parliamentary deputies and senior civil servants of being makhzenisés, men and women who act in the interest of the state, or themselves, rather than the populace they are supposed to represent and serve. It came as scant surprise that the 2007 legislative elections garnered the participation of only 37 percent of eligible voters.
The greatly amended constitution approved on July 1 takes only modest steps to open the political system. The representation of opposition parties in government commissions and their access to public financing for electoral campaigns is specified and expanded (Articles 10 and 11), as is the right of civil associations and NGOs (Article 12) and even of private citizens to bring forward bills (Article 14) and petitions (Article 15). But, as critics rightly point out, the king’s executive powers remain unchecked. The king will continue to name the prime minister and approve the cabinet over which he presides (Articles 47 and 48); command the military (Article 53); chair the various high councils on religion, security and the judiciary (Articles 41, 54, 56); name ambassadors (Article 55); approve the nomination of judges (Article 57); pronounce all enacted laws (Article 50); and “at His initiative” dismiss ministers and dissolve the parliament (Articles 47 and 51). The derided Article 19 of the previous constitutions, which spelled out the king’s spiritual and temporal authorities and derived the latter from the former, is now split into two separate articles (41 and 42). One recognizes the king as the “commander of the faithful” who “ensures respect for Islam” and guarantees “the free exercise of religion,” while the other names him as Morocco’s “chief of state, supreme representative, symbol of the unity of the nation, guarantor of the durability and continuity of the state.” The two types of authority are thus delinked, but the king’s person remains inviolable (Article 46) and those who call his rule into question are thus subject to prosecution. The new constitution hardly unseats Ptolemy, let alone enthrones Copernicus, and indeed prescribes punishment for those who would espouse Copernican belief.
Moreover, critics have challenged the very process of constitutional reform and referendum as opaque and insincere. From its first mass demonstrations, the February 20 movement had called for constitutional reform by a democratically elected assembly. The king responded on March 9 by appointing a Consultative Commission for the Revision of the Constitution chaired by the constitutional law professor Abdellatif Mennouni and consisting of 19 other members handpicked by the king and his advisers. Over its three months of deliberations, the Mennouni commission met with a number of political parties, trade unions and NGOs. It invited representatives of the February 20 movement and other protest groups, who declined because the process was not public. The king further revised the draft constitution and then submitted it to the country for approval only two weeks before the referendum. While proportionate airtime was promised to all parties, critics accuse the campaign process of strongly privileging the “yes” vote. They charge the king with violating his non-partisan status by delivering a speech for the constitution’s approval and citing a passage from the Qur’an enjoining the public to follow his “way.” The Ministry of Religious Affairs apparently instructed imams to urge a “yes” vote during their Friday sermons. All political parties -- including the opposition Islamist Justice and Development Party, which had initial concerns about the role of Islam in the new charter -- signed on to the reforms and encouraged their constituents to do the same, with the exception of four minor far left parties who collectively hold only 22 of the 325 seats in the Chamber of Representatives (the part of Parliament that is directly elected). On several occasions, the February 20 movement rallied over 100,000 people across the country in a call to boycott the referendum, but these demonstrations were harried by police and confronted with violent counter-rallies by supporters of the referendum who branded the protesters as anti-monarchists. Protesters said the “monarchists” were akin to Egypt’s baltagiyya, “thugs” organized and paid by the Ministry of Interior.
The dissenters similarly contest the referendum results. They documented incidents of voters being bussed to polling stations by local officials, stations not carrying “no” vote slips and electoral officials not verifying identification or requiring voter signatures. Moroccan residents abroad, whose votes were strongly solicited by the government, reportedly had even looser identification requirements and in some cases voted in mosques under the watchful eyes of the consular officials on whom they rely for administrative services. Protesters do not dispute the 98.5 percent approval result, blaming it on a poor, under-educated and intimidated electorate blindly following their political and religious leaders. But they do question the 72.65 percent turnout claimed by the interior minister, as earlier Ministry statements, media polls and anecdotal reports had put the figure at no more than 50 or 60 percent. Only 13 million of a potential electorate of at least 22 million, they further note, had registered to vote in the first place. Even at 72.65 percent, the turnout would be lower than in any previous constitutional referendum, with the exception of a minor change to the financial regulatory mechanism that occurred in 1995. Whether this plebiscite provides the monarch with a popular mandate remains to be seen.
A Plural Polity
But it would be a mistake to dismiss the referendum as yet another rubber stamp on the monarchy’s writ. If not revolutionary, the constitutional revisions are certainly radical. In the previous ten referendums, all under the reign of Hassan II, the revisions had been superficial: vacillating between a bicameral and unicameral parliament, slightly expanding the role of the prime minister, including some minimal language on human rights and citizenship, adding a budgetary audit court and reducing the king’s age of majority to 16 (which has since been returned to 18). These changes were all initiated from the top, and none responded to widespread popular protest. The current constitution, by contrast, has expanded from 108 to 180 articles, and very few of the older articles have remained unchanged.
In many cases, the new articles respond directly to demands from civic associations and overall the constitution’s rhetoric appears lifted directly from the slogans and communiqués of the protesters. The seven-paragraph, nine-bullet point preamble defines Morocco as a “modern” state of “democratic rights” founded on the “principles of participation, pluralism and good governance.” It summons forth an “interdependent (solidaire) society where all enjoy security, liberty, equality of opportunity, respect, dignity and social justice.” Note that such language of modern, democratic rights precedes the stipulation that the Kingdom of Morocco is an “Islamic sovereign state” -- the first line of all previous constitutions. Further, the 2011 document contains a new, 22-article section entitled “Liberties and Fundamental Rights” in which freedoms of information (Article 27) and of the press (Article 28) are added, as are the rights to housing, health care, welfare, water, a clean environment and durable development (Article 31), and the rights of women, children and the disabled (Articles 32, 34). Such protections appear alongside prohibitions of sexism (Article 21), torture (Article 22), racism (Article 23) and corruption (Article 36). These “liberties and fundamental rights” remain sacrosanct even if the king declares a state of emergency (Article 59) and cannot be retracted by future constitutional revision (Article 175). While the fully independent judiciary demanded by demonstrators is declared if not precisely guaranteed (insofar as the king continues to control the appointment of judges), the new constitution adds 17 new articles to the relevant section that safeguard the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus and the rights to fair, public and speedy trial, due process, state-provided counsel and appeal. These clauses similarly put explicit checks on judges’ partiality, excess or the outside influence on the judicial process. Finally, a new, 18-article section on “good governance” offers further guarantees against the corruption or non-compliance of civil servants; establishes a National Council on Human Rights; [3] and provides for a national ombudsman to represent the complaints of citizens regarding the public administration. While some of these provisions invoke laws yet to be written, they are undeniably substantial and perfectly consonant with the February 20 movement and its various allies’ call for an accessible, democratic regime of dignity, respect and social justice.
The provisions targeting Moroccan youth are particularly striking. Of Morocco’s 33 million citizens, 65 percent are estimated to be under 30 years of age. Young men and women are marrying later and later as difficulties in procuring steady employment and housing increase. If national unemployment figures hover around 10 percent, they reach as high as 26 percent for youth in the 25-34 age range, and close to double that in urban areas. Ironically, the more educated Moroccans are, the more likely they are to be jobless. Over the last decade, unemployed university graduates (les diplomés chômeurs) have staged weekly demonstrations in front of Parliament calling for an open job market that does not simply benefit those with family connections. The graduates’ organizational structure, non-violent tactics and militant experience laid the groundwork for the February 20 movement. The latter -- whose membership and leadership consists primarily of young men and women -- demands state reinvestment in the public sector, specifically the “integration of unemployed university graduates into the civil service by transparent and fair competition.” The new constitution seeks to address these demands by envisioning the creation of a Consultative Council on Youth and Associative Action that would boost the participation of young men and women in the economic, cultural and political life of the country (Article 33). While stopping well short of expanding public-sector employment, it does prescribe state investment in the arts, scientific research and sports (Article 26) that would ostensibly encourage younger talent to remain in the country rather than seeking professional opportunities abroad.
As important, the new constitution redefines Morocco as a culturally and linguistically plural state. The February 20 movement had joined the variegated Berber (Amazigh) movement that for the last three decades had been calling for the recognition of the Berber language (Tamazight) as an official language of Morocco on par with Arabic. Mass demonstrations for change that have occurred since February have consistently included militants carrying Amazigh flags and banners written in Tamazight. Previous constitutions had inscribed the official status of Arabic in the first line of the preamble. No such mention of language is made in the new preamble. Article 5 specifies that “Arabic remains the official language of the state,” yet further stipulates that Tamazight “constitutes an official language of the state, as the common heritage of all Moroccans without exception.” Some Amazigh activists continue to worry that the distinction between the definite and indefinite articles will perpetuate Tamazight’s secondary status. And they remain skeptical over the effectiveness of the future law that will regulate the Berber tongue’s introduction into the education and media systems. But the change does put Morocco ahead of its North African neighbors in respect for indigenous rights.
Moreover, the 2011 constitution does not delimit Morocco’s diversity to an Arab-Berber divide, but rather portrays the country as a veritable cultural and geographic crossroads. Just as Amazigh culture is declared to be the patrimony of all citizens, so too is its broader ethno-cultural diversity declared to constitute its “national identity, one and indivisible.” The preamble specifies a “convergence” of Arabo-Islamic, Amazigh and Saharan “components” that is “nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean influences.” If the first two lines of the previous preamble drew from the language of decolonization and Third World solidarity to specify Morocco’s place in a “great Arab Maghrib” and “African unity,” the new introductory stanza invokes a broader globalism that juxtaposes a future North African union alongside an Arabo-Islamic umma, African solidarity and Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Arguably, these gestures are purely rhetorical, but the contrast with prior official identity statements is remarkable.
Finally, if previous constitutional revisions centralized power in the hands of the Rabat political elite, limiting rural administrators to simply enforcing “the law,” the new charter allows for significantly more territorial pluralism. The first article defining Morocco as a “constitutional, democratic, parliamentary and social monarchy” also describes its territorial organization as “decentralized, based on an advanced regionalization.” Over the last five years, nascent autonomy movements have sprung up in the far northern and southern, largely Berber-speaking peripheries -- areas that felt themselves to be economically underdeveloped and marginalized by the central government. The peripheries have demanded more administrative self-determination and greater freedom to define their own development initiatives. [4] The 2011 constitution addresses these demands with seven new articles proposing state efforts to foster local citizenship and human development across the regions (Articles 136, 139). It outlines a limited degree of local financial independence while assuring an “equitable allocation of resources, in order to reduce disparities between regions” (Articles 141 and 142).
The practical details of the decentralization program -- like so many of the constitution’s reforms -- await a set of laws yet to be written. For this reason, even sympathetic activists remain skeptical and have taken a wait-and-see approach, while more pugnacious groups like the February 20 movement oppose the reforms as insufficient and ultimately undemocratic. Even since the referendum, these groups have continued their call for new protests and continued mobilization for the civil liberties, social justice and dignity they read about in the new constitution but see little evidence of in everyday life. They draw attention to the hundreds of political prisoners (Sahrawis, Islamists, Berberists) still incarcerated, the dozens of human rights and union activists arrested in June and the ongoing censorship of the press. As the name of the independent media website organized by February 20 activists,, proclaims: “No concessions.” “We will not be undone.”
Global Stakes
And yet, to evaluate the new constitution on the sole grounds of its ability to contain domestic dissent would be shortsighted. Certainly the timing of the reforms was a defensive move by the king to defuse a burgeoning mass opposition in the wake of the examples of revolt in Tunisia and Egypt. And a number of the revisions did directly address particular grievances by militant social movements. But the Moroccan public was arguably but one of several audiences for whom the new constitution was written. In many places, the document reads less as a model for government than as a mission statement crafted for the international diplomatic and business community. The preamble’s definition of Morocco as a modern, democratic state two paragraphs before its description as an “Islamic sovereign state” plays to a global discourse premised on “clash of civilizations” rhetoric. The new section on “Liberties and Fundamental Rights” is modeled on similar bills of rights in the US and French constitutions. Assurances of transparency, good governance and civil liberties are vital for the procurement of development monies from international agencies that increasingly have democratization riders attached.
Development euros are not the only ones at stake. Morocco depends on foreign investment (particularly from Europe and the Gulf) both to keep state enterprises -- privatized since the late 1980s -- afloat and to provide the infrastructure for its largest revenue source: tourism. Many of these monies have dried up amidst regional unrest, with the Abu Dhabi-financed Bou Regreg tourist complex standing half-finished, for instance. Attracting the funds back is of the highest priority. Assuring the country’s “tranquility, unity, stability” -- to quote the closing lines of the king’s June 17 speech -- counters the anxieties of both tourists themselves and the investors who make their stay luxurious. Moreover, among the civil liberties ensured in the new constitution are property rights, free competition and free enterprise (Article 35). Together with new legislation against corruption and proposed contract transparency laws, the revised charter makes for good neoliberal marketing strategy. Small wonder, then, that the protesters’ demands for expansion of the public sector have largely gone unheeded.
Second to tourism in Morocco’s revenue sources are remittances from emigrants. For years, the state has expanded its efforts to suture the connection between the diaspora and the homeland, welcoming Moroccans home on holiday and channeling their remittance monies through national banks and into domestic enterprises. In 2007, the state created a Ministry of the Moroccan Community Abroad to strengthen these ties, reaching out particularly to emigrant investors. With the Mohamed V Foundation for Solidarity, it has expanded the infrastructure for holiday visits, establishing welcome stations at ferry and airport terminals, as well as overseas in southern Europe, under the moniker of Operation Marhaba 2011. The new constitution similarly seeks to ensure emigrants’ political rights in both Morocco and their countries of residence, guaranteeing their rights to elect and be elected to public office and promising to “reinforce their contribution to the development of their homeland (patrie)” (Articles 16-18). It further inscribes into law the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad, consisting largely of politicians, social activists and intellectuals elected by Moroccans overseas to represent their interests in Morocco and advise the Ministry on its various programs (Article 163). Such institutions explicitly aim to shore up cultural, economic and political bridges across the Mediterranean, and thus bolster Morocco’s role as a modern player in a world of global competition.
Such neoliberal globalization requires the heavy hand of the state not only to deepen the channels through which people and money flow, but also to secure such ties from internal and external threats. The Moroccan state has worked hard to shed its reputation as a breeding ground for terrorists, especially in light of the April 28 bombing of the Argana tourist café in Marrakesh. Moroccan security forces have deployed to break up Islamist networks, in certain cases the very same ones they helped to foster in previous decades to combat indigenous Marxist revolutionary movements. The new constitution establishes a High Security Council, presided over by the king, with the charge of devising strategies for “internal and external security” and managing crises. In the preamble, security is placed at the head of the list of basic rights that otherwise include liberty, equality, respect, dignity and social justice. The order is by no means arbitrary.
References to internal and external security imply more than a domestic terrorist threat. In the constitution, security is consistently paired with “national unity” and “territorial integrity.” The implied challenges to these fundamental criteria are potentially varied, but the most germane reference is to the disputed status of Western Sahara -- what the king, in his June 17 speech, referred to as “our beloved Saharan provinces.” Since Morocco asserted dominion over the former Spanish colony in 1975, it has devoted substantial resources to integrating the territory into the national fold. Moroccan soldiers continue to man the separation barrier between the Moroccan- and POLISARIO-controlled regions alongside UN peacekeepers in place since 1991. The western port cities of Dakhla and Laayoune have received heavy state funding for urban development, and residents benefit from educational stipends, housing subsidies and retirement pensions that exceed those of other Moroccan citizens and sometimes incur resentment. The preamble’s discussion of “Saharan” culture as a component of Morocco’s “unity,” and Sahara’s later mention as an “integral part of the Moroccan unified cultural identity” (Article 5), expand such efforts at socio-economic integration to the realms of language, culture and politics. Indeed, the king urged his subjects to approve the new constitution because it would “provide a strong impetus for the final settlement of the just cause of the Moroccan Sahara.” The constitutional referendum thus leaves little room for any future referendum on Saharan independence, as envisioned by UN resolutions.
A Rebirth of Politics?
The new Morocco projected by the constitutional reforms is thus a strong, “modern” monarchy of diverse subject-citizens free and equipped to compete in the global marketplace. Domestic contestation would be defanged by mechanisms of “good governance” that would manage dissent and provide equity of opportunity, if not equality of outcome. Freedoms and civil liberties would be guaranteed to the extent that they do not challenge the “territorial integrity” or “national unity” of the country or dispute the centrality of the king or Islam. Increased security and the rule of law would ensure a safe environment where such free citizens could equally enjoy their fundamental rights to live and labor. It is a neoliberal utopian space where politics is either illegitimate or simply unnecessary. Utility maximizes for the wealth of the nation and its individual subjects.
But such a new Morocco does not simply come into being because 98.5 percent of a possible majority of the electorate votes “yes” to an eloquent governing document promulgated by the “commander of the faithful.” Almost half of the country remains rural and illiterate, unable to make heads or tails of the constitution’s legalese and decidedly unconcerned with the machinations of urban politicians whom they presume are only concerned with their pocketbooks. Young men and women continue to flee the country by any means necessary, risking their lives as hidden passengers in overcrowded fishing vessels in search of Eldorado. And those who remain are anything but the quiescent, neoliberal subjects of Michel Foucault or Gilles Deleuze’s nightmares of a “society of control.” [5]
Indeed, the constitutional referendum seems to have only enlivened the political contention that has simmered in Morocco for many decades. If previously relegated to university campuses where it was taken as a passing stage of adolescence, or marginalized in semi-clandestine Islamist or Berberist networks infinitely factionalized and in a constant dance of cooptation by the makhzen, politics has now literally returned to the streets. The February 20 movement built upon the networks previously associated with the human rights, trade union, diplomés chômeurs and Amazigh circles, conjoining them into a single umbrella movement that transcended (or at least momentarily sidelined) extant ideological differences. It actively shared experiences with and learned tactics from other international youth associated with a history of protests in Serbia, Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. It used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, GIS software and a wealth of online news sources to connect militants across the country, turning every activist into an independent journalist recording and reporting on her local experiences. On a repeated basis since February, the movement succeeded in mobilizing over 100,000 demonstrators across Morocco. While the protests did not concentrate in a single space like Cairo’s Tahrir Square, their strength arguably derived from their geographical spread to provincial towns in the countryside and the peripheral working-class neighborhoods of Rabat and Casablanca. Few could claim that the unrest was simply happening elsewhere.
How representative the February 20 movement is of Morocco remains to be seen. And how it ultimately interfaces with the Islamist activists, whose critique of the constitution’s projected new global Morocco follows a different logic, cannot be predicted. There is some indication that the discourse of both groups is hardening as their frustration with the reform process deepens, that they may indeed become the anti-monarchists that the counter-protesters accuse them of being. If the protesters were to make this leap, they would surely lose the tacit support of the majority of Moroccans, for whom the king remains a shining star of religious faith and national tradition, a legacy of the country’s authoritarian political culture that the makhzen stands ready to exploit, its Copernican pretensions notwithstanding. In the short term, however, the re-politicized youth, in all of their ideological diversity, can continue to hope for a “new social pact,” as one anonymous author on the website notes. Until then, “No concessions.”
[1] Reuters, April 24, 2011.
[2] Le Matin, June 18, 2011.
[3] On this topic, see Susan Slyomovics, “100 Days of the 2011 Moroccan Constitution,” Jadaliyya, June 30, 2011.
[4] See Paul Silverstein, “States of Fragmentation in North Africa,” Middle East Report 237 (Winter 2005).
[5] Gilles Deleuze, “Postscriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle,” L’Autre Journal 1 (1990).
Moroccan youth launch political awareness campaign.
By Siham Ali 2011-10-17
A just-launched nationwide campaign aims to bolster youth involvement in politics.
Moroccan activists are criss-crossing eighty towns and villages to spur youth interest in politics ahead of the early parliamentary vote.
The ten-day caravan, launched on Saturday (October 15th) by the Movement of Young Moroccans for Political Representation Now, includes an array of public meetings and awareness campaigns to encourage youths to vote in the November 25th elections.
Two hundred activists representing 29 youth groups and 17 other civil society organisations will visit Laâyoune, Ouarzazate, Al Hoceima and Oujda among many other destinations.
The country's political landscape will not change unless young people get heavier involved in politics, Istiqlal Youth Secretary-General Abdelkader Kihel argued.
Young people need to be given a fresh perspective on politics, Socialist Youth Secretary-General Driss Redouani said, stressing the need to enable talented youths to assume positions of responsibility.
During their recent Rabat meeting, the youth movement hailed the adoption of Moroccan electoral list quotas, which reserve thirty parliamentary seats for candidates under the age of forty. It is a significant step that will guarantee the presence of young people in the legislative body, participants in the October 6th meeting agreed.
The proposal, however, has drawn criticism from some parties and women's activists. Ahmed Zaidi, head of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) parliamentary group, argued that electoral quotas should be reserved for women, with youths granted representation via other channels.
Latifa Bennani Smires, head of the Istiqlal parliamentary group, also advocated for a women-only national list, saying that youth candidates should find other venues to make their way to politics.
Despite resistance from parliamentary groups and feminist lobbying, youth candidates have held on to their thirty seats and hope for greater representation in local electoral lists.
Efforts to secure local lists, however, might falter on young people's lack of experience, some political observers say.
Parties will favour those who have the necessary means to wage and win electoral campaigns, whereas young people are not currently regarded as a strong electoral force, political expert Ali Chemmam said. He added that political parties should encourage their young members to participate en masse in the 2012 local elections so that they can earn experience and electoral foothold before running in legislative elections.
"It is young members of political parties who will restore the confidence that people have lost in the political system," Chemmam said. "They will speak the same language as other young people who have no interest in politics or have a distorted perception of the political arena."

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