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Will the Moroccan prime minister resign?

July 28, 2022 at 10:33 am

President of Morocco’s National Rally of Independents (RNI) Aziz Akhannouch [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

For weeks, Morocco has witnessed a massive social media campaign calling for the departure of Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, due to the major and continuous rise in the prices of basic goods. The total number of those who shared the hashtag demanding the departure of the prime minister and the reduction of fuel prices is over 4.5 million social media accounts.

In the face of the government and the prime minister’s inflexibility, along with the continued rise in prices, the campaign is likely to have greater interaction on social media before it turns into protests in the streets. What’s preventing the people from taking to the streets to express their anger is the state of fear that dominates society, in addition to what the sociologist, Muhammad Al-Naji, described as “the amazing humility made of dignity.” This researcher posted on his Facebook page, asking, “How are Moroccans silent despite all this misery, and how have crowds not yet taken to the streets violently?” he then answered his own question by saying, “Misery exists within millions of families, and only the amazing humility made of dignity prevents many of them from showing their misery in public places even if they wept amongst themselves.” However, Al-Naji expects this “horrible historical and cultural subordination will collapse, sooner or later, and with it will collapse the dams of surrender and silence, giving way to violent earthquakes with unknown consequences.”

Yes, this is the frightening scenario that many expect and fear, because if the silent anger goes out of control in the virtual world, no one can predict the magnitude and strength of the expressed anger, nor the extent to which it will continue. The economic situation is difficult, the social situation is tense, and the state of tension is intensifying in silence. On the other hand, there are no convincing political offers that the angry can resort to in search of solutions to their misery. As for the government, the prime minister and its parties, they are divided between those who are gloating and in a state of “virtual anger” and those who are silent and wait in fear for what will happen. At the other extreme, there are two oppositions: institutions trying to take advantage of the expressed “state of anger” to score small points against the government, and popular opposition that is unstructured, which is evident today in the spaces of social media. At the highest level in the Moroccan political hierarchy, which remains the deciding factor in such circumstances, everyone is waiting for the signals that may come from the narrow decision-making circle, and it is expected that King Mohammed VI’s speech on the occasion of the anniversary of his accession to the throne on 30 July will expose these signals.

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The royal speech is an important moment in the Moroccan political arena because it draws out the major directions of the state and anticipates the future prospects of its strategic policies in vital areas. There are three possible scenarios to alleviate the state of popular tension and contain it before it collapses and reaches the streets. The first is what is demanded by social media users is achieved, i.e., the departure of the prime minister, and this is unlikely in the context of the current circumstances, because he remains elected, despite some questioning the integrity of the electoral processes in Morocco. Moreover, his government still retains its majority in both chambers of parliament. The results of the partial legislative elections that were recently witnessed in some regions in Morocco show that the governmental majority has been maintained despite all the criticisms regarding the transparency of the electoral processes in Morocco.

Since the prime minister is appointed and dismissed by the king, the king is not likely to dismiss him without convincing constitutional justifications, or in exceptional circumstances imposed on the country, and the conditions for this are not available in the Moroccan reality today.

The second potential scenario is for the prime minister to respond, on the king’s orders – so the prime minister does not get all of the credit, to the people’s demands to ease the price hikes, and thus relatively contain the state of anger. This is the most realistic scenario, to absorb the state of anger and keep the situation as it is. However, the pressure of the global economic crisis and the state of inflation in the global economy do not leave many ways out for the Moroccan decision-makers in order for them to choose this approach. This was exacerbated by the severe drought and water scarcity that threatens Moroccans with thirst, and the outbreak of many fires that displaced thousands of families and destroyed thousands of hectares of forests and farms.

As for the most realistic scenario, it is for the situation to remain the same, for the government to remain silent and inflexible, and for the king not to interfere to find solutions that ease the state of social tension. Based on the Moroccan political traditions, major political decisions are rarely taken under the pressure of the street. The only time in Moroccan history that this customary rule changed was on the occasion of the 2011 protests, which are considered the Moroccan version of the Arab Spring, to which the king responded by announcing a new constitution and premature elections. However, the situation today is different from the scenes of the 2011 demonstrations that swept the region and reached Morocco. As long as the Moroccan street is calm, managing the crisis will be left to time to do its work, but for how long? This is a question that is difficult to answer.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 27 July 2022

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.