When Justice and Development takes the devil’s side


The official discourse of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) has changed a few months after an overwhelming victory in the last Moroccan legislative elections that led the party to form the new government together with the other winning parties. The Islamist Party’s rise to power has been the result of the Moroccan spring and the protests initiated by the February 20th Movement.

For over a year, more than half a million Moroccans took to the streets in towns and villages claiming freedom and equality and demanding a constitutional monarchy where power emanates from the people and where the king’s role would be like the ones in Europe (Spain, Great Britain...). Although it did not join the people taking to the streets, the Justice and Development Party called for the same type of government. Some leaders of this party have expressed their support to the February 20th Movement followers.

However, after taking their government’s part of the cake, following the elections in favour of a constitutional amendment imposed by "the Moroccan spring," the Islamist party's positions have changed. Day after day, the Justice and Development Party seems to be in contradiction with many of its ideas and political positions. Moreover, its discourse has changed radically: it is less clear, less Islamist.

No change in the nature of the regime
According to a large segment of society, the Justice and Development became the devil's advocate. The Party gave up many political choices in order to take a sort of neutral position with regards to the Moroccan regime. When it was in opposition, the Islamist party was in favour of the implementation of the recommendations but forward by the Commission for Justice and Reconciliation and it advocated the establishment of real guarantees to ensure the cessation of human rights violations. The same Commission was founded at the beginning of Mohammed VI’s reign. Its main aim was to present testimonies of violations of rights and political freedoms committed in Morocco under the reign of the king’s predecessor, Hassan II. Among other things, in its final recommendations, the Commission had recommended the need to preserve the separation of powers by ensuring the independence of justice and by penalising torture... These principles were very important to the Justice and Development Party as well as to other parties sharing the same political sensitivities. Some of the PJD’s leaders have formed an NGO called the Forum for the Dignity of Human Rights, then chaired by Mustapha Ramid, the current Minister of Justice and Freedom.

//Mustapha RamidThe official discourse of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) has changed a few months after an overwhelming victory in the last Moroccan legislative elections that led the party to form the new government together with the other winning parties. The Islamist Party’s rise to power has been the result of the Moroccan spring and the protests initiated by the February 20th Movement.

For over a year, more than half a million Moroccans took to the streets in towns and villages claiming freedom and equality and demanding a constitutional monarchy where power emanates from the people and where the king’s role would be like the ones in Europe (Spain, Great Britain...). Although it did not join the people taking to the streets, the Justice and Development Party called for the same type of government. Some leaders of this party have expressed their support to the February 20th Movement followers.

However, after taking their government’s part of the cake, following the elections in favour of a constitutional amendment imposed by "the Moroccan spring," the Islamist party's positions have changed. Day after day, the Justice and Development Party seems to be in contradiction with many of its ideas and political positions. Moreover, its discourse has changed radically: it is less clear, less Islamist.

No change in the nature of the regime
According to a large segment of society, the Justice and Development became the devil's advocate. The Party gave up many political choices in order to take a sort of neutral position with regards to the Moroccan regime. When it was in opposition, the Islamist party was in favour of the implementation of the recommendations but forward by the Commission for Justice and Reconciliation and it advocated the establishment of real guarantees to ensure the cessation of human rights violations. The same Commission was founded at the beginning of Mohammed VI’s reign. Its main aim was to present testimonies of violations of rights and political freedoms committed in Morocco under the reign of the king’s predecessor, Hassan II. Among other things, in its final recommendations, the Commission had recommended the need to preserve the separation of powers by ensuring the independence of justice and by penalising torture... These principles were very important to the Justice and Development Party as well as to other parties sharing the same political sensitivities. Some of the PJD’s leaders have formed an NGO called the Forum for the Dignity of Human Rights, then chaired by Mustapha Ramid, the current Minister of Justice and Freedom.

//Abdallah Ben KiraneMawazin, allegations and pure art
Art has always been a stepping-stone for the Justice and Development Islamists, enabling them to broaden their electoral base. They have always vehemently criticised all artistic production. There have been many controversies during the past decade where Abdallah Ben Kirane’s Brothers demanded the suspension of the screening of a film or the prohibition of a daring cultural production. Besides, the Justice and Development Party has always waged a war against cultural festivals either directly or through its organisation called Monotheism and Reform. The Party’s leaders have made statements describing festivals as “a means to spread vice, depravity, the dissolution of morals and crime.” The first hostile reaction to art since the Islamists’ accession to power came from the mouth of the Minister Néjib Boulif himself when he criticised the actress Latifa who was slightly naked in a theatrical performance.

Many criticisms were immediately levelled against the Minister and the Party about what is considered to be an attack on freedom of creativity. The Party has got the message and tempered his hostile positions against artists. The actress has even received a phone call from the Prime Minister himself who expressed his sympathy after a Facebook page called to kill her. Nonetheless, the Islamists close to the Party have not changed their position.

//Abdallah TaïaLast May, both the Student Renewal Fraction of the Justice and Development Party and the Monotheism and Reform association have organised a rally at the Faculty of Arts of the city of Jedida where students and teachers of the same party demanded to ban the meeting organised with the Moroccan writer Abdallah Taïa because of his sexual orientations. They believed he might deprave the Muslim youth!
Nevertheless, the Party has backed down many of its positions with regards to cultural festivals. The Party realised that politically speaking, it was in no longer in a position to adopt a populist rhetoric to woo conservative voters. As a part of the government and an ally of the regime, the pragmatic party has now stopped to criticise the Mawazine Festival organised by the Association Maroc des cultures, managed by the king’s personal secretary. Held in Rabat, this million-dollar budget Festival once suffered the fiercest attacks by the Islamists, especially when the British singer Elton John was invited. At the time, the Islamists had insisted on the fact that Elton John had insulted Christ in an interview. Only a few years after their accession to 7power, they have not issued a single statement or press release that could affect the Festival demanding the real budget to be revealed. On the contrary, as members of the government, they have ensured the smooth running and success of what the Moroccan press calls “the king’s festival”.



Mohamed Kadhiri
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech
19/06/2012

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