Washington, Morocco Board News-- The debate around the February 20 march is heating up on line, in the written press and in cafes around Morocco. To march or not to march? That is the question many Moroccans have been pondering. In the last two weeks the pro and anti March camps have been locked in a fierce social media battle to explain the reasons and goals of the march for “the pro” camp and to dispute and challenge the motivation of the elements behind this event for “the anti” camp.
The two factions that have been pushing their agendas on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, are only a minority of the Moroccan public. The largest slice of the Moroccan society is in fact the silent majority that has not had a chance yet to express their views on the March. This silent majority will be the defining factor in the success or failure of the February 20 event.
In a country where it is hard to conduct polls on certain political subjects, it will be tricky to gauge the feeling of the Moroccans toward the March and the demands of the people and political and civic groups that have endorsed. However, judging from the chats on the Web and on the street, the March and its organizers are controversial but their demands are universally endorsed by that silent majority. Demands to end corruption and nepotism, end the economic monopoly of the connected few, reforms of the judicial system and open the political field for all to participate are “old” demands that need to be instantly addressed in a transparent and a genuine manner. After Sidi Bouzid (Tunisia) and Tahrir Square, the era of window dressing and empty rhetoric is over and done with.
In a way, the February 20 march has already achieved a major goal by bringing to the forefront the major social, political and economic demands that the Moroccan people have been pleading with the higher authorities to implement and execute for years now but with limited success. The question at this time is whether the Moroccan officials will act on these demands in an effective, sustained, transparent and expedient manner. In the aftermath of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts, no leader can afford to ignore or delay reforms. The consequences of postponement and delay are disastrous if not dangerous.
The matter of reforms to the Moroccan constitution is not a new topic for some Moroccan political activists. The subject, as touchy as it is, was previously discussed and debated during the first Social Government of Prime Minister El Youssoufi. It is indeed time to revisit the issue but using a different venue rather than a protest.
The anti-March campaign has been ugly, furious and downright dirty. Despite the Moroccan government official approval of the February 20 rallies, many elements inside and outside official circles have been challenging the origins of” the leaders” of the march, their true motives and their allegiances. In fact, there are a considerable number of ordinary Moroccans inside and outside the country (Moroccans living overseas) that are adamantly against the March for fear of violence, bloodshed and hostility.
If the call to protest on February 20 was slow to get off the ground, it gained momentum in the last few days with the endorsement of the banned Islamic movement “Al-Adal wal Ihsan”. According to the Moroccan press, the February 20 march is endorsed by Moroccan nongovernmental organization, a coalition of “small” leftist parties and “Islamist” associations. The leaders of the February 20 movement insist on their independence, non-violence and nationalist motives.
The anti-March camp seems to challenge the manner in which the organizers of the protests go about expressing their grievances. Several segments of the Moroccan society fear that the March will be exploited and hijacked by troublemakers and anti-Moroccan elements. In fact, the issue of safety, security and law and order are the overdoing reasons behind the silence of the majority. The Tunis and Egypt looting and destruction are still vivid in the mind of the Moroccan public.
Regardless of who marches and who does not, the debate around the rationale and possible outcome of this event is a chance for the Moroccan government to address the social and political ills that have lingered away too long.