Since the first “Friday of Rage” started in the Arab world, the kingdom of Morocco has been trying to see how to dilute the demonstrations taking place every Sunday in ever more places and, above all, with more participants. The young Moroccans who sparked the protests have been joined by entrepreneurs, the unemployed, Islamists, and secular liberals in an amalgam tactic that just continues growing and spreading. Two Sundays ago, in Safi, some 40,000 people demanding justice demonstrated to protest the death of Islamist activist Kamal Amari at the hands of police on May 29.
The formula used by King Mohammed VI to try to control the protests is a mix of cautious openness and repression of a non-openly brutal kind. For example, the king wanted to show a more modern face and offered to share some of his power allowing constitutional reform, although the commission to develop the reform was institutionally appointed and responsive to his wish for openness – the lesser, the better. The commission’s results should be made public later this month, but nobody is convinced its results will satisfy the parties.
Fearing the inevitable, the traditionalist Gulf monarchies have invited both Jordan and Morocco to join their special club, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – a security-management body. The invitation could be attractive since the club works as a guarantor of support against instability, showering members with large sums of aid money that could buy, at least temporarily, the goodwill of many people. But, at the same time, it’d constitute a clear commitment to regression. No GCC member, starting with Saudi Arabia, wants to talk about openness and modernity – quite the opposite. Hence the dilemma of the king of Morocco: If he disregards the invitation, he’ll be left alone in the face of danger, if he accepts the invitation, he goes against the masses demanding more change.
Whichever answer he gives to that question, it’ll be a game changer. To date, the monarchy hasn’t been put into question by the protesters. But, it may soon stop being that way. And it’s not only due, for example, to comments done more or less on a regular basis about some aspects of the king’s life, such as everything concerning his alleged homosexuality, but, above all, the Islamists reject the king’s continued role as Commander of the faithful in the upcoming constitutional text and, on the other hand, there’s growing criticism from entrepreneurs due to the enormous dominance of the Royal House on the economy. It’s not a good sign to see the government of Mohammed VI drifting into seclusion with a shrinking circle of friends.
Whether he likes it or not, the current king inherited from his father an institutional formula whose best days have passed. Now he faces the demands of secular liberals, traditionalists, and Islamists alike. It’s a matter of time. How much? It’ll depend on how shrewd he is, moving from one regime to the other. If he goes for the bunker choice, his days in power will be fewer. If he opens up the regime and allows gradual political, economic, and social modernization, his days will also be numbered, but they’ll be many.
Published in Libertad Digital,