By Hassan Benmehdi
Born out of the ferment of the Arab Spring, the February 20 Movement (M20F) marked its one-year anniversary on Monday (February 20th) with rallies throughout the week by pro-reform activists across the kingdom.
While M20F supporters believe that the group created a new political dynamism in the kingdom and succeeded in breaking taboos, others say that its pro-reform appeal has dwindled over time.
“Whether some people like it or not, it’s thanks to the continued and sustained February 20 protest movement that Morocco has moved forward with reforms to the constitution and the holding of early legislative elections which, more importantly, were transparent,” said Mohcine El Aâchouri, a charity worker sympathetic to the M20F.
“This is a first in the history of elections in the kingdom,” he said. “The victory won by the PJD, an Islamist political party, is clear proof; you could well see it as a sign of change going forward.”
About 2,000 demonstrators converged in Casablanca’s Place des Nations Unies, according to the activists. The interior ministry, however, said that the number of protestors did not exceed 150 in Casablanca and a thousand across the country.
“Our main objective is still to stamp out wrongdoing in all areas of public life. That is what drives us, and we are going to continue our campaign until it’s achieved,” said Fatima Zahra, a young student member of the movement.
Moroccans aspire more than ever to greater democracy in their daily lives, she added.
The Casablanca demonstrators chanted slogans, calling for “an end to corruption and wrongdoing”, social justice and greater transparency in the management of public matters.
While the movement used to rally tens of thousands of young Moroccans seeking reforms, the numbers have grown more modest over time. The M20F has struggled to mobilise public opinion since Islamist group Al Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity) severed ties with the movement.
“We’d rather be 200 people with clear, precise demands, than tens of thousands of people sending out mixed messages,” M20F member Ahmed Mediany said.
For his part, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane acknowledged the role played by the M20F in the political reforms and voiced his government’s readiness to talk to the youth opposition.
“I promise to listen to them very carefully,” Benkirane said at the end of last year after taking office. “I am open to these young people, like those in the February 20 Movement and the opposition parties.”