To begin analyzing the state of a specific political party in Morocco, one should begin by considering the role of political parties vis-a-vis the monarchy. How significant is the role of a political party in a country where a hereditary monarchy rules unchecked, where the king sits as the supreme religious authority in addition to being the country’s senior business partner in the private sector, along with full control of the military? Not very significant. However, Morocco’s Western allies like to point to institutions like the constitution and parliament as indicators of the elusive “Moroccan Exception,” which is often cited as an explanation as to why Morocco didn’t experience the wave of popular uprisings on the scale that its neighbors have.
If we refer to the 2011 Constitution, article 7 begins to outline the role of political parties. The following is an excerpt. Note that this is not a legal translation, but my own from the French version:
Political parties express the will of voters and exercise their power on the basis of pluralism and alternation by democratic means through the framework of constitutional institutions. They can not be created with the goal to undermine the religion of Islam, the monarchy, constitutional principles, democratic foundations, national unity, or the territorial integrity of the Kingdom. The organization and functions of political parties must conform to democratic principles.
All that needs to be known about “democratic principles” in this context is that they are defined by a very undemocratic institution: the monarchy. Let’s consider the “democratic principles” of the National Rally of Independents. It was founded by then prime minister, Ahmed Osman, in 1978, and he was its leader until 2007. Osman is also married to King Mohammad VI’s aunt, Lalla Nezha. So, basically, someone who married into the royal family creates a political party while he’s prime minister and leads it for 29 years.
Fastforward a few years after 2007 and some of the most notorious figures in Moroccan politics have called the RNI their party:
Moncef Belkhayat – Former minister of youth and sports. He was also the center of the A8gate scandal last year. Before he was appointed minister, however, he was quick to jump ship from his former party, Istiqlal. As far as I know, he’s still a member of RNI. Not sure what his exact role is besides being the most active RNI-member on Twitter.
Aziz Akhennouch – Current minister of agriculture and fisheries. Akhennouch is the only minister in the current cabinet who kept his position through the new government after parliamentary elections in November. Literally, the day before the cabinet announcements were made public, Akhennouch announced that he has resigned from the RNI, making him the only minister with no official ties to a political party.
Yassir Zenagui – Former minister of tourism and current royal adviser. Zenagui was quickly upgraded to a position with no legal limits with less than 3 years of ministerial experience. Apparently, when he was appointed minister, he had not officially joined any political party, so the RNI it was! Proved to be a good decision for him.
Saleheddine Mezouar – Former minister of finance and current president of the RNI. He managed to pocket several tens of thousands of dirhams a month in bonuses during his stint as minister. Today, he mostly wanders from network to network decrying the PJD and attempting to be the face of the opposition.
The role of the RNI in the opposition is minimal at best. They mostly stand in the shadows of the self-proclaimed “leftist” Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), which has done far more to rally constituents and supporters (they recently held a rally in Casablanca on 27 May 2012, which they claim saw numbers reaching 50,000). The number of RNI votes has slowly declined over the years and its most prominent members continue to dwindle, or find themselves engulfed in political scandals. The fact that the RNI hasn’t dissolved as a party and have its remaining members join the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), a party established by royal insider and current royal adviser, Fouad Ali El Himma, is a bit of a surprise. I’m sure they’d have a great time bashing Benkirane and his bearded supporters, as they sip some gin and talk about how “modern” and “Western” they are.
Oh no, but wait, that would mean that their involvement in politics has a strategic purpose aside from sheer opportunism and using their position to advance their personal business ventures. Oops, forgot about that one.
Meanwhile, check out this gem of a video with all 4 of the figures I mentioned above acting like a bunch of frat bros after a football match.