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France didn’t see it coming in Tunisia, nor did the United States in Egypt.
Will the same happen to Spain with Morocco? We don’t really know. What we do know is that a combination of high temperatures, dry air and high winds raises the probability of a forest fire. In the case of Morocco, we don’t know whether the protest planned, via social networks, for February 20 will achieve its objectives. But we do know that many of the Tunisian and Egyptian factors are present, and that the demands of young Moroccans are very similar.
First, temperature. The Moroccan population is just as young (almost a third are between 15 and 29), and just as massively unemployed. Indeed, in Morocco the young account for 82 per cent of unemployment (in Tunisia and Egypt, the figure is 56 and 73 per cent respectively). And just as in the other countries, those with secondary studies are hard hit by unemployment. Objective data show the high cost of living in Morocco; subjective data from surveys show that 80 per cent of Moroccans feel frustrated by economic difficulties. It seems, then, that economic growth in recent years has not trickled down to the young. The public sector is already inflated and can absorb no more employment; the private sector has no room for the educated young who are now joining the labor market. And according to available information, it appears that these young people have the same level of internet access as their colleagues in Tunisia and Egypt. This means the air is fairly dry.
To the lack of opportunities we may add corruption, which fuels discontent. While all the international indicators already situated Morocco in a position that was cause for concern (even worse than Tunisia), the WikiLeaks cables from the US Embassy in Rabat, show how widespread this corruption is, and how it goes on with total impunity due to the fact that the king, the royal house and its circle are the prime movers therein. According to Forbes magazine, the banking, insurance, real estate, telecommunications, mining and agricultural interests of Mohammed VI combine to make him, at the relatively young age of 45, the seventh-richest monarch in the world with a personal fortune estimated at $2.5 billion. The fact that the self-styled “king of the poor” has managed to double his personal fortune in a context of global economic crisis is a dubious honour. But if this also takes place in a land with a per capita GDP of $4,773 (notably inferior to that of Tunisia and Egypt), 40 per cent illiteracy and where a third of the population live under the poverty line, such greed is an affront to common sense which surely undermines the legitimacy and stability of the regime. True, in Morocco elections are held regularly, and parties alternate in power; but once again, all the indicators concerning freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary reflect to what degree the Moroccans really enjoy the liberties of democracy, which are in fact narrowly limited and closely watched. The recent creation of the royally-inspired Authenticity and Modernity Party shows that the king’s aims are far removed from political reform, tending more to the institutionalisation of the political and economic power of a narrow elite
The events in Tunis and Cairo offer a good opportunity for the EU to promote reforms in Morocco. “The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic states. The best means to consolidate international order is to disseminate good government, support political and social reforms, combat corruption and abuse of power, establish the supremacy of the law, and protect human rights.” This is lifted word for word from the 2003 European Security Strategy, drafted by Javier Solana, then the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, and signed by the governments of the 27 states, apparently without bothering to read it.
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