Political ‘earthquake’ in Morocco as king dismisses cabinet members
Casablanca- Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s unprecedented dismissal of several ministers and top officials for failing to improve the economy in the long-neglected Rif region was described as a political “earthquake.”
The king sacked the ministers of education, planning and housing and health and reprimanded five former ministers following consultations with Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani.
The moves came after Driss Jettou, president of the National Court of Auditors, submitted a report outlining “serious dysfunctions” in the implementation of a development programme in the northern region of Al Hoceima. The project, begun in October 2015, was intended to develop various sectors, including health care and education, in the restive northern city.
“At the level of implementation of the programmed projects, there has been a significant delay in the launch of projects and the vast majority of them have not been launched at all, with the absence of concrete initiatives by some of the actors involved in their actual launch,” the cabinet said in a statement.
Political analyst Salah El Ouadie called the king’s moves “an earthquake.” “After shaking the walls of ministries and departments, everyone is waiting for replicas to reach prison walls,” he said. “The era of staying in ministerial positions until a government changeover is over. It is a new dawn for Moroccan people who lost faith in politics.”
The Rif region has been a scene of regular protests against corruption and marginalisation since the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, who was crushed inside a rubbish truck October 28, 2016, in Al-Hoceima as he apparently tried to protest the seizure and destruction of hundreds of kilograms of swordfish. It is illegal for swordfish to be caught in autumn.
Fikri’s death sparked the emergence of a grass-roots movement called Al-Hirak al-Shaabi or “Popular Movement” demanding social justice, jobs and health care.
Ouadie said the king’s action was an important step towards follow-up on and better accountability of politicians and civil servants.
“This is a new approach that has been done on the basis of a thorough investigation led by Jettou, unlike in the past when some politicians were arbitrarily dismissed or judged during late King Hassan II’s rule,” he said.
Mohammed Ennaji, a professor of economics at Mohammed V University in Rabat, however, said the changes mean little.
“The dismissals have largely affected only the interchangeable, substitutable parts for the power, which have no political significance but whose dismissal makes noise as such,” Ennaji wrote on his Facebook page.
Political analyst Mohammed Afry said some provisions of the 2011 constitution have been put into practice for the first time. “The king used Article 47 in the constitution, which allows him to dismiss government officials to protect his people’s interests,” said Afry, “but did we have to wait for Al-Hirak al- Shaabi to happen to trigger a political earthquake? Were leaders of Al- Hirak al-Shaabi right?”
The king’s moves were the same day protest leader Nasser Zefzafi and 29 others accused of organising demonstrations in the northern region went on trial in Casablanca. They face charges ranging from conspiring against the state to protesting without authorisation.
Supporters of Al-Hirak al-Shaabi staged a noisy rally outside the court ahead of the trial to demand their release.