Political despotism is based on a specific function of the monarchy, at the heart of the collective organization of dominant interests. The combination of the economic and political monopoly uses the traditional and modern resources of legitimation, to assure the necessary support bases to maintain its domination.
By Chawqui Lofti*
The monarchy is the essential means for the consolidation and interpenetration of the interests of different segments of the dominant class and its alliance with international capitalism, in particular, French capitalism. This reality has practically not changed since the Moroccan independence, despite the significant increase of Spanish and Gulf capitals.
The CAC 40 companies (Moroccan stock index) have preferential treatment for everything related to the subcontracting chains in the automotive industry, electronics, aviation, tourism, agro-industry, railways, information, and communication technologies, and delegation contracts for private electricity and water supplies as well as in the financial and banking sector and renewable energy. The commercial trades exceed the twenty-two billion Euros, and there are tens of billions of French investments.
However, this dependence should not hide the specific nature of Moroccan capitalism, which has prevented any global change in agrarian structures, and it has developed a real industrialization while maintaining the traditional social bases of power in the countryside and cities.
The monarchy at the heart of the economy
The “public sector” allowed the creation of a techno-bureaucracy recruited and based on loyalty, which benefits from the possibilities of private enrichment from government posts. A part of the extraction of wealth is based on extra-economic relations and a clientelism that relies on the pact of protection/loyalty with the monarchy. The technocrats, leaders of private companies, owe everything to the monarchy, starting with their inherited status and the co-optation or unilateral designations. The public sector has been the patrimony of the hegemonic fraction to grow their own interests and gain loyalties.
A sort of mafia, visible or discreet, has taken control of all wealth and manages both formal and informal economies. 50% of the economic activity is in hands of speculators, scammers, parallel networks, and out of control. Drug trafficking revenues, estimated at billions of dollars, play an important role in the wealth accumulation. The widespread corruption, misuse of public resources, and manipulation of markets – different forms of economic extortion, merged into an informal economy of money laundering and capital flight. Not to mention the “black boxes” of large companies that are out of control.
In this rentier and mafia economy, the king has direct and strategic control over public, financial, and economic institutions. Privatization prompted the emergence of private monopolies linked to the interests of the royal family. The National Investment Corporation is the backbone: it represents almost 20% of Morocco’s GDP and 60% of its market capitalization. It does not take into account the real budget, whose annual cost is exorbitant: more than 230 million dollars, in the present.
The legitimacy of power is based on the maintenance of dependence and competition among the dominant class, so that neither an alliance nor a strong and autonomous pole will emerge. In terms of economic resources, heritage, political connections, and means of pressure, the riches must accept the Palace’s mediation. However, this base gets smaller when it comes to guaranteeing the monarchy’s domination, which has constantly sought to widen its support, especially after the military coup attempts of 1971 and 1972. State and private clientelism, a system of authorizations and operating licenses in different economic sectors, the application of the “Moroccanization” policy (partial transfer of colonial properties to the state or the private sector in the 1970s) increased the number of the system’s beneficiaries.
The absolute power and the democratic facade
Monarchy is the center of power. The first circle is formed by the family and the royal cabinet, which guarantees the control of the main social, economic, and political agents, and it is the real government. A second circle is made by the great State officials (military, security forces, religious leaders, technocrats,) followed by civil and political bureaucracies, media elites, and the civil society. Another circle is based on the State and private sector’s clientelism, which maintains loyalty and social control at all levels of society.
At the end of the 1980s, the power was forced to adapt to the fall of dictatorships, the international isolation after the publication of Gilles Perrault’s book Our Friend the King, and the need to prepare the transition to the throne. The speeches were focused on the “new concept of authority,” the “social dialogue” that has become a leitmotiv. The “Years of Lead” have their institutional story: the historic opposition had access to the alternation governments, the political prisoners of the 1970s were released, the independent press developed… An apparent democratic opening: the necessary time for the new king, Mohamed VI, who was crowned in 1999, to consolidate his image and power. Hassan II claimed that he had guaranteed him a twenty-year break.
Historically, the power has tried to develop multiple legitimacies. One of them, “traditional,” is based on religious power – the king is the “Prince of Believers,” as descendant of the prophet, not supported by any customary or legal right. The society is submitted to a semi-feudal relationship of loyalties that symbolically renews every year in the Beya ceremony, a ritual of proclaimed obedience. The authority also uses a “modern” legitimacy; in other words, a bourgeois legitimacy.
The democratic process, or facade, became an essential part of the hegemonic mechanisms and institutional subordination. This is about creating representative structures and institutions to compensate for the weakness of the direct social base of the monarchy, by integrating sectors of the middle class and different types of owners – based on political, sectoral, and regional balances, in order to guarantee a socio-political support to the monarchy without being directly dependent on it. The weak social and political autonomy of these sectors allow for a “democratic” opening that continues to operate in a closed circuit regarding the mass of the population.
But the government has also tried to recover every social or political problem posed by the civil society or by organized forces, through a specific treatment that associates some agents (the creation of the Council of Youth and the Future to respond to the association of unemployed, the Committee for the Integration of Women, a Human Rights Advisory Committee, the National Reconciliation Forum for Human Rights, the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture). The democratic process has become synonymous of an extended cooptation in order to neutralize the society demands and to build a new social and political clientelism that widens the network of dependent loyalties, with the construction of another network in civil society: unions, political and religious networks, as well as means of communication.
Politics and clientelism
In this architecture, parties are not the political expression of divergent social interests. They are limited to secondary functions for the selection of elites, under the direct or indirect supervision of the Ministry of Interior, without an autonomous project. The power does not rule with the parties but through them, and independently of them. This does not mean that all parties are a Palace’s product, but the Executive imposed “red lines”: respect for macroeconomic stability, for sovereignty ministries, for the Moroccan Sahara, and respect for the political monopoly of the throne.
Historically, the power has built parties of all kinds to weaken the opposition parties, or directly collaborated to the latest’s internal decline. At the same time, if parties are maintained in a situation of permanent weakness, they access to resources and political rent that benefit their apparatus, their members, and patronage networks. Elections are a way to legitimize the hegemony of power by reducing the electoral process into a simple technique of co-optation and renewal. The election of a uninominal voting system, combined with a reorganization of electoral districts that favors parties with a rural base, avoids any polarization of the political life and makes the emergence of a homogeneous government impossible. The “winning” party is forced to ally with its old enemies and their current friends can become opponents tomorrow.
The Parliament lacks mechanisms to evaluate public policies and it does not really participate in the budgetary or strategic debate, and its competences are minimal. The government cannot designate ministers without the Power’s approval, and it has no control over the so-called sovereignty ministries (Defense, Foreign Policy, Interior, Religious affairs…). The king presides over the Cabinet; he dissolves the Parliament whenever he wants; he is the army’s commander-in-chief, and he designates the judges and executives of more than 40 public institutions.
Conditioned by the Majzen, the “democratic process” allows generating a support wider than its direct bases of power, while enabling the emergence, among the institutional field, of an autonomous political representation of different social forces. Both economically and politically, the monarchy has secured a dependency and a fragmentation that prevents any questioning or the strengthening of an autonomous pole, although it has built a network of mediations between the Palace and the society. These mediations are both a firewall and a co-optation channel that combines different sources of legitimacy, depending on the territories and social class…
The democratic facade also has an international dimension, based on the alleged regime’s exceptionality, which thanks to its political and economic opening could have guaranteed stability and restrained Islamist movements. The signing of numerous international conventions reflects a consolidation of the transition and control of the revolutionary wave of 2011, according to this analysis. The apparent stability allows the regime to maintain international support regarding the Western Sahara’s issue, a deafening silence regarding human rights violations, and it provides arguments to attract foreign investment.
At the same time, the power responds to the imperialism’s interests: the struggle against illegal immigration, the cooperation in the “fight against terrorism,” the unofficial normalization [of relations] with Israel, the participation in the Saudi intervention in Yemen, the support to the French Africa, the submission to the IMF’s requirements, the facilities for investment, and the installation of multinationals’ subsidiaries in Morocco. It is no coincidence that the regime is considered an important ally of imperialism outside the NATO. It also exports the practice of royal favoritism and corruption for the purchase of political and media’s complicity at an incomparable level with other dictatorships. The Moroccan regime is undoubtedly one of the most supported ones in the world and the region. The recent celebration of the COP22 in Marrakesh is part of this international recognition.
Originally published at http://www.sinpermiso.info/textos/marruecos-la-naturaleza-politica-del-majzen
*Chawqui Lofti is a member of the Moroccan democratic left, co-editor of the Baldi Tawri web and a member of the Democratic Emancipation (Tahadi.)
Translation: Misty M.
The army’s high commands were encouraged to follow the same process after the coup attempts. Hassan II offered them, with his usual cynicism, to enrich themselves instead of making politics.