New reply to Lahcen Haddad (2023)

I dare to continue, Mr. Haddad, the debate that you and I are having and that the magazine Atalayar, which I thank for its welcome, allows us to have.

I believe that calm debate between Spaniards and Moroccans is always a positive thing, instead of cross monologues, each one locked in their usual litany when it comes to issues or views on which they do not agree.

I agree with you that in letter and spirit the 2011 Constitution represented a leap forward compared to previous ones.

Although it strikes me that you forget to include among its achievements the "Saharo-Hassanian component" that the constitutional preamble recognises among the plurality of "tributaries" of Moroccan identity that you rightly recall in your reply. A significant oversight for the subject at hand, no doubt, as you will admit to me that it was included in the 2011 text, along with the preservation of Hassani speech, as an outstretched hand to help resolve the long conflict that has dragged on between Saharawis and Moroccans for half a century, but which has not been resolved so far.

But I am convinced that in practice, in the twelve years since the adoption of the 2011 Constitution, important opportunities to expand the possibilities it opened up have been missed. Politics has continued to work from the top down, with the same inertia as always, in which the guidelines came from the actual speeches that marked out the path along which the legislator had to go. In all this long decade, I do not seem to have seen many initiatives that came from the political groups represented in Parliament and that were not inspired from above, which reinforces my idea of a certain distrust of an elite that needs - or allows itself - to be tutored, without exercising its real possibilities of expression. Moreover, the prime ministers - Benkirane, Othmani and Akhannouch - although they had the right of appointment to civilian jobs in public administration and public enterprises, have not been able to exercise this power, which has always been decided from the top down through royal appointments of personnel from the restricted technocratic administrative circle, close to the royal sphere. Needless to say, in the case of civil governors and diplomacy, these are spheres of the monarch's sovereignty.

I have also seen that in the past decade the interference of political power over the judiciary has been maintained, if not increased, as demonstrated by the political trials to which I referred in my previous reply, alluding to the report of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the United States Department of State. I refer to what is expressed by a personality free of any suspicion of being considered a "frustrated staunch progressive" - an expression that you use I think with a somewhat derogatory nuance: I am referring to Noureddine Ayouch, in a television report on the Arte channel that is currently circulating on social networks: "In the first ten years of the Kingdom of Mohammed VI, Morocco took impressive steps towards democracy. In the last ten years, on the other hand, it has been taking steps backwards". I would cite two cases that I know very well, that of the historian Maâti Monjib, unable to join his family in France, deprived of his passport and his job, subjected to multiple arbitrariness for more than five years. Or that of Reda Benothmane, sentenced to three years in prison for publishing criticism of the authorities on the internet. Not to mention the government's appalling handling of the Al Hoceima "hiraq" crisis, with the aftermath of unfair trials that still linger on. Or the Gdeim Izyk trials, so full of arbitrariness despite the fact that they had to be redone by a civilian court after a military court that was severely criticised.

In your assessment of these years under the 2011 Constitution, it certainly cannot be said that the press is freer in Morocco. This is borne out by the journalists who have been imprisoned, even if they have been charged with common crimes - poorly verified by the facts in trials with few guarantees - in order to mask their political or opinionated nature. This is corroborated by the disappearance of press titles, newspapers and magazines that were once a source of free expression and a source of pride for Morocco, while their editors are now in prison or in voluntary exile.

I fully understand your reflections on the need for a strong monarchy in a country that is still struggling to achieve real human development, to create jobs, prosperity and dignity for all. But this shows mistrust in an elite that is not capable of governing itself, that needs a guardian to correct the drifts either of corruption or of deviation from the collective good of a part of the elite in charge of public management.

Of course, the rush towards democracy can lead to abuses, but sometimes the fears of democratisation of a society come from the interests of those who maintain privileges they do not want to give up. In this regard, I have often quoted in my writings the phrase of the great Moroccan historian Abdalah Laroui in the epilogue to the Spanish edition of his "History of Morocco", against those who use pretexts to justify the slow pace of change:

"I still think, reading Maghrebi history, that democratic behaviour will not become natural between rulers and ruled until the former stop obsessing over the fear of "national disintegration". Believing, or making people believe, that the state is always on the verge of being submerged by the overflowing tide of barbarism, is the best way to ensure that a responsible civil conscience never emerges among the population.

And I come to the final part of his paper, which deals with my idea of associating democracy with a solution to the problem of Western Sahara and the relationship between autonomy and democracy. We start from the idea, with which I agree, that Morocco wants the negotiation between the parties (Polisario Front and the Moroccan state) required by the United Nations to begin with the discussion of the "2007 Autonomy Initiative" without preconceived ideas. Will this negotiation be better if the image projected by Morocco to the outside world is that of a country without legal insecurity, without capricious repression, with full respect for minorities, with a determined will to move towards the rule of law? The counterpart could then be attracted by the possibility of integrating into a state in which its rights are guaranteed.

If in the interior of Western Sahara - the southern provinces recognised by Morocco - the supporters of the counterpart with which the Moroccan State will have to agree on any solution are harshly repressed and persecuted, if their associations are hindered in their action, if the outstretched hand that was the recognition of the contribution of their cultural and social expression embodied in the 2011 Constitution is not deepened, I believe that we are going backwards, as Noureddine Ayouch would say.

I am well aware of the complexity of Moroccan society, "composite" - as Paul Pascon said - in its social but also in its cultural structure. I believe that conservative forces have a deep-rooted impact on the social body of the Moroccan population and that this slows down the social and cultural progress of important sectors of society. But it would therefore be wise not to alienate those "staunch progressives" of whom you speak by curtailing their criticisms, which should undoubtedly help to correct the deviations that in this third decade of the 21st century in which we live are occurring or could occur in Morocco as elsewhere in the world.

It is not by seeing enemies of the homeland in every corner of the planet hatching plots against Morocco that progress is made. Sometimes, I admit, one gets that impression when one reads official communiqués or statements by Moroccan leaders. But by admitting criticisms or mistakes that may have been made. That is where Morocco could allow itself gestures of justice that would dignify its image abroad, avoiding unnecessary criticisms that in many cases are made out of friendship and the desire for Morocco to soon be placed in the best rankings of human and political development.

Yours sincerely

Bernabé López García


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