Unlike Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in Morocco was little commented on, in part because it’s unclear how much power the king has actually ceded to them.
Still, much as in Tunisia, where the Islamists have run into an organized labor buzzsaw, and Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is facing a dedicated protest movement, tensions have begun to rise between the Islamist regime and the left.
This is an AP article, so you have to read between the lines. “Moderate Islamist Party” is spelled “Muslim Brotherhood”. “Economic Reforms” means concentrating power within the Brotherhood’s oligarchy.
“Morocco is witnessing social regression,” chanted protesters, including activists from the February 20 pro-reform movement, which was born of the Arab Spring protests sweeping the region in 2011. They also accused Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of pushing the country into a “ravine.” Police said 3,000 marchers took part in the peaceful protest that wound its way to the parliament building in central Rabat. Other estimates said they numbered between 5,000 and 10,000.
The MAP news agency said members of opposition parties as well a human rights activists and civil society figures were also on the streets, alongside activists of the February 20 movement. The agency quoted unidentified union leaders as saying the march was “a sort of warning” to Benkirane’s government, which is expected in the coming months to implement sweeping reforms as Morocco grapples with economic hardships. Morocco is facing slower growth and the budget deficit reached over six percent of GDP in 2011, against a backdrop of 30 percent youth unemployment.
Chanting, the “people want the fall of the government” and calling for the departure of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, the activists marched through the colonial-era streets of downtown Rabat in a light rain.
Benkirane’s moderate Islamist party won the most seats in elections following pro-democracy uprisings in 2011, and he took the helm of the government promising to fight corruption and address the North African country’s huge gap between the rich and the poor.
His fractious coalition has achieved little, however, and is currently embroiled in the sensitive process of reforming the massive subsidies and pension systems.
“The government has done nothing so far, not for the economy, not for social reforms and not even for the fight against corruption,” said Bouchra Sandeel, a teacher from Marrakech marching in the demonstration.
She expressed fear that efforts to reform the subsidies on fuel and food staples would hit the poor hardest in this country of 32 million.
A poll published Friday by the daily L’Economiste gave Benkirane a 64 percent approval rating after just over a year in office. The paper noted it was a comfortable margin, but a 22 point drop from his 88 percent rating last year.
It’s going to fall farther as food prices rise.