First Published: 2013-02-20

 

Two years on, Morocco's February 20 movement weakened

 

Reform movement hopes to ride on what it sees is rising discontent against government amid slowing economy.

 

Middle East Online

By Guillaume Klein - RABAT

They don't have a real organisation or a real political strategy

Morocco's February 20 movement, born during the Arab Spring uprisings and increasingly marginalised in the two years since then, is hoping to rebound amid rising discontent against the Islamist government.

Tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets in the kingdom on February 20, 2011 after protests had already overthrown dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt.

But since then, a new constitution and government have been put in place, and the number of people affiliated with the movement has dwindled. In recent months, its demonstrations have struggled to gather even a few hundred people.

The movement celebrates its second anniversary on Wednesday with a rally in front of parliament at around 1700 GMT.

"Politically the February 20 movement does not exist," said Baudouin Dupret, director of the Jacques-Berque Centre in Rabat, as he talked of the "chilling impact" of the outcome of the revolutions that erupted in neighbouring countries.

The movement's influence was undermined to a large extent by the adoption of the constitution by an overwhelming majority in the second half of 2011 -- giving enhanced powers to the government -- and the historic victory for the Islamist Justice and Development Party.

Sanae Metaich, a 20 February coordinator in Rabat, said that "after the adoption of the constitution we talked less about ourselves in the media and then we had a party that took power using our slogans" of anti-corruption and pro-democracy.

"The movement was also deprived of a large part of its troops," as those from the powerful Justice and Charity party, which is tolerated but officially banned for its opposition to the monarchy, withdrew from the demonstrations.

Samad Ayach, another 20 February coordinator, said: "The regime has played the card of the constitution and elections on one hand and repression on the other."

About 70 activists were behind bars at the end of December, according to a coalition of Moroccan human rights groups.

Metaich said there has also been a change in the methods of repression.

"Before, they were arrested for participating in unauthorised demonstrations. Now it is for violence against law and order forces and drug trafficking."

Heavy penalties have also sometimes been imposed on activists, with one in Al-Hoceima in the north sentenced to 12 years in prison in October.

"Activists are not sacred people," said Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane when asked about such sentencings.

"The majority of reforms have been carried out. You don't see February 20 anymore. Okay, there are some who want to resurrect it. We will see," he said.

But the movement questions the extent of progress made over the past two years and calls for "genuine democracy".

"We don't have a real organisation, a real political strategy and communication with the people at the grassroots level. We need to be more effective," acknowledged Ayach.

The movement is now hoping to ride on what it sees is rising discontent against the government amid a slowing economy.

"Citizens will realise that they need a new change," said Metaich.

But Dupret says that, until then, "February 20 will never be able to convert a contested political disorder into social protest."

"There have been parallel social protests" by unemployed graduates, "but the connection was never made."

 

Polisario chief dies ‘after long illness’

Aid group warns of catastrophe in the making in Fallujah

Lieberman sworn in as Israel defence minister

Recovery in oil price eases pressure on OPEC

EU most senior lawyer backs work headscarf ban

Israeli court rules Sara Netanyahu harassed worker

Sudan detains eight human rights activists

Bahrain frees opposition activist, toddler son

EU warns migrants could be used as drug mules

IS presses assault in Aleppo province

Libya government allies capture coastal town from ISIS

New Yemen clashes kill at least 38 people in 24 hours

Ex-Miss Turkey sentenced 'for insulting Erdogan'

Death sentences for attack on Bahrain police upheld

Istanbul locked down on anniversary of Gezi Park demos

UN envoy calls for Libya unity to counter ISIS

Egypt journalist union leaders to face trial

Germany risks Turkey ties with Armenian 'genocide' vote

Kurd-led fighters seize more ground from ISIS in Syria

Iraq forces battle defiant IS outside Fallujah

Russian warplanes hit hospital, homes in Syria's Idlib

Saudi intercepts ballistic missile from Yemen

Hamas executes three men for murder in Gaza Strip

Egypt probes teenage girl's death during female circumcision operation

Jordan heads into elections by fall after parliament dissolution

Turkey to abandon migrant deal if no visa-free travel

Egypt court sentences Brotherhood leader to life in prison

Kuwait jails members of ruling family for insulting Emir

Tunisia blames ‘terrorist elements’ for deadly landmine blast

Turkey offers to join forces for Syria operation -- without Kurds

Sanctions gone, Iran drums up business with West

Starving Iraqis risk all to flee crumbling rule of ISIS

Iraq forces enter ISIS-held Fallujah from three directions

Chief negotiator of Syria opposition quits over failed talks

Bahrain appeal court ramps up jail sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sowing ‘sedition’ in Iraq

Israel police send Netanyahu spending file to prosecutors

Bahrain court upholds life terms for five 'spies'

Investigators need 12 days to recover EgyptAir black boxes

Iraq troops prepare for final assault on ISIS-held Fallujah

Iraq Kurdish forces launch offensive east of Mosul

Shipwrecks in Mediterranean claim up to 700 lives in one week

Iran blames Saudi Arabia for Hajj impasse

ISIS offensive triggers mass displacement in northern Syria

Without clear roadmap, Libya unity government fails to bring change