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."

 

60 killed in suicide bomb attack on Yemen army camp

Libya forces launch ‘final battle for Sirte’

Turkey's bombings kill civilians in northern Syria

Iraq officially asks Saudi Arabia to change ambassador

In Saudi city of Najran, Huthis commit war crimes with indiscriminate rockets

Iran arrests 'nuclear spy'

Egypt frees renowned rights lawyer, Malek Adly

Dozens killed as Turkey ramps up unprecedented offensive in Syria

Yemen government cautiously welcomes US peace plan

Yemen shelling kills three-year-old boy in Saudi border region

Turkey sends more tanks into Syria to bolster military offensive

Turkey arrests former top diplomats over failed coup

Tunisia swears in new premier after approval from parliament

Israeli troops shoot dead Palestinian in occupied West Bank

11 Turkish police officers killed in Cizre bomb attack claimed by PKK

French court suspends burkini ban

Tears as evacuation starts in Syria's Daraya

Turkey PM denies Syria operation singling out Kurds

Kerry, Lavrov meet for talks on Syria

Tunisia parliament to vote on cabinet proposal

Kuwait arrests govt employee promoting IS online

Turkey shells Kurdish fighters in Syria after warning

Oil prices fall on Saudi doubt on output cut

Jeddah meeting bears no fruit on Yemen conflict

Kerry in Saudi for talks on regional conflicts

UN Syria envoy expects 'impact' from Kerry-Lavrov meeting

Iraq parliament votes to impeach defense minister

Russia says will cooperate in Syria chemical attacks probe

Iraq forces take key town south of Mosul

Hamas to leave name off ballot in Palestinian elections

Iranian navy in 'unsafe' intercept of US destroyer

Three wounded in PKK attack on Turkey opposition chief's convoy

Erdogan to inaugurate Istanbul's third Bosphorus bridge

China to train Syrian troops

Turkey reinforces ground forces across border into Syria

Turkey says 'every right' to intervene if Kurds fail to withdraw

UN rights chief urges international probe of Yemen violations

Tunisia unity government to remain unchanged

Raped teen who took own life finally gets justice in Morocco

Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' Jarabulus

Libya's presidential council to present new cabinet

Syria regime, Kurds blast Turkish incursion

Biden: Washington told Kurds not to cross Euphrates

Israeli court shuns plea to unchain Palestinian hunger striker

Saudi police foil mosque suicide bombing