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."

 

Saudi mosque attack intended to fan sectarian tension

Israeli deputy FM: 'All of it is ours'

Obama offers Tunisia closer security ties

IS fighters attack Iraq forces east of Ramadi

Israel solicits Platini to sway FIFA

Sudan's Islamists protest against el-Sisi

Islamic State claims Saudi mosque bombing

Islamic State reinforces ‘caliphate’ with control of borders

Iraqi forces to launch Ramadi offensive

Tunis asks Rome to extradite terror suspect

Suicide bomb attack on Saudi Shiite mosque

Saudi-led coalition warplanes pound Sanaa outskirts

Shebab gunmen raid Kenya village

Kuwait businessman Khorafi dies at 75

Yemen air strikes continue as Iran calls for talks

Israeli court orders release of Khalida Jarrar

Netanyahu meets with Arab leader Ayman Odeh

U.S. sanctions two companies linked to Iran's plane purchases

Iran supports Yemen talks, denounces foreign interference

IS militants call for attacks on Egypt's judges

11 killed in fresh Libya violence

Assad regime losses in Syria

Obama looks to bolster Tunisia's democratic gains

Turkey opposition unveils plan to build new 'mega-city' in Anatolia

Iraqi prime minister seeks Russian support against Islamic State

Iraq's Sunni tribes feel distrust towards Baghdad after Ramadi fall

Morocco illegal migrant arrest fuels Italy row

Qatar ‘failing to deliver’ on promised labour reforms

US to sell bombs, missiles to Israel, helicopters to Saudis

IS jihadists in full control of Syria's Palmyra

Yemen government wants rebel pullback before joining Geneva talks

Morocco King names four new ministers in second reshuffle

Gaza reconstruction going ‘far more slowly than expected’

France kills two jihadist chiefs in Sahel region

Clashes with ‘Islamic State’ rage on near Libya city of Sirte

Protests in Tunisia phosphate-producing region intensify

Iran aid ship to dock in Djibouti for inspection

Israel to face FIFA suspension bid

Letters of Bin Laden reveal accurate fear of surveillance

Yemen talks to open May 28 in Geneva

‘Islamic State’ fighters take control of Palmyra northern sector

Palestinian driver shot by Israeli police

New Egypt justice minister sworn in after judge's gaffe

IS, Syria regime locked in fierce battles near Palmyra

Rajoub: Conditions not ready for Israel-Palestine "match for peace"