The unrest rolling across in the Middle East will likely not spare Morocco, said a relative of King Mohammed VI in an interview published Monday.
While the small kingdom on the westernmost edge of the Arab world has remained relatively calm since turmoil erupted in Egypt, Moulay Hicham, a cousin of the king told the Spanish daily El Pais
“Morocco has not yet been reached, but make no mistake: nearly all the authoritarian systems will be affected by the protest wave.”
Based in Paris, Hicham has been called “The Red Prince” because of his leftist political positions.
“Morocco will probably not be an exception,” he said. ‘It remains to be seen whether the protests will only be social [or whether they will be taken up by political parties].”
While there exist substantial differences between the societies of
Tunisia and Morocco, Hicham points out that “the abyss between the social classes undermines the legitimacy of the political and economic system” in Morocco as well.
While most of Moroccan society appears to support the monarchy, there is growing resentment over the ”the strong concentration of power in the government's hands” he explained.
“The large extent of monarchic power since independence is incompatible with the new fundamental dimension that vindicates [the rights of] the citizen,” he noted.
[The Moroccan king claims to be a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed, thus blessing him with a patina of divinity and virtual immunity from criticism.]
Moroccan author Abdellatif Laabi wrote in El Pais that some of the factors behind the Tunisian protests are present “in an almost identical way” in Morocco.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan king is returning home after a visit to France, where he reportedly discussed the ongoing crisis on Egypt and Tunisia with Paris officials. He has already forestalled some discontent by recently reversing a price hike on basic foods.
Morocco is probably the poorest, least-developed nation in North Africa, with the lowest literacy rate, despite some modest attempts at reform, including steps towards gender equality and increased educational opportunities.
However, unemployment is high and with possible migration to Europe becoming more difficult, youth discontent is concentrated and climbing.
Also as in Egypt, Morocco has a growing Islamist movement, which does not have a strong allegiance to the King, whom they view as a puppet of the US and Israel.
Indeed, in an interview with France’s Nouvel Observateur, dissident Moroccan journalist Aboubakr Jamai predicted: If Morocco goes up, the disparities in wealth are such that the rebellion will be much bloodier than in Tunisia.