Showing posts with label morocco news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label morocco news. Show all posts

Friday, November 25, 2011

In Vote in Morocco, Many Stay Skeptical

Vote in Morocco
CASABLANCA, Morocco — Yassine Bousalim, a 26-year-old chef from the poor neighborhood of Derb Sultan, where lingering smells of garbage fill the air, watched voters come and go on Friday from the polling station across the street, with an air of disgusted detachment.

“I won’t go and vote,” he said. “I just don’t think anything will come out of this.”

Mr. Bousalim is among the many young and disenchanted Moroccans who chose not to vote in their country’s first parliamentary elections since the passage of a new Constitution last year. That document, an effort by King Mohammed VI to respond to local and regional unrest during the Arab Spring, was approved in July. It gives more powers to Parliament and the prime minister, but preserves most of the king’s prerogatives, including absolute control over military and religious issues.

“Corruption is too big,” said Mr. Bousalim, one of about 57 percent of the 13.5 million eligible voters who are under the age of 35. “Each time we are confronted to an institution, we want to be treated with respect,” he said. Results are expected Saturday.

In contrast to Tunisia, where millions flooded to the polls to vote last month on the first free elections after the overthrow of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the turnout here is expected to be lower. Still, this election is being watched closely as a significant and calibrated step toward democracy. The Tunisian elections were won by the main Islamist party, Ennahda.

The Interior Ministry said that by 5 p.m., two hours before polls closed, about 34 percent of registered voters had cast ballots.

But the change here may still be significant. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) is expected to do well, it could even become the country’s largest party and, in a coalition government, provide the next prime minister, who will have the power to appoint ministers and dissolve Parliament.

“We believe that we will be the No. 1 party,” said Abdelilah Benkirane, the PJD’s general-secretary in an interview. “Therefore the prime minister will be from our party,” he said.

The PJD was founded in 1998 and is the largest opposition party, with 47 seats in Parliament. It has broadly appealed to Morocco’s large numbers of poor voters by focusing on economic and social issues. It has paid attention to the success in Turkey of the governing AK Party, which has fused religion and modern politics.

“They want the best for the country,” said Iman Bajebour, 20, who took a break from her work as a nurse to cast a ballot for the PJD in Derb Gharaf, a poor neighborhood here. “From my prospective, the PJD will fight corruption,” she said.

But some Moroccans are nervous that the party would back anti-Western policies if brought to power. Last week, the French-language weekly “Tel Quel” splashed the headline, “Morocco will be Islamist,” across its cover.

Other main contenders out of the many parties seeking seats include the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), created in 2009 out of several smaller parties by a close friend of the king, and Istiqlal, the historic party of independence, founded in 1944, and currently in power.

For some Moroccans voters, though, the elections could consolidate the king’s recent democratic push.

“I think it is the duty of citizens to come and vote,” said Marwan Sayarh, a 30-year-old businessman who voted for the first time. “Morocco is becoming more democratic and I want to support it.”

The country’s loyalty to King Mohamed VI, who has been in power since 1999 and has responded this year to calls for democratic change, contrasted with the revolts against secular nationalist governments in Egypt and Tunisia.

“We are on a path of continuity, mobilization, and of coherence,” said Salaheddine Mezzouar, the country’s finance minister and head of the moderate RNI party, a prominent political force in the country. Some commentators have speculated that he could be prime minister.

Analysts say that given Morocco’s complex proportional electoral system and the few requirements for aspiring candidates and parties — there are 5,873 candidates from more than 30 parties — it is unlikely that one party would emerge with a majority.

But discontent toward the political elite is real among voters here, and some social activists have called for a boycott of the vote. The February 20 Movement for Change, which led the protests against the government this year, is urging its supporters not to vote.

Mr. Bousalim, the chef, said he was tempted to join the February 20 movement because “they would really help.” But he fears police retaliation, which according to Human Rights Watch, detained more than 100 of its members since October to question them about the distribution of pro-boycott leaflets or other activities.

The February 20 movement is a hybrid and youthful coalition of students, independents, leftist activists and Islamists. It has held regular demonstrations and played a key role in pushing reforms and orchestrating protests against political corruption. It favors a constitutional monarchy, in which the king reigns but does not rule. But Morocco is conservative and the monarchy has deep roots, and the February 20 movement has been criticized outside the large cities.

The movement has denounced the king’s reforms as insufficient and argues that the new Constitution in fact reinforces the king’s prerogatives. Parliamentary elections would bring another corrupt assembly to power, they say.

Fouad Abdelmoumni, an economist and a leading coordinator of the movement, said that the king “still has the main authority in his hands.”

“The conditions for democracy are not there,” he said. 

News by NYTimes

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Morocco: Marrakech palm grove threatened by the excesses of tourism

palm tree
Palm tree
AFP - The Millennium vast palm grove of Marrakech in southern Morocco, is in great danger: water scarcity, urbanization, tourism projects and pharaonic golf course threaten the survival of this oasis, an ambitious program of conservation attempts back. Ten centuries after his birth, the palm, one of the most beautiful of Morocco, is now suffering the devastating combination of man and climate. This oasis full of hundreds of thousands of palm trees growing on 16,000 hectares, has lost 30% of its area over the past two decades, according to experts.

The introduction in recent years in the heart of the palm, and in disregard of the environment, major tourism projects, which "pump a lot" of water, promotes the degradation of the plantations and deteriorating ecological balance, they said. "Tourism projects, despite all the positives they generate, are pumping a lot. This has a negative effect on the ecological balance", told AFP Laftouhi Nour-Eddine, hydrogeologist at the Faculty of Marrakech. "Personally, I consider irrational proliferation of golf courses as a crime," he laments.

Nicknamed the "Red City" for the particular color of its houses, Marrakech is the most popular site for tourists and Moroccans. Fortunately for the walker-loving nature, the snowy mountains that surround the city and can be admired from the city center, is a picture postcard. But the city now has ten golf courses, including two in one palm, and a dozen others waiting to leave, even if they use a lot of water. The success of tourism this place that even the famous Club Med is deployed with three pools and golf inside the grove. A stark contrast to that remembers that the very name of this city, dating from 1062 and built by Youssef Ibn Tachfin, first ruler of the Almoravid dynasty, encouraged to dream.

"Marrakech" come from the Berber word "love" which means "country" and "Akouche" which means "god", giving "the land of God" or "holy land" or, as another dialect etymology "rangelands." This dream seems vanished at a time when the city has nearly a million people with an impressive number of hotels, swimming pools and a multitude of riads (traditional houses built around a courtyard). Part of riads have been bought and renovated by the Moroccan-born or wealthy foreigners, pushing the less advantaged population to the outside of the city. This sad state of affairs gives rise to feelings of bitterness and nostalgia for the people of the palm, fewer and fewer.

"The source went here where I stand. Before, there was a stream. There was a spring there, another next to it. Everywhere the place was full of sources. But the day they began to build villas and hotels, the water is gone. It's over, "indignant Boujemaa, a resident of the palm. To protect the grove, an extensive program was launched by local authorities in 2007, aiming to plant 430,000 palm trees in a year. "Thanks to the central waste water treatment, opened in 2010, and wells that are already operational, large quantities of water available," said Abdelilah Mdidech, the program director for the Protection of the palm, led by Mohammed VI Foundation for the environment. Hundreds of workers are busy day for planting new palm trees and maintain those who are aging.

"It is already in 415,292 young palms planted (...) and there, the young shoots have a good recovery, with green leaves and a good crown," says Mdidech. The latter claims to be "realistic but optimistic": "I know we can not afford, especially in water, into a verdant grove. We must be realistic." "But with this project, I can say it will be saved. I am optimistic."

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