Saturday, September 5, 2015

Political Quake in Morocco

Mustapha Ajbaili

Morocco’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) prevailed in local elections on Friday, scoring landslide victories in the country’s major cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, Marrakech, Fes and Agadir. In a major development, the Islamist party dislodged the opposition leader Hamid Chabat from his stronghold of Fes, which has been the political power base of the Istiqlal Party since independence and the hometown of Morocco’s aristocratic leadership for decades. Now it has fallen whole-heartedly to Islamists.

In Rabat the Islamist party also routed the Socialist Union and its iconic strategist and prominent economist Fathallah Oualalou, whose socialist activism propelled him to operate as the engine of Morocco’s privatization program, what an irony this is!!!  

In Casablanca, the PJD captured most seats and is now set to manage the economic hub of the kingdom unchallenged!

In Marrakech, the tourist hub with a vibrant night life, the Islamist party ousted the the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which was formed in 2008 and quickly shot to power nationwide in 2009. PAM is the most controversial party in the country. PJD leader Benkirane refers to it as a “gang” of suspected big money launders and drug dealer and bankers!

In Agadir, the southern tourist magnet, and the hometown of this author, the PJD overthrew the socialist Union which ruled the city for 34 years

This is a major development in Morocco’s democratic experiment. Now the question is: what does it mean that the Islamist party has won?

This will be the subject of my following blog post later today.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Egypt Brotherhood’s presidential victory claim seen as preemptive maneuver

By Mustapha Ajbaili

Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi’s surprise dawn media appearance in which he claimed victory in Egypt’s first free election was seen as a “preemptive maneuver” to thwart possible vote rigging by the election commission backed by the ruling generals.

The vast and well-organized network of the Muslim Brotherhood began releasing instant results of the vote count shortly after the polling stations closed at 10 p.m. on Sunday. The results showed Mursi advancing in most of the provinces.
His rival and former air force commander Ahmad Shafiq was shown to be leading in few but sizable areas, including the Sharqia province, which is home to both candidates.

About six hours into the vote count, Mursi’s campaign, which had delegates in all the 13,000 plus polling centers across Egypt, compiled results and announced its victory in a press conference at dawn.

After a campaign spokesman said Mursi had secured 52.5 percent of the votes, against 47.5 of Shafiq, the Brotherhood candidate surprisingly appeared to make the announcement himself.

Surrounded by senior Brotherhood members, including the president of the dissolved People’s Assembly, Mursi promised to be the president of all Egyptians and offered a message of “peace.”

“Hand-in-hand with all Egyptians for a better future, freedom, democracy, development and peace,” Mursi said, without clearly stating that he had won the election, apparently leaving it for the electoral commission to formally announce.

“We are not seeking vengeance or to settle accounts,” he said, adding that he would build a “modern, democratic state” for all Egyptian citizens, Muslims and Christians.

Veteran Egyptian journalist Ahmed Abdallah, said Mursi’s “prompt declaration of victory was a smart move against any possible attempt to rig the results in favor of Shafiq.

“Because everything is possible in Egyptian politics, the Brotherhood moved quickly to claim victory and present results from their widely effective network of delegates across the nation,” he said.

“If they had waited until the morning, the results could have been different,” Abdallah said.

In the same vein, deputy editor-in-chief of, Farrag Ismail, said the Brotherhood’s quick move to declare victory was “a precautionary measure for fear of fraud.”

In the first round of the elections, Brotherhood held a press conference every hour to announce the latest results “with the January 25 television channel covering the press conferences as a testimony,” he said.

“The Brotherhood’s announcement early this morning was seen by some as a precipitous declaration, but they did it because they did not trust the high electoral commission which oversees the elections and they did not trust the military council, believed to favor Shafiq.”

Supporters of Mursi flocked to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square on Monday morning to celebrate their candidate’s self-proclaimed victory.

Any different result in favor of Shafiq, if announced by the election commission this week, would likely anger Mursi’s supporters already celebrating in the streets and would plunge the country deeper in turmoil.

Spokesman for Shafiq’s campaign, Ahmed Sarhan, told the media this morning that the Brotherhood’s declaration was designed to establish a de facto situation to discredit any possible different results that could be announced later by the independent election commission.

(Published on Monday June 18, 2012)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Egyptians are as polarized today as they were under Mubarak

By Mustapha Ajbaili

Torn between the choice of a former air force commander who promised to restore stability with an iron fist and an Islamist who pledged to implement “God’s law” if elected president, many secularists in Egypt turn to Tahrir Square to seek refuge from an excruciating reality.

Following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year, liberal democrats shifted the focus of their ire to the generals who took over power. However, the refusal by the Muslim Brotherhood to join the protests for an immediate end to military rule essentially aborted the “second revolution.”

Observers in both the West and the Arab world should have understood then that the Islamist movement is the key to any major change in the country. Mainstream Arab and Western media portrayed the conflict in post-revolutionary Egypt as one between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the liberal revolutionaries.

Reality indicates that this is a major conflict but not a defining one.

Recent results from the presidential elections coupled with the verdict in former president Hosni Mubarak’s trial reveal that a decades-old fight between the Brotherhood and the former regime is far from over and that it continues to dominate and shape the country’s political scene.

Egyptians are as polarized today as they were during Mubarak’s decades-old rule. The old regime, with its links to the military, has served the interests of many people who continue to support it. The Brotherhood relies on a wide base of staunch supporters and members linked in a web of complicated shared interests as well.

The liberals who dream of a Western-style democracy find themselves on the periphery with the painful reality of having to choose between Mohammed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq or boycott the elections.

George Friedman, of Stratfor Global Intelligence, recently wrote that Westerners misunderstood the popular movement demanding an end to the military rule as one that was “driven by the spirit of Western liberalism.”

“The result is that we have a showdown not between the liberal democratic mass and a crumbling military regime but between a representative of the still-powerful regime (Shafiq) and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

(Published on on June 11, 2012)