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Feb20’s rise and fall : notes

1 “Makhzen” is the Arabic word for warehouse. It was originally used to name the treasure chest where Sultans stored the taxes collected from the people. The meaning evolved through history. It first broadened up to mean, symbolically, the content of the chest—i.e., the Sultan’s assets. Later, it embraced the personnel paid with these assets, then the whole government, administration and army. Since the Alaouite dynasty was installed in the 17th century, “Makhzen” is used in reference to anyone who contributes in relaying the king’s power to the population. In its political usage, however, the word refers to the clique surrounding the king, often operating as a club of shadow decision makers (Encyclopedia of Islam). In its political usage, however, the word refers to the clique surrounding the king, often operating as a club of shadow decision makers. Back to article

2 In fact, they are the only parties using the term “Makhzen” in their lexicon—for all the other ones, it’s a political unsaid. Back to article

3 French acronym for “Unified Socialist Party”. The two other members of DAL coalition are the Democratic and Socialist Vanguard Party (PADS) and the Ittihadi (unionist) National Congress (CNI). Back to article

4 Arabic for “The Democratic Path”—the party is commonly known as Annahj (the path) Back to article

5 French acronym for “Moroccan association for human rights”. The biggest and most effective human rights organization in Morocco, AMDH has 10.000 listed members and more than 90 regional branches. Even though it is formally an independent NGO, many of AMDH leaders are also members of AnnahjBack to article

6 French acronym for “Association for taxing financial transactions and helping citizens.” ATTAC was created in France in 1998 to “oppose neo-liberal globalization and develop social, ecological, and democratic alternatives”. Its local branch ATTAC Morocco recently gained large popularity upon denunciation of multinational companies holding urban concessions of water and electricity’s distribution, notably in Casablanca, Tetuan and Tangiers. Back to article

7 Arabic for “Justice and Charity”—the group is commonly known as Al Adl (justice) Back to article

8 The authorities never formally authorized it, but generally tolerate its activities. Back to article

9 Some evoke the “philosophical prospect” of “reinstalling the Islamic caliphate”, others mention a hypothetic “Islamic republic”… but no one gets into the particulars of such options, and the organization’s literature is not clearer on that matter. Back to article

10 « Al Adl vs. the Monarchy : a secret war », TelQuel magazine, July 15, 2006 Back to article

11 French acronym for “Mouvement alternatif pour les libertés individuelles” Back to article

12 By provision of Morocco’s penal code, it is also forbidden to break the Ramadan fast publicly, under penalty of 6 months in jail. Back to article

13 25 interviews were conducted by the author in Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech and Tangiers, in April-May, then in December 2011 Back to article

14 Rabat’s public school of journalism is probably Morocco’s most fertile breeding-ground for web-activists. Back to article

15 Four members of this family were then serving as cabinet members (including prime minister Abbas El Fassi), and at least four other family members occupied top government positions. When the premier’s son Majid El Fassi, 23, was appointed a high-ranking executive in public television (his position came with a car and chauffeur) an outcry ensued, online and offline. Back to article

16 At that time, they were three: a student from Meknes and 2 unemployed young men, one from Fes and the other one from Salé. Back to article

17 Respectively: Changing the Constitution; dismissing the cabinet; dissolving the parliament; installing an independent judiciary; setting corruption trials; making Tamazight (Berber) an official language alongside Arabic; and freeing all political prisoners Back to article

18 Oussama El Khlifi, a 23 years old unemployed computer science graduate from Salé (the twin town of Rabat, on the other side of the Bou-Regreg river), is the son of a police officer and a former member of the socialist party’s youth section Back to article

19 O. El Khlifi, interview with the author, April 2011 Back to article

20 The first date they picked was Feb 27th. After realizing that this was also the anniversary date of the Polisario Front (an armed group at war against Morocco because of its independence claim for Western Sahara), they moved it to Feb 20th in order to avoid confusion. Back to article

21 It is worth mentioning that at least 5 of the 13 video actors were either members of AMDH and DAL parties’ youth sections, or children of senior members from the same groups. That indeed helped the junction. Back to article

22 PSU’s Mostafa Meftah, interview with the author, Casablanca, April 2011. Back to article

23 A dense and partially-structured network of NGOs throughout Morocco, the movement claims recognition and implementation of Amazigh (Berber) language and culture in the Constitution, as much as in public administration and public education curricula. Back to article

24 A website run by independent activists mostly located outside Morocco, www.mamfakinch.com quickly became the movement’s Internet mouthpiece. In Moroccan language, Mamfakinch stands for “We won’t give up”. Back to article

25 http://24.mamfakinch.com/feb20-122730-manifestants-dans-53-provinces-d Back to article

26 Interview with the author, Rabat, April 2011 Back to article

27 Constitutional Law professor Abdeltif Menouni once explained the notion of “royal prerogative” as “the monarch’s discretionary privilege to act for the good of the country in the absence of constitutional provisions or by his personal interpretation of any” (A. Menouni in Revue juridique, politique et économique du Maroc, Mohammed V University, Rabat, January 1984, p. 42). Back to article

28 Interviews in Casablanca and Rabat, April-May 2011 Back to article

29 Id. Back to article

30 The lists of cities were provided by Al Adl Wal Ihsan, and the government never contested any of it—that would not have made sense, since every local march was documented by at least one YouTube video, largely shared through social networks. Back to article

31 Visual proofs of the connection between pro-regime demonstrators and the authorities largely circulated online. In a couple of videos, counter-demonstrators admitted they were being paid to chant “long live the king” Back to article

32 See Ahmed Benchemsi, Morocco: Outfoxing the Opposition, Journal Of Democracy, January 2012, p. 57 (also on this blogBack to article

33 Al Ad Wal Ihsan is a non-violent organization, except on campuses, where its members form militias to maintain “Islamic order”. As for the Basists, one of their ideological features—aggressive atheism aside—is to consider violence a “class behavior” (suluk tabaqi). Therefore, they condone it—and sometimes, practice it. Back to article

34 The official participation rate for the November 25th election is 45%. Yet there is a polemic on this figure’s legitimacy. The participation rate in Morocco is derived from the number of registered voters (13 million in 2011) rather than the number of citizens above the voting age (21 millions). Had it been derived from the latter number, critics say, the participation rate would have been 24%—which is below the 2007 official participation rate of 37%. This argument intends to demonstrate that the Feb 20 call for a boycott was successful, since the participation rate hasdreceded. Yet, it is fallacious because the 2007 rate too was derived from the registered voting population. Therefore, it makes sense to compare 45% to 37%, but it is irrelevant to compare 24% to 37%. In other words: despite the Feb20 argument, their boycott call was numerically unsuccessful. Back to article

35 In a poll published by Actuel magazine on December 8th, 2011, Benkirane was credited with 82% of “positive” or “very positive” opinion. Back to article

36 Interview published in Maroc Hebdo magazine, December 23, 2011. Back to article

37 Particularly the weekly magazines TelQuel (in French) and Nishan (in Arabic). Back to article

38 Interviews with the author of Feb20 activists in Rabat and Casablanca, December 2011. Back to article

39 Haut Commissariat au Plan du Royaume du Maroc, http://www.hcp.ma/Taux-de-chomage-national-selon-le-diplome_a267.html Back to article