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A View on the Elections from Tangier by J.AbiNader

Yesterday, Friday November 18th, was national independence day, when power was transferred in 1956 from France to King Mohammed V, grandfather of the current ruler. There were some banners celebrating the anniversary, but no fireworks, marches, or free ice cream anywhere I visited. Young people with whom I spoke on Friday, continued the refrain reported before–they want to make a contribution but feel stymied by the favortism, lack of opportunities, weak educational system, and lack of government accountability. Amid their critiques, I don’t detect a bitterness about the country; it’s clearly focused on the traditional way of doing business, through family and business ties. Whether they are educated overseas or only in Morocco, there is a love of country constrained by what they feel is a lack of reciprocity from the “system.”

It’s a little after 2 in the morning in Tangier. I’m here to attend MEDAYS, think World Economic Forum sort of in Morocco. First went to Rabat via the coastal road from Kenitra…and I finally saw some campaign workers quite enthusiatic about their candidate…an octogenarian with the Green Party. Expected to see loads more activity in Sale, but was disappointed by the scarcity of posters/banners. This is a stronghold of the moderate-speaking Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD) and I was hoping for a bit more zing…nothing doing.

In Tangier, a city that everyone interviewed to date has conceded to the PJD, there is always a temptation to quote Paul Bowles or mention something cool from when it was an international city until it was returned to Morocco…all the stuff of great romance and intrigue for history and society buffs, but I’m drawing a blank. It seems that Tangier today, slowly undergoing a transition back to a first class tourist destination, it caught between a population that wants a dynamic future, and a staid political leadership that some claim are drug smugglers and people who have enriched themselves through illegal businesses. B movie stuff for sure…

Everyone has a story, even if I had to eke through my decades-old Spanish recall to decode it. People from the region with whom I spoke were quite adamant about the need to clean up the region, and that perhaps the PJD should be given the reins of government to see what they could do. Of course, given the arcane list system employed in Morocco, which ensures that there can only be a coalition government, they said that even the PJD will have to deal with traditional politicos if they are to instill a new style of leadership in the Parliament.

On another note, one can see why Morocco is the denim capital of the world, both in terms of production and export and domestic consumption. No matter what’s on top–leather jacket, sweater, oversized shirt, or tank top, jeans are ubiquitous. Both genders, most ages below ‘old,’ regardless of the footwear, jeans are the statement of the year. Sitting outside the “SPACE lounge club” on a main boulevard, observing the parade of patrons, the frustration of young people and the economic divide between the dancers and the servers is banged home. Like most Americans, Moroccans feel that the government needs to ensure the stability and growth of its middle class to survive and succeed…they want to see that challenge at the top of the list for the new Parliament.

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