22 November 2012

Morocco Legislators Spar Over Finance Bill

Rabat — Internal disagreement among governing coalition members surprises the opposition and the public.

The government majority in Morocco is facing uncommon dissention. Reaction to the draft finance bill from MPs of the Istiqlal party, which is part of the ruling coalition, has sometimes been more hostile than that from opposition legislators.

The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) leader in the House of Representatives, Abdellatif Ouahbi, said that this sort of political behaviour - where members of the coalition sound more like the opposition - is unprecedented.

Communications Minister and government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi on November 8th said that the government was surprised at recent statements by some MPs, who needed to "live up to their responsibilities".

The MPs concerned had said that failings needed to be addressed and that the government would have to step up action if it hoped to achieve its targets.

Noureddine Moudiane, who chairs the Istiqlal group in the House of Representatives, stressed that the current government, unlike its predecessor, has broad powers under the new constitution and should therefore be able to deliver more quickly on its promises. MPs in the government have a duty to criticise and hold the executive to account, he tells Magharebia.

Istiqlal MP Abdellah Bekkali argued that the government needs to be able to criticise itself if it is to move forward, explaining that this is a crucial year when the government's response to the public's expectations is going to be judged.

"MPs in the government have the right freely to express their own points of view these days, unlike in the past," said Popular Movement (MP) head Mohamed Moubdiaa. "The government is disciplined and united, and that it is due to conviction, rather than conformism."

Housing Minister Nabil Benabdellah, the general secretary of the Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS), said the government needs to choose joint action and implement measures to optimise its performance.

On November 13th, the PPS leader said that it had been a "bad idea" for government spokesman El Khalfi to comment on the recent dissention, noting that that there was no need to pass on details of discussions between the ministers.

Political analyst Hamza Ziraoui disagreed, saying that it was normal for dissension to break out from time to time between those making up a coalition government, given that they are not all the same.

"In order to prevent a stand-off developing among government allies, the government needs to consult majority MPs in advance and listen to their points of view before bringing the draft finance bill before Parliament, as was done in the past," he told Magharebia.

The public is divided between those who see the debate between government allies as a good thing and those who are clearly sceptical.

Samira Lakhannouchi, a teacher, falls into the first category. She said that the difference in points of view is healthy, because it enables people to think and creates balance.

"There's no room for a single opinion. Coalition MPs are not there to applaud the government's initiatives, but rather to hold it to account when things go wrong," she told Magharebia. "They're representing the Nation, after all. Thanks to their criticisms, failings can be put right."

Student Yousra Fennich disagreed, saying that differences of opinion should be voiced internally among those in government, so that they can reach a consensus and set out solutions before announcing them to the general public.

"If the government majority is in crisis, then the way it runs the country will suffer. So they need to put a stop to this dissension," she said.

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