30 December 2012

Morocco: USFP to Challenge Morocco Conservatives

Rabat — The new first secretary of Morocco's Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) wants to take on the conservative movement by creating a left-wing alliance.

Since his election as head of the USFP on December 16th, Driss Lachguer has repeatedly told the media of his party's intention to form an alliance to counter the rise of "conservative and backward trend".

Lachguer told Magharebia that he intends to unite left-leaning political parties and democratic groupings to work towards a more balanced society and criticised the work of the Justice and Development Party (PJD).

"At the moment, there is an ideological imbalance," Lachguer said. "Conservative forces hold great sway in society. All social stakeholders who believe in the values of modernism are affected."

The USFP "will tackle the issue of cultural and ideological conflict", he added. "Starting a political confrontation will allow other social stakeholders to get involved in it."

Lachguer served as deputy for Rabat in 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2011. King Mohammed VI appointed him minister for parliamentary relations in 2010 under Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi government.

"With conservative movements currently gaining traction across the region, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt, an ideological conflict will not favour the USFP as it makes up only a small segment of the Moroccan government," political analyst Mohamed Darif explained.

"Then there is the cultural stance which has been adopted by the government. This stance dovetails with the ideas of the conservative movement, which is powerful at the moment", he added.

Darif pointed specifically to the inclusion of religious discourse in deputy speeches during plenary sessions and to the presence of veiled female lawmakers from parties other than the PJD.

He added that challenging the conservative movement will be made difficult by the confusion within society over criticism directed at Islamists and criticism of Islam.

"The way to tackle backward trends is to make social problems the focus of debate and to see whether the current government spearheaded by the PJD can come up with solutions which reflect the spirit of the times or whether it simply drags society backwards in several areas," noted sociologist Samira Kassimi.

In her view, the problem lies not in Moroccan conservatism, which is known for its open-mindedness and tolerance, but in the backward steps taken in such fields as individual liberties and the situation of women.

"Despite all of the criticisms levelled at it," she added, "the PJD has managed to remain popular. This is demonstrated by its victory in the partial legislative elections. Of the six seats up for grabs, the PJD won four."

Some citizens feel that Islamists will need to prove themselves under current circumstances. Others underline the need to remain vigilant so that society is not alienated.

"Although the PJD has come to power by democratic means, it needs to be careful not to stop Morocco from developing and becoming more open," cautioned Jamal Chorfi, a student of political science.

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