Rabat — In a first for the Moroccan parliament, the opposition blocked the passage of the draft Finance Law in the Chamber of Councillors last Thursday (December 19th), stirring up a major controversy.
The move came as a political body blow to Abdelilah Benkirane's government, which failed to convince MPs in the upper house of the wisdom of its decisions.
While the government holds a majority in the Chamber of Representatives, its representatives are in the minority in the Chamber of Councillors. The opposition relied on its numerical superiority to express its dissatisfaction not only with the provisions of the draft finance legislation, but also the government's work as a whole.
The leader of the Istiqlal group in parliament, Mohamed Ansari, said that the finance bill did not reflect a clear economic and social policy. As an example, he pointed out that the number of jobs created by the bill falls short of social needs.
Ansari said that the government has failed to keep many of its promises, especially those relating to dialogue with trade unions.
The opposition also criticised the government for putting together a draft law that is accounts-based and focused squarely on macroeconomic balance.
The government has done everything possible to take the opposition's proposals on board while rejecting some measures that could have damaged the state budget, said Driss Azami, the minister delegate responsible for the budget.
He downplayed the importance of the budget's rejection by the councillors and underlined that the Chamber of Representatives would have the final say.
Jamal Farhane, a political analyst, said that although the Chamber of Representatives will take the final decision, the fact that the councillors voted against the draft law came as a serious political blow to the government.
Firstly, it reflects the scale of the opposition's impatience with the government in this tough economic context, he said. Secondly, the government is being criticised for its delay in implementing the provisions of the constitution and holding local elections to the Chamber of Councillors, which is still operating on the basis of the old constitution.
"If the government had held the local elections in 2012 as planned, this situation would not have come about," Farhane added.
He asserted that the finance minister must rally coalition MPs together to speed things up and vote for the draft budget by December 31st, the deadline set by law, otherwise credits for 2014 would have to be initiated by decree.
"This could slow the economy down and cloud the vision of investors. We know that any delay in the adoption of the budget brings with it negative economic and social consequences," the analyst told Magharebia.
The coalition has sought to give assurances. The leader of the Justice and Development Party's parliamentary group, Abdellah Bouanou, said that MPs would pass the law by the regulatory deadlines.
Many members of the public are worried about the delay in adopting the budget.
"It sends a clear message to the government, which will have to focus on fulfilling its pledges. But at the same time, one hopes that the draft law will be adopted in time to avoid negative repercussions," economics student Hakam Chrif said.