The AK Party government of Morocco
We are in the capital of Morocco, Rabat. Those who came here with their summer clothes and packed with the thought “this is Africa” regret their decision now. It is raining constantly, the wind is blowing and the weather is cold.
We are attending a meeting jointly organized by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) and the Moroccan Center for Studies and Research for Social Sciences (CERSS). The theme of the meeting is “Search for Social Contract in North Africa: Turkey and Morocco.”
We know that Morocco has undergone a change after the “Arab Spring.” Prime Minister Abdelillah Benkirane, who heads the coalition government, is the leader of Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party). In Turkey, the AK Party has had the reins of power for 12 years; Morocco’s AK Party has been ruling the country through coalition governments since the 2011 elections.
The name similarity is not a coincidence. Morocco’s AK Party is not denying it was affected and inspired by its Turkish counterpart. The AK Party in Morocco also comes from the Islamist tradition. For many years it was excluded from politics because of this identity and it suffered a legitimacy problem.
Morocco is an African country. In terms of economic power and level of development, it is naturally well behind Turkey. However, we can also mention many other differences.
In Morocco’s 2011 Constitution, several political freedoms were introduced. The AK Party became the first party coming from an Islamic tradition to form the government in Morocco.
Moroccan political scientists who spoke at the meeting said the fact that the Moroccan AK Party has become the ruling party that was not easily accepted by the leftists and secular segments in the country and there are still problems in that respect.
Muhammed Bin Hilal defined them as being in “transition to democracy” and said, “2011 was the first time we had the opportunity to write our own constitution. Previous constitutions were written by experts. We had this opportunity for the first time with the Arab Spring. According to this Constitution, the winning party determines the prime minister. It used to be the King.”
Researcher Hamid Boqak explained that leftist parties refused to coalesce with the AK Party. “The opposition front, very similar to Turkey, accused them of being a ‘followers of sharia,’” he said.
The 2007 and 2011 elections, just like in Turkey, brought the rise of the AK Party and the fall of leftist parties. The Islamist movement in Turkey was an inspiration for the Moroccan AK Party, the researcher said, adding that the Moroccans were watching Turkey’s EU accession process closely and that the Moroccan AK Party had good relations with the EU, a feature that makes it different from the other Moroccan political parties.
The Moroccans have come a significant way on women’s issues. Women who wear headscarves live side by side with women who do not. Many women participated in the meeting in Rabat, and there were women who wore headscarves, as well as those who did not.
When it comes to Turkey, it is immediately noticeable that the distance Turkey has covered in women’s liberation is quite advanced.
For example, heritage rights are applied according to religious rules in Morocco as one for women and two for men. With a reform introduced in 2003, women have the right to divorce. With the permission of the judge and the wife, Moroccan men are allowed to marry four women. Even though Moroccan men argue that a judge’s permission is required for the second wife, this abnormal situation somehow continues to exist.
Moroccan women think they have obtained important rights, but there is a serious problem in terms of legal equality.
In a Moroccan Parliament of 395 members, 66 women were elected in the 2001 elections. In the coalition government formed in 2013, six Cabinet ministers are women. The most effective left party of the country, which is at the same time a left coalition named The Unified Socialist Party, is headed by a woman, Nebile Mounib.
Moroccan people are warm-hearted and friendly, and Turkey is a source of inspiration for them.