The British newspaper, The Times, published a report in which it talked about the Moroccan billionaire, Aziz Akhannouch, who said that he is “the king’s man who wants to defeat the Islamists.”
Author Osambard Wilkinson Emswin said Akhannouch believes it is time for him to take over as Morocco’s prime minister and win the September 8 elections.
He believes that the Moroccan Prime Time Zone want change and a new government other than the current one run by Islamists.
Skeptics and those familiar with Moroccan politics respond that no matter who wins the elections, important decisions will remain with the king.
The report stated that supporters of the political billionaire Akhannouch, came out in a poor town near the coastal Agadir to welcome him in his election campaign with songs, drums and ululates.
Moroccan billionaire Aziz Akhannouch
They say it is time for the king’s friend to become prime minister, and that his party will win the general election on Wednesday. He would then generously “sprinkle” them with gifts, build schools and hospitals in their poor area, provide them with jobs, and even give them money to buy the shoes they so desperately need.
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The newspaper quoted Akhannouch as saying that there is a chance for change in Morocco, and that voters will vote against the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) that has ruled since the Arab Spring, ending a decade of rule by Islamists whose supporters say they have failed to deliver on their promises of prosperity.
“We can’t stand it and we have to get them out of power, they didn’t do anything for us,” says Kamel Badi, who owns a small ski clothing shop by the sea and spent 23 years as a ski instructor in Cornwall. We do not need a party with an ideology, but professionals.”
The writer comments that Morocco has achieved relative success on the economic front, but it has remained confined to cities, and this growth must extend beyond them.
Experts say that economic competition is absent because businessmen close to the king dominate the business sector. There is a need to increase production in the agricultural sector, and to create job opportunities for the unskilled workers who represent the largest sector in the country.
Tensions between Morocco and Algeria
The newspaper pointed out that the tension between Morocco and its neighbor Algeria deteriorated to the point of cutting diplomatic relations last month. But the United States’ recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara gave the king a high profile.
The successes of the ruling establishment in combating terrorism at home and abroad have also strengthened the king’s status, as Morocco is now seen as an oasis of stability in the region.
Critics believe that a change in the ruling party will not necessarily change the situation. They point out that, whatever the outcome of the elections, the king will remain the supreme political, security, military, and religious authority, appointing officials in the defense, interior ministry, foreign ministers, and state governors. Some even argue that the defeat of the Islamists is a throwback to the reforms undertaken by the king in the wake of the Arab Spring in which he granted more powers to the elected parliament and the government.
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Here the writer asks: “Is there a desire for change or an increase in frustration with the absence of political reform?”
And the answer from those in power is as clear as the cloud that swept the Atlantic where Akhannouch was campaigning and passed through towns surrounded by barren hills and occasionally seen with argan trees.
The writer believes that many Moroccans know the limits of their voice, but “you have to understand that we vote there not for political ideologies but for rich, powerful men who might give us something,” says a young man. But the big fishermen were astonished by the businessman’s convoy and said “it doesn’t matter” and it wouldn’t make any difference to whom we would vote.
The newspaper said Akhannouch, head of the National Rally of Independents, is a favorite of the king.
He built his reputation as prime minister of agriculture over 15 years, assuring the newspaper that his government would be different from that of the Islamists.
He said: “We lived through ten years of the rule of justice and development, and Prime Time Zone expressed their opinion clearly and that they want change. They are tired of faces and personalities,” he told The Times newspaper.
He added, “We are experiencing difficulties, the epidemic and an increase in unemployment rates, and we must give confidence so that businessmen invest in Morocco.”
The newspaper adds that, since his election as party leader five years ago, Akhannouch has spent time rebuilding the party and expanding its influence in the country.
This was behind the tension between him and the Islamists and other parties that accused him of illegally financing his election campaign.
The Authenticity and Modernity Party, which is the third party nominated to get the votes, said that the National Rally of Independents had “flooded the political scene with money.”
What did Aziz Akhannouch say about the money lavished on voters?
Akhannouch denied the accusations outright. There are those who accuse him of “domesticating” the Justice and Development Party on behalf of the king, and his maneuvers led to the overthrow of Abdelilah Benkirane, the party’s populist leader, and the former prime minister, who posed a threat to the monarchy and its authority.
For Riccaro Fabiani, an expert on Africa at the International Crisis Group in Brussels, the main question is whether the Islamists will “survive” the process of domestication they have been subjected to at the hands of the king, or will voters disappointed with their inability to reform abandon them?
Another important question is related to the volume of electoral participation, which has been steadily declining in previous elections. “It will be an important monitoring marker in order to assess the legitimacy of the current political system and the level of disillusionment of the population,” Fabiani said. He sees the decline in the AKP’s popularity as evidence of the regime’s resistance to change.
Although the country is considered a constitutional monarchy, the king and his entourage actually run it “through a network of patronage circles run by rural notables and their cronies.”
Read also: Financial bribes to attract voters in the Moroccan elections raise widespread criticism
Akhannouch does not hide his loyalty to the king, as he says: “The country’s only opportunity comes if His Majesty had a long-term vision that defines economic and development priorities, and is present to ensure the continuity of these strategies in all countries.” And “I assure you that the king is a great strategist, and what he needs are men and women who have the competence to implement this great vision for the future.”
But Rashid Rachdi, who is unemployed and takes commissions from each renter of beach houses, he will not vote this time. “This is hypocrisy,” referring to the glamor surrounding Akhannouch’s motorcade, and commenting: “It would be better if the money was spent on providing bread and water for Prime Time Zone.”
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