Morocco’s pro-democracy February 20 movement has announced plans to mark its first anniversary with demonstrations in 80 cities and towns across the Kingdom on Sunday.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the movement called on “all free people of this nation to continue the struggle for the sake of a real change based on the people’s will.”
The movement said it would renew its calls for an “end to tyranny and corruption” and rejection to political reforms introduced by King Mohammed VI last year.
The King had responded in a speech on March 9, 2001 to the first February 20 demonstration with plans for a new constitution. The movement hit back on Mach 20 with bigger protests rejecting the king’s plans and demanding that a constitution should not be unveiled by someone who is already in power and that only a constituent assembly should draft a constitution.
But the king went ahead with his plans and a draft constitution was unveiled and later approved in a popular referendum on July 2, 2011.
The new constitution stripped the king of some of his powers and granted more authorities to the prime minister and the government. But the king kept his ultimate powers untouched.
Activistsquestion whether the limited powers given to the new government will be enough to enact the deep reforms that the people crave - especially as daily frustrations mount.
“Now the people are waiting to see what they can do,” Mouad Belghouat, a 25-year-old rapper with February 20 whose songs excoriating the palace and social inequalities in the country became the soundtrack for the movement, told AP. “They will be disappointed.”
“The problem with February 20 is that it is elitist and doesn't have a rapport with the people,” Belghouat said. “The movement's demands weren't all realized, he said, “so we continue to go into the streets.”
Belghouat, who goes by the named el-Haqed, or the Enraged, was jailed for four months for getting into a fight with a regime supporter in the gritty, low income suburb of Casablanca where he lives. His supporters say the charges were trumped up.
“You can't talk to people about parliamentary monarchy, they think the king is sacred, so you have to talk to them about unemployment and those stealing the wealth of the country,” he said, explaining that he and his friends in the movement now go to neighborhoods and have discussions to raise people's consciousness.
It also helps that his rap songs appeal to the young, unemployed and disenfranchised youth that swell the crumbling slums surrounding Casablanca, Tangiers and other large cities.
The movement's protests always had an artistic side to them, with street theater often accompanying the colorful marches through the streets.
In one Casablanca protest, a man with the mask of a hated adviser of the king dangled a baguette on a fishing rod above the grasping hands of three ragged figures representing the people.
There is no denying that in the initial months of the protests, February 20 achieved more than generations of party politics had accomplished in opening up Morocco.
"It succeeded in breaking a taboo, it brought out into the open calls against corruption and the domination of certain figures on the economy," said Omar Bendoro, a political analyst at Rabat University. Close associates of the king from wealthy families are perceived to dominate the economy.
After years of repression, people are no longer afraid to make their discontent known, whether about lack of water, electricity or civil rights, he added.
“Social problems have always existed, but now the people explode because there is a chance that the powers-that-be will take them seriously,” Bendoro said.