Morocco's role in the Magreb

Morocco and Algeria compete over control of the Western Sahara. (Photo: Shutterstock).

The Moroccan elections represent a geopolitical reshaping of North Africa. Ahmed- Abdul Rahman explains why.

The Moroccan general elections on September 8 were considered particularly important because of the power shift between Morocco and Algeria. Holding the Moroccan elections on time despite the coronavirus pandemic, as well as forming a broad coalition government are evidence of Morocco's ability that it can be the cornerstone of stability and security in a turbulent region.

Morocco's witnessed general elections that combined legislative, regional and local elections for the first time. These elections were the third since the Arab Spring and the constitutional reform of 2011 that redistributed powers between the royal palace and the executive authority.

In August, the world's attention was focused on Afghanistan, after the Taliban takeover of the country and the US troop withdrawal. This represented a fundamental change in US foreign policy.

In Europe too, a fundamental geopolitical reconfiguration is taking place. The most important change in Europe is in Germany which has just held a general election. The government is likely to be led by the left-wing Social Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Maghreb is undergoing major changes. Many analysts consider Morocco to be the African country with the best response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is ranked first in Africa for its level of vaccination - more than 60% of its target population has so far received at least one dose. Morocco has also successfully mobilised significant resources for economic recovery over the past two years, while deploying a giant safety net for the most vulnerable population.

When it comes to industrial growth, the Kingdom of Morocco, has relied on car production since the mid-2000s and has witnessed a jump in its exports. By 2023, it is expected to exceed the symbolic figure of USD10 billion dollars, with production of nearly 700,000 car annually.
In its latest report on Morocco issued in August 2021, the global consulting and accounting firm, Deloitte, said: "In the context of the global crisis of Covid 19, the Kingdom of Morocco has shown a remarkable response both at the health level and at the economic and financial level. The Kingdom has succeeded in reorganising the production system to stop the wave of pollution, while taking major measures to provide an economic barrier to counteract the great social distress resulting from the lockdown measures. The state has also taken advantage of this crisis to carry out basic reforms, such as the generalisation of social protection measures launched in the spring of 2021 and the gradual digitization of public services."

However, on the diplomatic front, 2020 and 2021 saw an escalation in tensions with Algeria. This prompted the latter to unilaterally cut
diplomatic ties with Morocco on August 24.

Why Algeria cut ties with Morocco

There are several factors behind Algeria's decision to cut ties with Morocco. First, in December 2020, there was the US' recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara. The dispute over Western Sahara is one of the world's longest running low-intensity conflicts.

The conflict irritates Morocco, which administers the largely desert region in the south of the kingdom. However, the Polisario Front, which is an independent movement, opposes Moroccan control of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory that Morocco annexed in stages from 1976. Algeria supports the Polisarion Front politically, financially, and militarily. Although only 12 countries have recognized the Polisario, it continues to demand a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara. Morocco has been proposing autonomy since 2007.

 Algeria did not like that diplomatic relations between Morocco's capital, Rabat and Israel's capital, Tel Aviv resumed. This increased tensions between Morocco and Algeria. Recently, Algeria considered the initiative of the Moroccan representative in the UN to support autonomy in the tribal region, as a pretext for war. This led to the severing of relations between the two countries. In addition, the Moroccan elections, in which about 4,500 local and foreign observers were deployed, highlighted a fundamental difference in the direction of the two Maghreb countries.

Morocco dreams of being becoming an African giant in the future. But it still suffers from social polarisation and severe income disparities.
 Despite being an oil and gas power, it has suffered from low oil prices since 2014. Moreover, Algeria remains fragile politically especially in the wake of ongoing demonstrations. In fact, it was a demonstration that led to the downfall of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in early 2019.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023