Published: July 1st 2011July 1st 2011
Today the people of Morocco must go and vote yes or no to the new Constitution the King released back in June. Not sure if the rest of the outside world is aware of this as I'm sure this sort of news would not make headlines in Australia. Perhaps just a small paragraph on page 12 of the newspaper. But this is not a political article this is just a story of what I have observed the past week in Azrou.
There has been plenty of campaigning through the streets of Azrou, but this is all very peaceful and musical. There is always music involved, no matter what the occasion. Perhaps that is an African thing, whether it be a funeral, a wedding, a birth or a political campaign there is always music and singing. But I digress, back to the campaigning, let me explain what I have witnessed. The second day I was here we were sitting in a cafe (not our usual one - can't remember why) that was on the main road. A convoy consisting of jam packed buses, cars, utes, trucks and motorbikes all blowing their horns. Also every vehicle projected the sounds of many voices
and drums which were fighting to stay in turn with the sounds of the horns. Everyone was happy and all the motor vehicles displayed pictures of the King, every free hand that was not clapping in time with the music proudly held and waved a picture of the King or the Moroccan flag. As I had no idea what was going on I smiled at this wonderful display of patriotism. I continued to look on but the smile left my face when all these outstretched arms threw a downpour of paper pamphlets from every open window. Hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper rained down littering the street and footpath. That's when I asked what the hell is going on??
Zak then explained to me that they are campaigning for the new constitution and that the pamphlets - most of which just had the word YES written in Arabic on them - were encouragement for people to vote yes. I'm not up on politics in my own country so I'm not even going to try to understand what is happening here, but all I saw was a country that already has a huge problem with disrespect for litter increasing this problem with political propaganda being thrown out on to the street. I think I missed the point of the campaigning when I asked "are they going to come back and pick up all this rubbish?"
So this convoying and mass littering has been going on all week and although it always seems like a happy and encouraging display, all I see is the hundreds of bits of rubbish being left behind on the street. Yesterday sitting in the cafe I witnessed a walking parade of people carrying banners and again there was music and singing. Lots of happy faces waving the Moroccan flag and pictures of the King. And again lots of pieces of paper being thrown out onto the street, left to blow around and end up who knows where. Certainly not in a rubbish bin. But again perhaps I am missing the whole point.
I searched on the internet to try and find an English version of this new proposed constitution. But unfortunately as yet I have not been able to find one. I found a few news articles written for USA newspapers that claim it is just a a load of s%&t put out by the King to shut the people up a bit and try to calm them down a little as there was a little political uproar in February. Again I have no idea what this was about so have no opinion regarding it. Going by the article the King has promised a few things will change and there will be a constitutional prime minister elected by the people, but ultimately he still has total rule and can over ride this person if he deems fit.
I would hedge a guess that most of the Moroccan people would have no idea what this new constitution is about either. The King did release it in a television broadcast where I'd guess most of the population heard about it. Or later from their friends who had seen the broadcast and relayed the little that they remember from it. Only yesterday, the day before the election did they actually include an insert of it written for people to have a good read. But considering about 40% of the population is illiterate and probably another 50% don't buy a newspaper I'm sure the Kings yes vote will go nicely. The King is loved here, or so everyone says. From what I gather he is better liked than his father who was apparently a tyrant - not that anyone would say that out loud. There is definitely a paranoia regarding secret police that move among the general population listing into conversations and keeping check on what people are saying about their king and country. I have no idea if this paranoia is warranted or not but it's enough to make grown men speak in hushed tones and almost in a whisper when I ask a question they consider might be risky.
One thing I did notice was that all this vehicular and pedestrian campaigning was all for the YES vote. When I asked Zak 'does the other side, the NO side, get to campaign?' With this question he broke out into a huge belly laugh and had to quickly translate in Arabic to the several other men sharing our table and to adjoining tables, who all just looked at me and then they all broke out in belly laughs also. I could not understand what they were saying but their expressions read 'stupid woman'. But this made me sad, and I asked why not? Because the King would not allow it, they would be arrested. Hushed tones and a change of subject were immediately enforced when I asked my next questions. 'So why bother having an election at all? If the people are not allowed or are too afraid to say or vote NO an election to me seems a waste of time. The King should just bring it in, if that is what is going to happen anyway. Do you Moroccans feel better thinking you were given a choice? Surely you are not that stupid to see that you are not really given a choice at all??'
Ok so that was over the line and I was given the shut up you don't understand glare, and they were correct, I did't understand.
Interestingly enough when I ask anyone about the new constitution they always bring up the same two points. The first is that, Tamazight, the language of the Moroccan Berber people is going to become equal with Arabic as the official languages of Morroco. Everyone seems to be very proud of this fact, although I think only a small population can speak it. It's almost like it is helping the nation keeps it's original identity. Not sure if now they will be teaching it in schools 'if' the new constitution is adopted.
And the second point they all quote to me is that there will be EQUALITY FOR WOMEN. Time for me to have the belly laugh! I'm not sure if they bring up this one because I am a western woman as I'm sure this point would be low on all mens agenda, but this one always gives me a good belly laugh. I look around and say 'so will this cafe be filled with women and not just men then?' Still the standard reply - no of course not, women prefer not go to cafes. Ha, we shall see!
At least the women have the right to vote here, so maybe.