Morocco: Islamists Take Power On Religious-Political Wave Sweeping North Africa

Analysis: Reforms earlier this year by the King meant to preempt popular uprisings have led to a surge to power of Morocco's leading Islamist party in this weekend's election. But as with its neighbors in the region, all wonder what the

Casablanca (M.Angel Herrero)
Casablanca (M.Angel Herrero)

There was no "Arab spring" in Morocco.

In this elegant western tip of the Islamic Arabic world, things were done differently. The country's reigning dynasty -- in power since the 17th century -- preempted public pressure. Last June, King Mohammed VI introduced a reform to the constitution that was adopted by referendum. It moves the country in the direction of democracy, gives more power to the parliament, and establishes the authority of the future prime minister with regard to the palace, even if the sovereign remains the supreme decision-maker on all things political.

And yet again, in Morocco -- as in Egypt and Libya and Tunisia -- the Islamists have gained ground. Political Islam is the big winner of the legislative elections that were held in Morocco this past weekend. And for the first time in the country's modern history, its number one Islamist, Abdelilah Benkirane, is slated to become prime minister. The date of these elections will be remembered, both in North Africa, and in Europe.

One can of course always pick apart the numbers, and point out that of 21 million potential voters in a country of 32 million, only 13 million registered to vote and less than a third of those placed their ballots for Mr. Benkirane's party. But democracy held sway, and it would be misplaced to question the victory of the Justice and Development Party (JDP), which now holds 107 of the 395 seats in Morocco's parliament.

There as elsewhere, the Islamists are garnering the fruits of many years in the opposition. They have the great merit of having built up a social aid network when the corrupt state apparatus was failing the country's poorest people. When election day came, JDP took all the big cities, where the poor are crowded into ghettoes.

Is there a hidden agenda?

And at the same time, they also geared their rhetoric to the times, in a country that is very much open to the outside. The Islamists expressed real determination to fight corruption, focusing on "social" problems; and though they don't espouse a defined economic doctrine, the party came across as rather free-market oriented on economic issues.

Is this progressive face masking a different political agenda? Is their intention to make Moroccan society bend to the rigors of fundamental Islam? On such "societal" questions, and on the crucial issue of the place of women in society, the JDP has never hidden its reactionary stance.

It fought in vain against the left and the palace on the issues of moving the age of marriage for girls from 15 to 18; limiting polygamy; and male guardianship of female family members. Call this what you will – conservatism or fundamentalism – but don't lose sight of it.

Mr. Benkirane should be busy right now creating an alliance with the left to form a government. His will be a historic responsibility: to prove that the Islamists are up to the task of governing a country as diversified and complex as today's Morocco.

Read the original article in French

photo - M.Angel Herrero

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How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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