'Morocco's AK Party' won't copy Turkey's

The frontrunner in Morocco's general election today, the Party of Justice and Development (PJD), says the success of its Turkish namesake deserves study, but stresses that the experience of any party or political model in a certain country cannot be clone

'Morocco's AK Party' won't copy Turkey's

The frontrunner in Morocco's general election today, the Party of Justice and Development (PJD), says the success of its Turkish namesake deserves study, but stresses that the experience of any party or political model in a certain country cannot be cloned in a different context.


Saad Eddine Othmani (L), secretary-general of Morocco's Party of Justice and Development (PJD), says the success of its Turkish namesake deserves to be examined closely, however he stresses that the experience of any party or political model in a certain country cannot be duplicated in a different context.
"It is impossible to clone the experience of any particular model, for every country has its exclusivity, circumstances, historical context and its political regime that characterize and distinguish it more or less from other regimes in other countries," said Saad Eddine Othmani, secretary-general of the PJD, in an e-mail interview with Today's Zaman. "However, it is mandatory to benefit from those experiences."

The PJD is likely to become the largest single party after the vote, something that could pose a new challenge for King Mohammed VI. But there are few expecting the king to choose someone from the PJD to form the government. Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was swept to power for a second time in elections on July 22. The Turkish Parliament, wherein the AK Party holds a majority, elected former Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül last week as Turkey's new president. Othmani said the AK Party's success was a sign that political regimes or parties that attempt to rule a country without participation of the people would reach "immediate failure."

Commenting on the similarity in the names of the two parties, the PJD leader said his party chose that name in 1998, two years before the Turkish AK Party was established. The symbols are also similar; the PJD uses an oil lamp, while the AK Party's is a light bulb. "Opting for this name, we estimated that social justice and economic development are the great challenges that face our country in this stage," he said.

Othmani said he predicted that his party will get about 70 seats in the 325-seat House of Representatives. The Moroccan system does not allow any of the 33 competing parties to gain a ruling majority. He explained in an e-mail interview with Today's Zaman that the support for his party stemmed from a general rule that is not associated with a certain political movement or a country: "The powerless are eager for reformation and change in their situations for the best. Therefore, they can support any party that can adopt their case."

In the 2002 election,- the PJD won 42 seats, but was kept out of the governing coalition led by Driss Jettou, a non-political figure specially chosen by the king to head a five-party coalition.

What is your party's most important priority in Moroccan politics? What are your most important priorities in terms of politics, the rule of law, human rights and the economy?

The [Moroccan] Party of Justice and Development (PJD) gives the utmost importance to the idea of justice and our main objective is to achieve its independence, guarantee its impartiality and increase its effectiveness. The program of our party has suggested several procedures for attaining these goals.

As for human rights, the PJD aims to strengthen human rights and public freedoms, and to simplify the procedures related to establishing associations, public gatherings and unions as well as freedom of the press and media.

Concerning economics, our program seeks to make the Moroccan economy modern, well-structured, respectful toward a competitive system, capable of providing stable work opportunities and transparent. We also plan to create a new framework and policies for public finance so as to guarantee the just, cooperative, transparent and thrifty management of resources and expenses so as to serve the goals of a perpetual economic growth that produces both wealth and employment opportunities.

What are the major factors in your party's success? What percentage of the votes does your party expect to win in September's election?

Our success has many reasons, such as the clarity of the PJD's political stance, its vitality in the field and its appealing democratic characteristics, juxtaposed with the incompetence of the elites and traditional political parties as well as their failures in the management of public affairs. Worse than that is the fact that some of them have been implicated in corruption scandals published in our national newspapers. Finally, another factor contributing to our success is the PJD's continuous communication with citizens.

Regarding expectations, many specialists and observers anticipate progress of the PJD in the next elections. And we also think the same based on the results of the 2002 elections. We believe that we will have almost 70 chairs due to the balkanized balloting mode of the parliamentary map.

Islamist parties are generally categorized as being the voice of the powerless or the poor. How do you see that tendency and where does your party get most of its support, from the center or the periphery?

The PJD in Morocco gains its popularity from all parts of society and this can be seen in voter turnout within all societal sections, especially in urban areas.

This is a general rule that is not associated with a certain political current or a country, for the powerless are eager to reform and change their situations for the better. Therefore they will support any party that adopts their case.

How do you explain the fact that Islamist parties are rapidly getting stronger in the Muslim world, taking into account Hamas in Palestine, the AK Party in Turkey, Ihvan in Egypt and your party?

I have already talked about the phenomenon of the Islamic ascension in an article entitled, "Islamists, the reasons of the advanced popular presence" in Aljazeera, in which I tackled the factors that explain this success. In a nutshell, there are four factors: Firstly, identity engagement, which explains the escalation of the Islamic and the whole religious awakening in general; secondly resistance to colonial domination -- the strong militarization of the Islamic current against this domination has increased its support and credibility in the public opinion; thirdly social effectiveness, which distinguishes the members of the Islamic current due to their faithful and moral education; and lastly the failure of ex-political experiences, which have also driven citizens to Islamic currents looking for outlets to political and economic exclusion.

How do you see the interesting coincidence that today there are two parties of the same name in two Muslim countries? Why did you choose that name? Who inspired it?

We chose the name Justice and Development Party in 1998, two years before the Turkish [Justice and Development Party] AK Party was established. We opted for this name after determining that social justice and economic development are the greatest challenges facing our country in this stage.

Do you have any personal contacts with Turkish political leaders, especially with Islamist leaders? How do you see the change [in the position] of the AK Party leadership from classical Islamist discourse and Erbakan's line?

The Moroccan PJD has good relations with the Felicity Party (SP) and its leaders Necmettin Erbakan and Recai Kutan, and we are also on good terms with the Turkish Justice and Development Party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We have exchanged visits and experiences for mutual cooperation on the behalf of our two countries.

The dissimilarity between Erbakan and Erdoğan's projects are diverse and complementary, but the Turkish AK Party has chosen a pragmatic method to deal with the Turkish situation.

In which respects is the AK Party experience important for you and for the Muslim world?

To have an Islamic background, be able to make a leap in its way of work and realize urgent developmental needs for Turkey economically and socially, and to secure popular voter turnout after a short time in government makes the Turkish AK Party worthy of study. There is no doubt that any successful experience, not only in the Arab-Islamic world, but in the entire world, needs a special analysis.

What is your opinion on the popular debate that Turkey can be a model for the Muslim world?

It is impossible to clone the experience of any particular model, for every country has its uniqueness, specific circumstances, historical context and political regime that characterizes and distinguishes it more or less from other regimes in other countries. However it is mandatory to benefit from those experiences.

The AK Party does not accept being defined as Islamist, preferring to be called conservative democrats. Do you have similar concerns?

What is important is the content, not names and slogans. The term "Islamic party" is misunderstood and sometimes misconceived contradictorily. That is why many people tend to discard it.

How do you evaluate the recent victory of the AK Party in Turkey's last elections?

It is indeed a merited success, showing that regimes and political parties that attempt to construct or conduct a country's affairs without the participation of its people will see immediate failure. The human being is not only a target for development, but a target and a partner at the same time.

If people were provided with the right framework of democracy, impartiality, transparency, credibility and sound political practice, they participate and contribute; the best example is the higher participation rate, over 80 percent in the Turkish elections.

Why do you think the Muslim world has poor standards in terms of democracy? Who or what is to blame for that?

Democratic weakness marks not only the Islamic world but numerous Muslim and non-Muslim countries of the south. Just recently in Europe many countries adopted communist thought, which considers democracy a "dirty bourgeois game."

But the democratic weakness in the Islamic world can be explained by the nature of the political authority that maintained and deepened degeneracy. There are also institutional reasons that have prevented a democratic culture in Islamic societies. At the same time, we should not deny the increasing awareness in the Islamic world -- in all its civil and political institutions -- of the importance of democratic practice in building nations.

How do you evaluate recent Western, and in particular American, interest in democratization of the Middle East? What is your opinion of the Greater Middle East Initiative?

The project of the "New Middle East" is an American project that seeks to reshape the area in a way that would give "Israel" political, economic and maybe even cultural domination in the whole area. This is a project that serves the interests of the ruling class in the American administration. It is a project that wants to confiscate the independence of political decisions in Middle Eastern countries, consequently dominating its fortunes and enabling the Zionist project. It is then natural that the project utilizes beautiful words like promulgation of democracy, freedom, security and peace, which practically all mean the opposite.

Some argue that without secularism it is not possible to have democracy; some Islamists see secularism as similar to atheism. How do you evaluate these contradictions?

Many of the terms used in this field need their meanings to be scrutinized so that we can determine an exact attitude toward them. Secularism has many models; the French is not the English for instance. The first holds extremist views toward religion, whereas the latter seems to have no problem with it. And the American model adopted by the Republican Party is grounded on religious legitimacy. So what is the problem in the Islamic world? I believe that associating democracy only with secularism is wrong either because of conceptual or ideological confusion or because of interests and concerns. I emphasize that the existence of a sort of intellectual chaos in Muslim people is one of the reasons that explains the contradiction of these ambivalent attitudes.

Do you think Turkey's EU membership would be a good thing for the Muslim world?

I think it would be useful for Turkey and the EU itself, and the Islamic world, so as to encourage the culture and logic of dialogue between civilizations that have been confined to narrow-minded ideological interests.

What do you think of the Iranian nuclear crisis? Will a nuclear Iran be good for the region?

I'd rather not focus on the positive aspects or drawbacks of nuclear possession, but on the double-standards in fully and unconditionally supporting "Israel" in possessing nuclear warheads to blackmail the countries of the region, whose intentions are severely prejudged.

What was the main motivation of the US for war in Iraq and why did they fail, if they did?

There is no doubt that the US has strategic goals in the region to dominate oil sources, protect "Israel" or other targets that were revealed by several responsible members in the American administration itself.

How can Muslims, and the world in general, stop the increasing level of radicalization?

There is no way to reform societies aside from peaceful reform via democratic and competitive mechanisms in the social and political arena. The culture of dialogue must be encouraged. The values of mutual understanding and respect of difference need to be engrained. Diversity is a human need and an added value to progress and significance to our mutual indispensability. Reform can be attained only by having all individuals, groups and official and popular parts work together. Everyone must do his or her duty and play his or her role from his or her position.

What is your general opinion on the use of violence, like bombings, suicide attacks in the name of Islam by radical groups like al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups? Do you think use of violence, especially suicide attacks, is justified in Palestine?

Resistance in Palestine or other countries that suffer from colonization is legitimate. Palestinians fight against the colonizer and its expansive policies. Resistance of colonization is legalized by international laws and conventions. It is also a religious, national and human duty. Those attacks that you called "suicidal" in Palestine are not new; they were used by the Japanese kamikazes in World War II and were used by the Vietcong against American forces in Vietnam during the 1960s. But the use of the same attacks by individuals, European groups or Muslim groups in the name of Islam, in Islamic or non-Islamic countries like Ireland, Spain or other countries, is rejected religiously and legally. Therefore, these kinds of attacks -- and their causes -- must be circumvented.

Today's Zaman

Last Mod: 07 Eylül 2007, 11:50
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