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Hakim Ankar

Moroccan government doubles down in face of online criticism

Recent floods in Morocco have killed 36 [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 2 December, 2014

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Deadly floods, anti-militarist protests and demonstrations against a human rights summit have led to a further crackdown by Morocco's security forces.
Deadly flash floods in Morocco that killed dozens and cut off towns have brought criticism of the government's capacity to handle natural disasters to the fore, and have raised concerns about the long-term mismanagement of infrastructure.

"Do not risk your lives in the bad weather. Do not become victims," Prime Minister Abdelilah Benikrane told Moroccans.

Social media sites have been the focus for criticism of the government's "discriminatory" reaction. Images of helicopters rescuing foreigners stranded in southern cities were widely contrasted with trucks collecting the dead bodies of Moroccans.

     Social media sites have been used to criticise the government's reaction to the floods.

The government has taken a tough stance against recent protests.

It maintained a heavy police presence when the national union for students organised demonstrations outside parliament last week, against a law calling for universities to be "militarised", and to prevent trade union activity on campus.

The law was supported by both the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the opposition. Politicians claim it will tackle factional violence in which several people have already died. S
ecurity forces dealt with the situation by forcibly dispersing students. A number of students were arrested, but were later released.

The government showed its strength last week when security forces surrounded the headquarters of a left-wing party in Marrakech. Demonstrators had organised protests against the World Forum on Human Rights, which began in Marrakech on Thursday 27 November. They were angry that the forum was being held in a country they believe has seen a huge step back in human rights.

The opposition has done little to challenge and improve the government actions, and its disunity has allowed Benkirane's PJD party to win elections easily.

Benikrane also remains strong because his party has attacked anyone trying to damage its image. However, its biggest fear is internal corruption rather than external attacks. Benkirane has reportedly frozen party memberships and expelled party members, without allowing those accused to defend themselves or prove their innocence.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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