“In Morocco, the prospect of Macron being defeated is not sad” – L’Express

In Morocco the prospect of Macron being defeated is not

Pierre Vermeren is a historian and university professor. He recently published History of contemporary Algeria (New World Editions) and Morocco in 100 questions, a kingdom of paradoxes (Text). For L’Express, he analyzes the reactions in the Maghreb after the French legislative elections, with, behind the apparent opposition to the RN, contrasts between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. For the specialist, it will be important to know who, Morocco or Algeria, will organize the next state visit to France…

L’Express: How were the French legislative elections perceived in the Maghreb?

Pierre Vermeren: The apparent overall reaction is a sigh of relief, in a region where the desire to emigrate remains intact. Over there, in the press, the National Rally is regularly presented as an anti-Muslim and anti-Maghrebi party.

But there are differences depending on the country. The Tunisian press has strongly associated this election with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presenting the result as a defeat of the “French Zionist lobby”. Mathilde Panot’s promise to recognize a State of Palestine “in the next two weeks” has been repeated over and over again. The Algerian and Moroccan press are much more cautious on this subject. In the case of Morocco, this is easily understood, since the country is allied with Israel under the Abraham Accords. But this difference is also explained by the fact that it is in Tunisia where the far-left press is strongest, allies who are talking with Jean-Luc Mélenchon. As for Algeria, it considers that it has saved its positions and is not adding to them. In Morocco and Algeria, both French-speaking and Arabic-speaking media are totally controlled by the state apparatus, which dictate their line. Conversely, even if the Tunisian government has become authoritarian again under Kaïs Saïed, there is still freedom of tone in the press, where the “Arab street” still expresses itself.

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In Morocco, the media are mainly emphasizing that it will be difficult for France to emerge from the chaos that has been announced. Let us recall that relations have been very bad in recent years between Emmanuel Macron and King Mohammed VI. Morocco had made arrangements, both with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – who visited the country in March (where he “sees more secular people than in France”) sic) – than with the RN, some of whose members, such as Thierry Mariani, publicly support the Moroccanness of Western Sahara. In the eyes of the Rabat Palace, the prospect of Macron being defeated is therefore not at all sad, even if the authorities are careful not to make this known publicly.

To what extent has the RN’s desire to end the 1968 agreement, as well as the controversies over dual nationals, damaged its image in Algeria?

Algeria was the most driving country in the call to vote against the RN in France. There were calls from official or unofficial sources, such as the Great Mosque of Paris, to mobilize Franco-Algerians to block the RN. The tone was more controlled in Morocco, because the country sees clearly that we cannot prejudge the future, and that in the long term, the situation could benefit the RN.

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Algeria is the country with the most dual nationals in France, given that Algerian nationality is not lost and is transmitted through emigration. The 1968 agreement (version of the Evian Accords) greatly facilitates the permanent settlement of Algerians who came to French territory. It is also paradoxical, for a government that claims to be nationalist, to defend this legacy of colonial history…

You pointed out that Morocco has more ambiguous positions on the RN. How can this be explained?

The RN, through its history, particularly its historical monarchist component, has always had affinities with the Moroccan regime. There is a common hostility to Algeria, and a tradition of friendship of the founders of the party, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, with the Arab nationalist regimes. But on the other hand, Moroccan public opinion is hostile to the RN, because of Islam, immigration and dual nationality which also plays a role for Moroccans. The feelings of the government and the press are therefore shared. But in Morocco, the dominant idea is that relations have been so bad with France for ten years that they can hardly get worse. The government is mainly seeking to change the rules on the question of Western Sahara, and in relation to its great enemy, Algeria.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon was born in Morocco and spent the first ten years of his life there. In recent years, he has also become the champion of Palestine and the “Global South”…

This has become his electoral stock-in-trade. The march “against Islamophobia” with the Muslim Brotherhood in 2019 established this ideological shift, which targets the Maghreb diaspora in France. This communitarianism is electorally profitable, because it potentially concerns millions of dual nationals. Mélenchon has also long used anti-Zionist rhetoric (“In Gaza, it is not a war but a genocide”), taking up both the old moons of anti-Semitism (“the deicide people”) and the new totalitarian Islamist moon. On the ground, this has come to fruition. We see that in Ile-de-France and in other suburbs, LFI had “Stalinist” results in certain polling stations. But if it has filled up in the metropolises, we also see that the party is stagnating (or even regressing) elsewhere.

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Mélenchon and other Insoumis have visited Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. But in terms of foreign policy, it is not very clear how the far left could have common interests with regimes as different as a conservative and monarchist government, as in Morocco, and nationalist governments, as in Algeria or Tunisia.

In recent months, Emmanuel Macron has attempted a slight rebalancing with Morocco, after having long pursued a memorial policy aimed at Algeria. How will he continue his diplomatic relations with these two rival countries?

If the RN had won the elections, the state visit of Algerian President Tebboune, already postponed several times and announced for this fall, would have been canceled. There, the commission of Franco-Algerian historians will symbolically continue its work. And depending on the result of the presidential election in Algeria in September – we still do not know if Tebboune will participate – a state visit of the Algerian president to France will be organized in Paris…

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As for Morocco, there is an ongoing process of warming up slowly with France, which should continue. Relations between Algeria and Morocco are today totally hostile, and Morocco cannot let the Franco-Algerian tête-à-tête continue. It will therefore be interesting to see which of these two countries will organize a state trip to France the fastest. This will be a good indicator: either of the warming up with Morocco, or of the persistence of good relations with Algeria. But the latter were essentially linked to the good personal understanding between Macron and Tebboune. If one of the two leaders leaves power, it is not known whether this process will continue.

The NPF deputy for the 9th constituency of French people abroad, Karim Ben Cheick, was re-elected hands down…

This Franco-Tunisian diplomat has succeeded in the feat of reconciling the Maghreb. He achieved high scores in Tunisia as well as in Morocco and Algeria, with an almost Soviet result (74% of the vote). Facing him, the Macronist candidate, the Franco-Moroccan Samira Djouadi, took a slap in the face even in her country, where the vote is usually very nationalist… but apparently non-Macronian.