-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Trade unions Istiqlal intervenes in UGTM crisis By Houda Filali-Ansary 8/11/2005 | 3:27 pm GMT The internal conflict opposing UGTM's rising stars to its old leader ended up forcing the Istiqlal party to step into the fight. Abbas El Fassi's party will manage the trade union until a new Secretary General is named in September. Abderrazak Afilal. Ph: Archives. The conflict within the General Union of Moroccan Workers (UGTM) had been brewing for years, between its old Secretary General, appointed in the 1960s by Allal El Fassi himself and his potential, younger successors. It finally broke out when, on Aug. 5, 70-year-old Abderrazak Afilal decided to expel four out of the 14 members of the trade union's elected executive committee, with the support of his allies, among them his wife and his son. The following day, the four expelled members, which included Afilal's potential successors, Mohamed Larbi Kabbaj and Hamid Chabat, hit back with another communiqué. Basing themselves on the trade union's statutes, they stripped him of his authority, declaring him incapable of managing the trade union. They added that UGTM could not be held responsible for his declarations since he no longer represented them. “[...] Abderrazak Afilal disobeyed all internal union regulations by trying to remove from the UGTM's executive committee members elected in the latest organisation congress in 1998. He attempted to replace them with people that had nothing to do with the supporters and the structure of the union body,” they explained in a communiqué issued following the meeting. They also accused Afilal of managing the trade union's funds “as if they were his own money.” “I challenge him to sue me over my declarations,” said Mohamed Larbi Kabbaj, who became the national UGTM coordinator and spokesperson following the decision. “That would be a nice opportunity [to reveal] abuses he has made in the management of the trade union,” explained Kabbaj to Morocco Times. Going beyond the mutual accusations of severing the links with grass root militants and thus causing the downfall of the trade union, one cannot help but notice that Abderrazak Afilal has already announced he was planning to retire at the next national UGTM congress, scheduled to take place in September this year. So why all this fuss in the first place? The war could have been triggered by what the executive committee - many of whom have been in the trade union for more than 30 years - saw as an attempt to transmit his post to his son, Rachid Afilal after controlling the trade union for more than 40 years. The fact that Afilal was originally named as the head of the trade union by the Istiqlal (IP) party and that he is both a member of its political bureau and one of its representatives at the House of Parliament, along with his wife, Hajja Mahjouba Zoubaïri, could only lead IP to intervene in the conflict. As the situation got worse, several meetings were held between the UGTM trade union and the heads of the Istiqlal party. However, instead of cooling tempers, the Istiqlal move seems to be leading it toward a potential scandal, especially as several clashes had already opposed Afilal to the Istiqlal leader, Allal El Fassi. In an interview with the Moroccan French language daily, Aujourd'hui le Maroc, Afilal accused Abbas El Fassi of “trying to control everything,” including the UGTM. He also accused him of deviating the party from the original policy imposed by his predecessor, Allal El Fassi and even of “getting money from Chabat…” Afilal's reference to Allal El Fassi was anything but a coincidence. The original Istiqlal leader was the one who enabled him to succeed to M'hammed Douiri, at the head of the UGTM trade union, two years after its creation. Created in 1962 by the Istiqlal party, the UGTM was originally established to compete with the Moroccan Workers' Union (UMT), headed by Mahjoub Benseddik, and which is now Morocco's main trade union. UGTM later became one of its main competitors, and now includes 4 seats at the Council of Advisers. However surprising this might seem, Afilal's long stay at the head of the UGTM and his resistance to the younger generation is anything but exceptional. Most Moroccan parties and syndicates kept the same leaders, either until their death, or until their competitors decided to create their own parties. The coming 2007 legislative elections could lead to similar shake ups in Morocco's more than 30 parties, but will they ever lead their internal distribution of power to become democratic? ----------------------------------

Source: http://www.moroccotimes.com/paper/article.asp?idr=2&id=8825