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06RABAT719 2006-04-20 10:51:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
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1. (C) SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION: The Ambassador met April
10 for one hour with Popular Movement Union (UMP) president
and former Minister of Defense Mahjoubi Aherdane and UMP
secretary general and Minister of Agriculture, Rural

Development and Sea Fisheries Mohand Laenser at Aherdane's
residence in Rabat. The Ambassador was accompanied by Poloff
(notetaker). Aherdane and Laenser were joined by First Vice
President of the Lower House and Mayor of Sale Driss Sentissi
and advisor to the Minister of Agriculture and party member
Mohammed Ouzzine (notetaker). This is the fifth and final in
a round of calls the Ambassador is making on political party
leaders to discuss party proposals for a Western Sahara
autonomy plan, the impact of the recently passed political
party law, and party plans for the 2007 legislative
elections. On the Western Sahara, Laenser said Morocco is
not yet at a stage to provide details on autonomy and is only
in a position to discuss the underlying principles of
autonomy. According to Laenser, when the time is right
Morocco will present an autonomy plan that respects the
"national unity" of Morocco, while not resulting in "winners
or losers." Aherdane explained that the reemergence of the
Royal Consultative Council for Sahrawi Affairs (CORCAS) is a
direct result of a "strong demand" from the people, but noted
that CORCAS is a council for putting forward ideas, not a
space for debate. Laenser acknowledged that the UMP is
discussing internally a comprehensive strategy for the 2007
elections, revealing that the plan covers economic
liberalization and political openness. Commenting on the
recent IRI poll, Laenser (echoing comments by Istiqlal Party
leader Abbas el Fassi earlier) argued that the US should be
wary about the results because Morocco is not yet a society
accustomed to polling. The Ambassador used the occasion to
press Agricultural Minister Laenser on beginning wheat quota

GOM's Autonomy Proposal: "No Winners Or Losers"



2. (C) While not providing specifics into the UMP's autonomy
proposal, Laenser confirmed the party had recently presented
its ideas on autonomy to the palace for consideration.
Today, Laenser said, Morocco is not yet at a stage where it
can provide details on autonomy, but is only in a position to
discuss the principles underlying autonomy. Morocco will
present a plan that respects the "national unity" of Morocco
and will not have "winners or losers," he explained. In this
context, he was quick to add that "independence is
impossible." Laenser commented that the autonomy proposal
that Morocco will present will be "the only path Morocco can
go down." According to Laenser, Morocco's plan on autonomy
is unique in the sense that it will be an autonomy that
"fixes a problem," therefore Morocco must think about all
possible contingencies to ensure that "others" do not use
autonomy for their own agenda. Speaking to broader
regionalization issues, Laenser added the UMP believes
decisions made for the Western Sahara must also be extended
to the rest of Morocco.

3. (C) On the Royal Consultative Council for Sahrawi Affairs
(CORCAS), Aherdane noted the idea of CORCAS is not a new
concept and the reemergence of the council is the direct
result of a "strong demand" from the people. When asked if
CORCAS will provide a space for those with different views on
autonomy to discuss their positions, both Aherdane and
Laenser replied that CORCAS is a council for ideas, and not a
space for debate. Aherdane argued that by virtue of CORCAS's
very title, which includes "consultative," the council will
only provide views and opinions when called upon, and will
not be involved in debates on autonomy outside CORCAS.
Ambassador stressed that this point in time presents a real
opportunity for Morocco to help solve the Western Sahara
issue. Aherdane and Laenser agreed. Laenser added that the
mere fact that the King announced the reconstitution of
CORCAS was a positive step towards a final solution.
Moreover, Laenser said he does not believe the addition of
CORCAS to the consultation process will draw out the timeline

for a proposal. In his view, CORCAS will in two or three
months time give its opinions on autonomy. It is also
necessary to consult the citizens of the Western Sahara who
live "on the ground" to have a complete consultative process,
he added.

UMP A Step Ahead Of Political Party Law


4. (C) On the new political party law, both Aherdane and
Laenser endorsed the new law, saying it is positive for
Moroccan political parties. Laenser commented that the UMP,
however, has been one step ahead of the law because the
Popular Movement (MP), National Popular Movement (MNP), and
Democratic Union (UD) merger had been in the works since
early 2001. He explained that the three pro-berber parties
decided in 2001, but made public in 2002, their intention to
join forces and become one. Our merger is a natural
evolution because we are all of the same family, with the
same political views, and the same ideas, he said. Aherdane,
Laenser, and Sentissi lauded the unity displayed on all
issues discussed at the party congress March 24-25 by the
large crowd on hand (approximately 7,000 attendees according
to Aherdane).

Preparing UMP's Strategy For 2007


5. (C) Regarding steps UMP is taking in advance of the 2007
legislative elections, Laenser revealed that the party has
proposed internally to UMP leadership a comprehensive
strategy focusing on the 2007 elections. Without going into
details, Laenser mentioned the strategy discusses economic
liberalization and increased political openness, among other
things. Noting that the logistics behind the MP, MNP, UD
merger are not yet complete, Laenser explained that the UMP
is in the process of phasing out the MNP, MP, and UD national
committees, and will elect members to a new UMP central
committee that will take the place of the national
committees. The UMP has lots of "work" to complete before
the 2007 elections, but "we still have over a year to work
hard," Laenser explained.

6. (C) Laenser suggested that the UMP's priorities are very
similar to those of the old MNP, MP, and UD. Laenser
explained the party's base constituency is rooted in the
rural areas of Morocco. Aherdane, however, jumped in and
pointed out that although the UMP's base of departure is
rural, the party has now entrenched itself and is
well-represented in several major cities such as Rabat,
Casablanca, and Sale, Rabat's sister city. Turning to the
Party for Justice and Development (PJD), Laense noted "the
UMP has PJD friends, not allies." Acording to Laenser, the
PJD will not do well in rural areas in 2007 because in these
areas religion is sacred, and is not mixed with politics.
Laenser argued this is a fact the PJD has yet to understand.
In addition there are large areas in Morocco where citizens
do not vote, and it is in these areas where UMP is going to
focus more of their efforts in 2007.

7. (C) Responding to the Ambassador's question on the role
of Moroccans living abroad, Laenser replied that for a long
time the Moroccan community living abroad has been disengaged
from internal Moroccan politics because they could neither
vote nor run for office. As a result, over the years
socialist-oriented parties in Morocco have used this to their
advantage and have traditionally had a strong following
abroad because of their close links to socialist parties in
Europe. In addition, socialist parties were historically the
only political parties Moroccans living abroad were exposed
to, but Laenser argued this is changing. He claimed UMP is
better placed now, and more and more Moroccans living abroad
are closer to UMP ideas and views than to those of other
political parties. In closing, he mentioned that UMP is
starting a line of contact with this population, in
preparation for 2007.

IRI Poll: Morocco Not Yet A Polling Society


8. (C) On the recent International Republican Institute
(IRI) poll, summaries of which appeared in the March 18 issue

of Moroccan French-language weekly Le Journal (ref B),
Laenser said although this is not the first time a poll has
appeared in Morocco (noting the poll done by a foreign NGO in
the lead up to the 2002 legislative elections) one should be
careful when analyzing results from polls done in Morocco.
According to Laenser, there are two reasons why the US should
be wary about the results. First, he claimed this was a
"mini-poll" and there were not enough respondents to have a
full representation of the Moroccan population's views.
Second, he argued Morocco is not yet a culture that is
comfortable with polls. Polls are still a new phenomenon for
Morocco and many citizens are not familiar with them. He
argued Moroccan responses, in general, are unreliable partly
because Moroccans will never say no when asked a question.
On this note, Laenser explained that he believes the poll
overestimated the PJD's elections possibilities, noting the
UMP has "other indices" by which they can gauge PJD
popularity. For example, the UMP closely tracks the
performance of the PJD where the party is in leadership
positions, such as in Meknes.

Laenser On Wheat Auctions


9. (SBU) Before closing out the meeting the Ambassador
stressed to Laenser the importance to the U.S. that wheat
tariff rate quota (TRQ) auctions be held soonest in
accordance with FTA provisions. In response, Laenser said
his Ministry had already taken the necessary steps to launch
the wheat quota auctions and that in principle Morocco is
where it should be with respect to this issue. However, he
believed that part of the problem may be confusion over the
use of calendar year versus marketing or growing year for
calculating the TRQ. Laenser concluded by saying Morocco is
moving forward on the auctions and he hoped the issue would
be resolved.
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