DISCUSSES ELECTION RESULTS, PJD PLATFORM, WHAT ‘ISLAMIST’ MEANS IN MOROCCO, AND SECURITY RISKS IN THE REGION

FOX News LIVE (Washington, DC, Dec. 1, 2011) – Ambassador Edward Gabriel was interviewed on Fox News LIVE TV by anchor Gregg Jarrett about Morocco’s November 25 Parliamentary election and what it means for the US  and the region. “This is a historic moment for Morocco,” said Gabriel, noting that the election has been “certified as free and fair, and comes on the heels of a new Constitution that was passed by the people last July.” Gabriel said 34 parties contested the Parliamentary vote, which he called “quite robust.” He said, “The PJD won the most seats—107 out of 395—and now will have to find a coalition, likely with other moderate parties, to form a new government.”  He said, “It looks like a good beginning for this new government under the new Constitution.”

Asked about PJD as an Islamist party, Gabriel emphasized that, “Morocco is not Tunisia, and it’s not Egypt. In Morocco, the Commander of the Faithful, the person in charge of all religious affairs, is the King, which is unusual for the region.”  He said, “The PJD did not run on a religious platform.  They ran on a platform of increasing jobs, social and political reforms, and anti-corruption. They acknowledge the legitimacy the Constitution gives the King in having the final say on all religious matters.”  Gabriel said that the King has confirmed the PJD leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, as new Prime Minister. “Immediately, he said his job was not to provide commentary inside the mosque—his job was to find jobs for his people.  If you’re trying to assess the PJD, they are more like the Christian Democrats in Europe.”

Asked about the elections and security in the region, Gabriel said, “There’s no doubt that security problems in the region are on the rise; there are kidnappings and killings still going on, so we can’t take this lightly. Qaddafi arms from Libya are finding their way to al-Qaeda—we have proof of that now.”  Gabriel noted the recent kidnapping of three European aid workers, reportedly assisted by members of the Polisario, from refugee camps in southern Algeria. “General Ham, the US head of AFRICOM, has said we’re in a fairly dangerous situation now, so we’ve got to take this situation seriously.” Gabriel said, “This is coming at a time when there is more openness” in the region, which he noted is moving from a security orientation to greater focus on openness and reform. “That can be our most dangerous time. We’ve got to worry about this transition period, making sure we balance security needs with the needs of the people for more openness.”

Gabriel observed, “There’s a challenge in the region now between whether people are going to be changed through the vote, or people are going to be changed through extremism and violence.”  He said, “Morocco has another smooth process going on, thanks to decades of work by this King and his father towards reform. They didn’t just jump into this with the Arab Spring, and I think that’s helped them a great deal.”  [See video of interview…]

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