Morocco Turns ‘Arab Spring’ Challenges into Opportunity for Reform
Experts, former US diplomats analyze ‘Moroccan’ response to unprecedented unrest in Arab world
Washington, DC (December 8, 2011) — Today, a panel of foreign policy experts and former US diplomats in Washington, DC discussed Morocco‟s recent elections and the challenges that lie ahead for the ongoing reform process. The roundtable, ”What’s next for Morocco? Assessing opportunities and challenges after the elections,” came less than two weeks after Morocco held its first parliamentary elections following major constitutional reforms approved in a national referendum in July.
During the lively discussion, one of the first observations was that the ‘Arab Spring’ unrest is an opportunity for the US to positively contribute to countries demonstrating genuine democratic progress in responding to the needs and aspirations of their people.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the US,” remarked Shari Bryan, vice-president of the National Democratic Institute, one of 4,000 US, international, and Moroccan observers during the Nov. 25 elections. “We need to continue to back reform efforts. We should put every effort we have forward” to help Morocco and other countries in the region. “There’s a lot that civil society can do as well,” she added.
The panelists’ observation echoes those of US policymakers such as Representative Steve Cohen (TN), who yesterday congratulated Morocco for its “free and fair Parliamentary election” and said, “Morocco has crossed yet another major milestone in its democratic progress. I extend my warm wishes to the King of Morocco for his leadership and the Moroccan people for their achievements so far and hope they continue on the path of reform and progress.”
The panelists included: Dr. Anouar Boukhars, assistant professor of political science and international studies, McDaniel College; Shari Bryan, vice-president, National Democratic Institute; Edward M. Gabriel, former US Ambassador to Morocco; Dr. Audra K. Grant, professor of political science, The George Washington University; and Robert M. Holley, executive director, Moroccan American Center for Policy.
The panel also addressed the significance of the election victory by Morocco‟s moderate Islamist party, the PJD. The panel agreed that, while there are similarities with other Islamist parties in the region, the PJD in Morocco is distinct and unique. “The PJD is moderate, it has always been moderate,” said Dr. Boukhars. “[The question is] how will they be responsive to different constituencies? They understand that the people’s grievances are socio-economic.” Boukhars noted that the focus of the PJD platform was considerably more geared towards addressing corruption, economic development, and justice, rather than a religious agenda.
“Much of the credit for the orderly transition can be attributed to the strong bonds between His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the people of Morocco,” said Ambassador Gabriel, who moderated the roundtable. “It is clear that the King‟s quick response to the February 20th movement, accelerating the reform process that has been going on for some time in Morocco, including a new Constitution, has been vital for the stability of the Kingdom.”
For video, to speak with an expert from today’s panel, or more about democratic reforms in Morocco, visit at www.moroccoonthemove.com and follow us on Twitter – @MorocOnTheMove
The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. For more, please visit www.moroccanamericanpolicy.org
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