As far as the Arab Spring goes, Morocco seems to be a model for how not to needlessly shed blood and inflame unrest as we’ve seen in many other Arab countries.
Morocco’s overwhelming approval of a new constitution granting new rights to women and minorities was met with scorn by some democracy advocates and hope by foreign policy experts that the reforms could become a model for Arab monarchies facing uprisings.
Morocco said the reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI were approved by 98% of Moroccans who took part in a vote Friday — the first Arab nation to hold an election since the “Arab Spring” protest movement swept the region.
The amended constitution gives more power to the elected parliament and establishes an independent judiciary but the king will still control matters of foreign policy and religion. It comes at a time when other Arab monarchies, such as Bahrain and Oman, have used violent repression as a response t calls for democratic reforms.
David Ottaway, a member of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, says the North African nation differs from other Arab monarchies in ways that bode well for political reform in Morocco.
In the thousands, pro-democracy protesters this past Sunday pushed for more reform in addition to these constitutional amendments. Some activists charge that the stated numbers of support for the reforms are an exaggeration, and reject their promises:
“We are here to say no to the referendum and the Constitution,” said Oussama Khlifi, a founder of the group, which unites young, Facebook-fluent activists and members of Morocco’s Islamist movement. “We want a parliamentary monarchy with a king that reigns, but does not rule, and we want a real fight against corruption.”
But Morocco still represents a refreshing contrast to the terror we’ve seen other Arab states engage in with enthusiastic U.S. support. It remains to be seen how much positive change will actually occur, but the protests appear to be continuing with vigor. I certainly haven’t come across any reports of the Obama administration encouraging the positive, peaceful changes that have been taking place, but support for the Moroccan government remains pretty high, with aid at just over $40 million for both FY2011 and FY2012. This is less than in previous years, so perhaps the decrease will continue due to the lack of repression that is the baseline prerequisite for eligibility of U.S. financial and military assistance.