By Michael Mainville
Faced with protests like those that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and have shaken much of the Arab world, Morocco's King Mohammed VI made an unusual offer: concessions. And now that voters have massively backed a new constitution curbing his near absolute powers, analysts say the king will need to follow through on promises of democracy to his increasingly demanding people. "The constitutional reform is an opening granted by the monarchy, a measured and controlled opening," said Khadija Mohsen-Finan, a regional expert at the University of Paris. "It may seem enviable in comparison with the rest of the unmoving Arab world, but it is well below the demands of the streets," she said.
Mohammed VI, who in 1999 took over the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty, has faced demonstrations since February after the pro-democracy movement sweeping the region reached his country, the westernmost in north Africa. Using websites such as Facebook and YouTube, the youth-based February 20 Movement has organised weeks of demonstrations that brought thousands to the streets calling for greater democracy, better economic prospects and an end to corruption.
After a referendum campaign fiercely backed by authorities and in the media, more than 98 percent of voters approved the new constitution on Friday. The February 20 Movement, which had urged a boycott of the vote, immediately denounced the result as a fraud. To be sure, analysts said, the new curbs on royal powers are a long way from making Morocco the kind of democracy protesters are demanding, and the kingdom remains firmly in the control of the monarch and his entourage.
Tozy said early parliamentary elections will probably be held in October and will need to be fair and transparent to help lead to "the emergence of a new political elite". "(The elections) should be participatory and inclusive," Hirst said. "Then, a new prime minister can help to move forward changes... Revolutions such as Egypt rarely result in positive advances for the people. Gradual, progressively liberal reforms are what is required.
The new constitution may have given Moroccan authorities some breathing room, analysts said, but having had a taste of influence, those anxious for change will jump on attempts to slow down democratic reforms. "Profound change will have to come in the behaviour of the Moroccan political elite much more than stipulations in the constitution," Mohsen-Finan said. – AFP
This analysis was published in The Kuwait Times on 04/07/2011