“The Moroccan ‘Exception’”, “Is Morocco an Exception to the Arab Spring?” and “The Arab Exception” are all titles of articles by world known newspapers praising how Morocco differently dealt with the ‘Arab Spring’. New constitution, peaceful and democratic election of (very moderate) Islamist party, (relative) absence of violence during protests, and many other indicators show how different we are from other countries of the MENA region. Unfortunately, outsiders generally tend to see the surface of things without deeply analyzing a country’s situation. This led to overpraise our experience; some went as far as praising us as a “Model”.
Nobody can deny that we represent the exception in some ways: First, people’s demands were different; the 20 February Movement didn’t ask the step-down of the king, but a parliamentary monarchy instead. Also, no shots were fired, a quick response from the king, just 20 days after the start of the protests, and the Islamist opposition, back then, are very, if not extremely moderate. In addition, Morocco is considered a beacon of liberalism in a region filled with extremism. All those differences make us “The Exception”, a wise country that opted for gradual reform rather than a revolution.
However, key numbers and important facts point out that we are absolutely not an exception, and far from being a model. The new constitution almost didn’t change the king’s powers; he can still dismiss the parliament at will, he controls military and religion, in addition, the royal cabinet have influence over many of the major levers of the Moroccan economy, not to mention that this cabinet contain many controversial names who are beyond questioning or accountancy… On the other hand, international reports and rankings show that we still lack freedom of speech, we are ranked 136th among 180 countries, worse than Tunisia and Algeria, education index is less than Syria and Egypt, health system worse than those of Libya, Tunisia, and Syria, and our income index is worse than all Arab countries that knew major changes. How a country that lacks the freedom of speech, a good education and health system, and a decent income for its people can be considered a Model? It can’t, not yet.
Instead of overpraising our country, and live a delusion, we should seize the opportunity of being the “exception”, and learn from other’s errors to reach the reform, Moroccans and their king are willing; Stability allows us to stand as the best touristic destination, which are realistically supported by our already strong recorded achievements in the field. Also, the King’s strategic visits to Africa allow Moroccan investment and expertise to be a strong presence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, projects as Casablanca Finance Center can make of the city one of the biggest financial poles of the region, and thus attract more investors. All of these, among others are indicators that show that we are, indeed, seizing the opportunity, or at least trying to.
But it does not seem enough, and it will not be until we establish solid bases for democracy, and why not, be the first real democracy in the Arab world? Morocco will then be a model, wouldn’t it?
The first secretary of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, Driss Lachgar called for the review of the constitution, this can be a first step…