The Myth of Moroccan Democracy

Recent parliamentary elections have cast doubt on whether Morocco is the model of Middle East reform the United States is hoping for.

Shadi Hamid and Jeb Koogler in The American Prospect:

MoroccoEarlier this month, Morocco — one of America’s closest Arab allies — held national elections. Touted as a bold step toward democracy, the vote was closely watched in the West. But the elections, rather than proving a success, have raised difficult questions about the future of Moroccan democracy and highlighted the flaws in America’s approach to democracy promotion.

In the lead-up to the polls, analysts painted the contest as a test of political Islam’s strength. Islamists had risen to power in Iraq, Palestine, and Turkey; many wondered whether Morocco would be next.

The main Islamist organization in the country — the Justice and Development Party (PJD) — was widely expected to win the largest number of seats, following the lead of religious-based groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the similarly-named Justice and Development Party in Turkey. But instead of securing a projected 70 – 80 seats, the PJD won only 47, coming in second to the secular Istiqlal Party. This is the first time an Islamist party has disappointed after an unprecedented series of electoral gains for Islamists throughout the Middle East.

But the story here is not about the impending failure of political Islam.

More here.