Arab Uprisings: What the February 20 Protests Tell Us About Morocco

Laila Lalami in The Nation:

ScreenHunter_05 Feb. 19 09.46 When King Mohammed rose to the throne in July 1999, he had relatively little to do in order to fill a huge reservoir of goodwill. His father, King Hassan, had left the nation with an appalling human rights record, which included extralegal detentions, torture and censorship; a high level of corruption in virtually all state institutions; a literacy rate that hovered below 50 percent, one of the lowest in the Arab world; a territorial conflict with the Polisario Front; and tense relations with Algeria. Upon the death of the monarch who had ruled Morocco for thirty-eight years, most commentators used some form of the expression “end of an era.”

In his first official speech as head of state, King Mohammed outlined his plans for the country: constitutional monarchy, multiparty system, economic liberalism, regionalism and decentralization, building the rule of law, safeguarding human rights and individual and collective liberties, and security and stability for all. He defined his role as one of arbiter—one who does not side with any parties—as well as architect—giving general orientations and advice. He renewed his father’s commitment to alternance, a system that had allowed leftist parties, after nearly thirty years in the opposition, to finally hold cabinet positions and influence policy. The speech gave a lot of Moroccans great hope that their country would emulate Spain, their neighbor across the Mediterranean, and transition toward a democracy.

More here.