Friday, December 09, 2011

Morocco: Experts, former U.S. diplomats analyze 'Moroccan' response to unprecedented unrest in Arab world

SOURCE Moroccan American Center for Policy

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Experts, former U.S. diplomats analyze 'Moroccan' response to unprecedented unrest in Arab world

Today, a panel of foreign policy experts and former U.S. diplomats in Washington, D.C. discussed Morocco's recent elections and the challenges that lie ahead for the ongoing reform process. The roundtable, "What's next for Morocco? Assessing opportunities and challenges after the elections," came less than two weeks after Morocco held its first parliamentary elections following major constitutional reforms approved in a national referendum in July.

During the lively discussion, one of the first observations was that the 'Arab Spring' unrest is an opportunity for the U.S. to positively contribute to countries demonstrating genuine democratic progress in responding to the needs and aspirations of their people.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the U.S.," remarked Shari Bryan, vice-president of the National Democratic Institute, one of 4,000 U.S., international, and Moroccan observers during the Nov. 25 elections. "We need to continue to back reform efforts. We should put every effort we have forward" to help Morocco and other countries in the region. "There's a lot that civil society can do as well," she added.

The panelists' observation echoes those of U.S. policymakers such as Representative Steve Cohen (TN), who yesterday congratulated Morocco for its "free and fair Parliamentary election" and said, "Morocco has crossed yet another major milestone in its democratic progress. I extend my warm wishes to the King of Morocco for his leadership and the Moroccan people for their achievements so far and hope they continue on the path of reform and progress."

The panelists included: Dr. Anouar Boukhars, assistant professor of political science and international studies, McDaniel College; Shari Bryan, vice-president, National Democratic Institute; Edward M. Gabriel, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco; Dr. Audra K. Grant, professor of political science, The George Washington University; and Robert M. Holley, executive director, Moroccan American Center for Policy.

The panel also addressed the significance of the election victory by Morocco's moderate Islamist party, the PJD. The panel agreed that, while there are similarities with other Islamist parties in the region, the PJD in Morocco is distinct and unique. "The PJD is moderate, it has always been moderate," said Dr. Boukhars. "[The question is] how will they be responsive to different constituencies? They understand that the people's grievances are socio-economic." Boukhars noted that the focus of the PJD platform was considerably more geared towards addressing corruption, economic development, and justice, rather than a religious agenda.

"Much of the credit for the orderly transition can be attributed to the strong bonds between His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the people of Morocco," said Ambassador Gabriel, who moderated the roundtable. "It is clear that the King's quick response to the February 20th movement, accelerating the reform process that has been going on for some time in Morocco, including a new Constitution, has been vital for the stability of the Kingdom."