Moroccan Protests One Year On

Protesters in Casablanca hold pictures of the young men who burned themselves last month.

Protesters are set to mark the first anniversary of Morocco’s February 20 pro-democracy movement with demonstrations and strikes across the country starting Sunday. The protesters want to remind the monarchy that they will not give up before their calls for reform are answered. Youness Bensaid, 23 year old Casablanca-based activist described the protesters’ goals stating,

“We are advocating for a democratic constitution that will give real power to a government that currently still doesn’t have enough weight to respond to our demands.”

A year after Morocco’s constitutional reforms, unemployment remains high among young people leading to continued protests. The protests in Morocco are different than those in other Arab Spring countries as the people of Morocco are deeply attached to their 1,200 year-old tradition of monarchy. The protesters continue to call for reforming rather than abolishing the monarchy.

While it currently does not seem that Morocco will experience a violent revolution as in other Arab Spring nations such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the question remains as to whether there will be sufficient reform to prevent an upheaval later on. I believe that this will depend on the King, the new government and the unemployment rate of young Moroccans. If unemployment continues to remain high for recent graduates, general dissent with the government will continue. The country will continue to witness protests and calls for reform. Mustapha Khalfi, a government spokesman, insists that major economic reforms are coming and that,

“The government is taking the necessary measures to implement the new constitution and to consolidate the rule of law in our country.”

The Minister of Justice, Mustapha Ramid also claims that the new government is cracking down on corruption. On a superficial level, the Muhammad VI’s reforms seem to be well intended.

Marina Ottaway, a senior associate at the Middle East Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington stated,

“It is not clear to me yet how forceful the Benkirane government will be. The king has taken an exceptional position in the sense that he has decided to respond to unrest with reforms rather than repression, but he is no different from other Arab rulers in the sense that he is determined to keep his power intact. He is just going about it in a smarter way.”

Only time will tell whether King Muhammad continues to respond to protesters’ demands or whether he tries to cling to absolute control of the nation.

Source: New York Times

Picture Credits: Abdeljalil Bounhar/Associated Press

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