x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Morocco's reforms don't add up to much

The much-praised "third way" of constitutional liberalisation in he kingdom doesn't seem to have changed much, an editorialist there notes. Other topics today: US troops in Jordan and Libya's missing cabinet.

Morocco's vaunted 'third way' now hangs in the balance as reforms fall short of expectations

In a front-page commentary in Wednesday's edition of the Moroccan daily Akhbar Al Youm, Taoufik Bouachrine asked whether February 20, March 9, July 1 and November 25 were just numbers on the rulers' political calendar, or cornerstones of King Mohammed VI's promised "third way" following the uprisings that rocked the Arab world.

On February 20, 2011, mass demonstrations were staged by Morocco's youth, who hit the streets in 53 cities seeking major change - the strongest message ever sent by young people to the ruling elite, according to Bouachrine.

On March 9, King Mohammed made a now-famous address in response to the demands. It was an attempt to ease the mass anger that had come as a great shock to the king, and as "a spontaneous assessment of his 12-year rule", the writer observed.

July 1 saw a referendum on the first constitution under King Mohammed VI - a document that "made the prime minister a partner in power instead of a servant of the palace".

And on November 25, 2011, the first parliamentary elections under the new constitution were held and, despite some irregularities, the opposition moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (JDP), won the most votes - and led a new government.

"Now, these dates are at risk of falling into oblivion, with attempts at making them politically meaningless numbers in lieu of cornerstones for the 'third way' option devised in response to the Arab Spring that gave us two options," the writer said. He was referring to the options of entrenching tyranny or a revolution.

"The king, the parties ... and a large segment of the middle and rich classes went for the third option: democratic change under stability and the monarchy," he added.

But the monarchy was called on to lead the change without the "mindset and legacy of the Makhzen [the patronage network that embodies Morocco's ruling elite]", he noted.

The third way was the option for which Moroccans voted on July 1, in the constitutional referendum, under which the current ruling coalition was formed.

But the first 10 months of this third option do not give grounds for optimism, the writer said.

The government says it is committed to "democratic interpretation" of the new constitution. Yet its political practices, legislation and behaviour on the ground indicate that the constitution is being construed in an "undemocratic manner" that might disagree with its spirit of reform.

Banning journalists, arresting demonstrators, public television run by the state instead of the parliament, old figures still present, the new government banned from taking part in the first regulation to be drafted under its rule - all these signs put the third way's survival in the balance, the writer concluded.

From improvisation to systemisation

The wheels of change for Libya, from Muammar Qaddafi's improvised state to an institutional state, are moving languidly, suggested the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial yesterday.

This week the elected parliament rejected, for the second time, a cabinet list submitted by the appointed prime minister, Mustafa Boushagour.

Abdul Rahim Al Keib, the interim prime minister until last month, has now been asked to run a caretaker cabinet.

Meanwhile, tensions continue to simmer dangerously in various Libyan regions, especially following a siege of the town of Bani Walid, home to a number of tribes that could stage a series of protests against the authorities.

"The return to a prestigious institutional state is a must at present. The state's prestige is based on justice, law enforcement and public interest," the newspaper added.

Many internal and external parties have wagered on the collapse of the new authority in post-Qaddafi Libya.

Some anticipate that government institutions won't be able to operate effectively, while others forecast that collapse will start with social strife between the eastern and western parts of the country.

This must compel Libyans to come together and work towards building a strong and democratic state, the paper said.

American forces are in Jordan to target Syria

Jordan doesn't need to import US forces to help it deal with the influx of Syrian refugees, as the New York Times claimed this week, because the Jordanian military is renowned for its substantial competence in field combat, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi.

"The claim that the special US force currently near the border with Syria is there to help with refugees is mere deception," opined the writer.

"The mission of these troops is dubious. They may be a precursor to more US troops who would flock to Jordan later in preparation for military intervention in Syria."

This is actually gradual, direct US interference in the military conflict raging in Syria, the writer said. It is expected to increase in scope as time goes by, not only to bring down the Assad regime, but also to coordinate the region's post-Assad phase.

"Jordan is sinking fast in the Syrian quicksand. It may be made to pay a hefty price for its involvement, especially if a regional sectarian war were to erupt.

"The Americans are known for their tendency to withdraw from battlefields to avoid human and financial casualties, leaving their local allies alone to face repercussions," Atwan suggested.

 

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae