Morocco's upcoming local elections are likely to show improvements in areas specifically chosen for their public relations appeal.
The new Party for Authenticity and Modernity presents itself as an innovative alternative to the Islamist Party of Justice and Development, but its modus operandi is far from new.
The May 16, 2003 Casablanca terrorist attacks that killed 43 people in five synchronized suicide bombings shattered two myths about Moroccan politics.
Is America serious about democracy and political reform in the Arab world? Does the neo-Wilsonian dimension of the Bush administration's policy toward the region presage a decisive departure from the longstanding realist policy of "regime maintenance"?
Truth commissions and other mechanisms of transitional justice usually spring up in the aftermath of civil war or authoritarian rule. They do not thrive where the perpetrators still wield power or enjoy protection.
There is broad consensus in Washington that a "war of ideas" is a central component of the larger war on terror. And in this war, a prime target is the "poisonous" Arab media environment, particularly the new satellite television channels , which are blamed for spreading anti-American sentiment.
Morocco's King Muhammad VI, who ascended the throne in 1999 following the death of his father, King Hassan II, is moving ahead with reforms in some areas such as women's rights. But he maintains an ambivalent, sometimes hostile attitude toward the country's new independent press.
While satellite television often attracts the lion's share of analysis about new media and their effect on prospects for democratization in the Middle East and North Africa, another technology may already have had at least as large an impact: the Internet.
In February 2004, the Kingdom of Morocco enacted reforms to the Mudawwana, or the law governing marriage, divorce, parentage, inheritance, child custody and guardianship, that have the potential to expand women's rights. Moroccan activists initially hailed the reforms as a major victory for women and for the democratic process more broadly.
The second of June marked the second anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese writer Samir Qasir, with no indication of who ordered the car bombing that silenced one of the loudest Arab voices criticizing autocratic Arab regimes, particularly the Assad family in Syria.
The Party of Justice and Development (PJD) is the offspring of the Movement for Unity and Reform, itself an amalgam of several Islamist organizations. It has held seats in parliament since 1997 and increased its share from 14 to 42 seats in the 2002 elections, even though the party only ran in half of Morocco's electoral districts.
Until recently Western assistance programs aimed at strengthening political parties were less present in the Arab world than in almost all other areas of the developing world. As part of the heightened U.S. and European interest in promoting Arab political reform, however, such programs are multiplying in the region.
On January 22, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif officially launched Nile University. Located in the high-tech development zone Smart Village, 20 km northwest of Cairo, it is the first Egyptian private university focusing on post-graduate studies and research. Since 1996, more than ten private universities have been established.
Morocco’s September 7 legislative elections mark—with their 37 percent participation—the lowest voter turn-out in the nation’s history. In such a situation, one might suppose that Morocco had mounted no significant voter awareness campaign, but this was not the case.
The electoral system in Morocco is mixed. There are 295 seats in parliament elected via proportional representation in local districts and an additional 30 seats allocated to women and elected on a nationwide basis. The newly established threshold (the proportion of votes a party must win to get a seat in parliament) is 7 percent in any given district.
Foreign democracy assistance organizations working directly with political parties have come into the line of fire as some Arab governments have pushed back against democratization initiatives over the past two years. In Algeria, Bahrain, and Egypt in particular, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) have been among the first to feel pressure.
The disappointing showing of the Party of Justice and Development (PJD) in the September 2007 parliamentary elections in Morocco has sparked questions about the party’s future course.
In looking at the September 2007 elections to Morocco’s lower house of parliament, foreign observers agreed on two principal conclusions: the elections were conducted freely and fairly, but the election system itself was unfair, not allowing the emergence of any strong party. But are these conclusions justified?