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 lack of democratic breakthroughs worthy of mention in Arab countries has spurred debate about barriers to change. Much of this debate has focused on economic, social, and cultural factors, or on the fragility of political forces demanding democracy. The debate would be incomplete, however, without a discussion of the means by which the authoritarian Arab regimes control their societies.
Among the ironies of Egypt's stalled process of political reform is that it is inextricably linked to the future of 42-year old presidential scion Gamal Mubarak. The younger Mubarak fashions himself as a Western-oriented reformer and in fact has championed some notable economic and political liberalization measures.
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.
Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi initiated a major shift in economic policy at the turn of the millennium. When early efforts at economic liberalization produced limited results, he stepped up the pressure in June 2003, declaring the public sector a failure, calling for the privatization of the economy, and pledging to bring Libya into the World Trade Organization.
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.
Mauritania, an often-ignored country in the western periphery of the Arab world, surprised observers two years ago by undertaking one of the most forthcoming advances toward democracy in the region. Democratic reforms came as a result of a 2005 bloodless military coup led by Colonel Ely Ould Muhammad Vall. Vall demonstrated enlightened leadership by pledging to restore democracy.
Libya’s basic legal documents affirm the right of every individual to freedom of thought, innovation, and creativity, and aim to support the flourishing of science and the spread of arts and literature among the masses, not only the elite.
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?
In the Arab world, what UN literature calls national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have emerged in recent years. A few of them—for example in Morocco and Palestine—have attained a degree of autonomy in confronting governments.
Since the September 2007 parliamentary elections, Moroccan politics has been shaken up by the formation of the Movement for All Democrats (MAD), an association headed by a man formerly considered the number two in the regime, Fuad Ali al-Himma.
In organizing a founding summit of the Union for the Mediterranean to be held July 13, French President Nicolas Sarkozy perhaps had not initially expected that he would have to invite nearly forty heads of state.