Contrary to the West's view, Morocco's parliamentary elections this weekend didn't signal a bold step toward democracy. They showed just how far the country has to go to achieve real reforms – and how much more power the king must give up.
As the world turned its attention to the massive and sustained demonstrations in Egypt last week, much smaller but nevertheless significant protests took place in Morocco leading up to Friday’s parliamentary elections. As the country prepared for the first elections since King Mohammed VI implemented reforms last summer to give that body more power, thousands of Moroccans took to the streets in Casablanca, Rabat, and Tangier, calling for regime change.
The demonstrations highlight the wide gap between the West’s vision of Morocco as a leading example of how to transition into democracy, and the average Moroccan’s view of a regime reluctant to release power.
The West has been veritably giddy about King Mohammed VI’s “progressive” democratic reforms – implemented to head off Arab Spring turmoil and appease protesters. American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton heralded the constitutional reforms that paved the way for this Friday’s elections as an “important step toward democratic reform” by a “longstanding friend, partner, and ally of the United States.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy, too, commended the king for embarking on a “path to democracy."