From Syria to Morocco, repressive leaders at least now admit the woes their regimes cause. That admission can lead to success for pro-democracy protests.
The only real harvest from the Arab Spring so far has been in Egypt and Tunisia, where revolutions have led to emerging democracies. Yet in a few other Arab countries, ongoing protests have at least yielded a small crop of truth-telling from autocratic leaders.
In Syria, for example, President Bashar al-Assad admitted Monday that corruption within his government “has left a great deal of sorrow,” with the economy near collapse. Last week, a widely despised and wealthy businessman, Rami Makhlouf, announced he was quitting business to deal with charity.
But it is in Morocco where protests have especially forced a new official bluntness about the country’s woes, especially the link between a lack of jobs and a lack of political rights.
Last Friday, after months of limited concessions, King Mohammed VI proposed a new constitution that would, among other things, enshrine “all human rights as they are universally recognized.” And in a rush to head off more protests, he ordered a July 1 referendum on the document.
The proposed reforms, if approved, would mean a transition to democracy rather than a full democracy. The popular king would still appoint a prime minister to govern after an election, for example, and retain military control.