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In Arab Spring, truth can beget freedom

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.

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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.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II said in a speech June 12 that “no one in Jordan has a monopoly on reform or its promotion.” That’s a small step in admitting the monarchy shouldn’t have absolute powers.

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.

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