Morocco’s strong stand for democratic values

In recent weeks, Morocco has demonstrated once again the depth of its commitment to peace, religious moderation and democracy, a commitment that makes it one of our strongest and most reliable allies – in the Middle East and North Africa, and in the world. 

First and foremost, King Mohammed VI gave yet another strong speech to millions of Moroccans at home and abroad condemning extremist ideologies and declaring that “the terrorists who operate in the name of Islam are not Muslims” and “are destined to dwell in Hell for all eternity.” The speech received broad coverage in a range of Western outlets, from the Wall Street Journal to Forbes to the BBC. And deservedly so. When was the last time we heard such strong and brave words from a Muslim leader and Commander of the Faithful, the highest Muslim authority in his nation?

{mosads}More recently, millions of Moroccans headed to the polls to vote in the second legislative elections since the 2011 reform of the country’s Constitution. After a freewheeling campaign, with real competition and a vigorous debate on the serious issues facing the country, voters chose their members of Parliament from among 6,992 provisional candidates representing 30 different political parties. Morocco’s incumbent Justice and Development Party (PJD) won a narrow victory of 125 seats to the Party of Authenticity and Modernity’s (PAM) 102.

As Americans, we tend to take free elections and smooth transitions very much for granted; but as we have seen since the Arab Spring (and before), they are not par for the course in the Middle East and North Africa, where the political process, if any, all too often involves bloodshed and preordained results. Because Morocco’s leaders, particularly King Mohammed VI, envisioned a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, the country has been on a careful, steady course to political and social liberalization for almost 20 years. 

And the King is just as vehement about the ideals that must underpin any democratic government as he is about the scourge of terrorism. In his welcoming speech to the new legislature a week after the elections, he did not mince words, reminding the newly elected Parliamentarians that “true commitment to political and party principles means one should put the citizen above all other considerations … making those promises prevail over any party or personal interests.” He noted that government efficiency is “a yardstick of a nation’s progress,” and insisted that “Administrative reform requires a change of attitudes and mindset as well as quality laws in order to have effective state agencies that serve the citizen.” He lamented the “long and complex judicial procedures” and “long delays in delivering administrative documents” and decried the fact that “when dealing with state agencies, citizens face a wide range of difficulties, be it in terms of reception, communication or the processing of files and documents – so much so that in the citizen’s mind, this has come to resemble an obstacle course.”

Significantly, the King gave special emphasis to “widespread administrative issues” that impede the implementation of Morocco’s 2004 Family Law reform – one of the foundations of his progressive vision – which granted women equal rights in marriage, divorce, and inheritance. 

The U.S. must fully recognize, celebrate, embrace and, most importantly, support Morocco’s slow and steady, yet remarkable and unwavering democratic journey.

Edward M. Gabriel, former US Ambassador to Morocco, advises the Kingdom of Morocco. For more information, please visit the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. 

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 


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