A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Social Reading of the 2007 elections

Much have been made out of the 2007 legislative elections in Morocco. The PJD managed to place second in the total number of seats after the nationalist Istiqlal party. PJD won 46 out of the 325 seats in the lower house of the parliament and is the major opposition bloc in the political system. Many observers of Moroccan politics view the latest elections as a failure for the PJD, whose former leader Sa’ad Eddine Othmani prior to the elections, predicted to gain a landslide victory and the first Islamist government in the history of Morocco. The failure of the PJD in the last elections is probably due to its lack of reach and support in rural areas. Election results show that the majority of the seats won by the party were in predominantly urban areas. One of the best pieces written about the elections is by Samir Ben-Layashi, who was so kind to share it with Maghreb blog. Analysts and observers will be tuning in to the upcoming local elections to see how the PJD will fare.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ben Ali and Journalistic Freedom

After eight months in prison, Tunisian journalist Slim Boukhdir is back at his best and is critical of President Ben Ali's latest assault on freedom of the press. Ben Ali is running for a fifth term in the upcoming presidential elections in October. Tunisia remains tightly controlled by Ben Ali and the RCD since his palace coup in 1989.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Morocco's Crackdown on Shi'ism

This is a developing story that has been transmitted through various news agencies and websites. The Ministry of the Interior has launched a large scale crack-down against all manifestations of a "Shi'a movement" in Morocco. Various Shi'ites were apprehended and questioned about their beliefs. This comes in the aftermath of the Moroccan-Iranian diplomatic crisis. Apparently, the state has also closed an Iraqi school that has been accused of converting students to Shi'ism. Morocco is a Sunni Malikite country, in which king Mohammed VI is seen as both temporal and spiritual leader (Amir al-Mu'minine-Commander of the Faithful). Proselytizing Shiism is seen as a threat to the religious integrity of the kingdom, and as an affront to the monarchy as the symbol of Moroccan sovereignty.

"Italy's Grand Gesto to Libya"

Claudia Gazzini's interesting piece on Italian-Libyan relations in light of the recent treaty of friendship signed by the two countries. At issue here is the long-debated reparations for Italian past colonial rule of Libya.

Political and Economic reforms in Libya

In the aftermath of his election as the chairman of the African Union, Mo'amar Gadhafihas pledged a commitment to meaningful African unity. Ronald Bruce St. John reviews some of Ghadafi's latest political and economic reforms in Libya. St. John remarks that most of the economic reforms remain sluggish and mired by mismanagement. Political reforms in the Jamahiriyya are still absent from the repertoire of Ghadhafi's style of "popular democracy."
Michael Slackman paints an unabashedly stark portrait of a country held hostage to the single vision of its leader. such vision has stifled any move towards political change.

Monday, March 23, 2009

NDI on elections in Mauritania

NDI's press release on the upcoming elections in Mauritania in June. The military junta currently in control in the country has signaled its intention to carry fair and transparent elections. It remains to be see whether the military will be committed to free elections and its outcome.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Freedom House Report

Freedom House 2009 report on the worst offenders of human rights includes the Western Sahara. The European parliament is also working on a similar document that condemns human rights violations in the Western Sahara. The European Parliament report, which has been leaked to a Spanish newspaper, has been widely criticized by Moroccan political elite.

Positive step in Mauritania

A positive step taken by the Junta in Mauritania as they released journalist Abou Abbas Ould Brahim from jail and lifted the ban on his website Taqadoumy.

Moroccan-Iranian Relations

More on the deteriorating Moroccan-Iranian relations.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A POMED synopsis of Ahmed Herzenni's comments on the the challenges facing the system of education in Morocco. Herzenni is the President of the Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Qadhafi's overture to Russia

Qadhafi is looking for new military weapons and technology. Interestingly, and as Yehudit Ronen highlighted last November, he is looking towards Russia for his $2 billion shopping spree. Libya is growing restless and disillusioned by  U.S. failure to impose any restrictions on North Korea's and Iran's nuclear ambitions. The colonel may have felt snubbed by what he perceives as the double standard in the U.S. approach to his "right to nuclearization." 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Democracy Promotion in Morocco

A comprehensive study published by EuroMeSCo on the state of democracy promotion in Morocco and its perception by different target groups such as: NGOs, political parties, state officials, journalists and scholars. 

Journalist Arrest in Algeria

Reports of the arrest of Algerian journalist Noureddine Boukraa after publication of his article on corruption within state security services.

Tunisian uproar over al-Qaradawi's visit

Interesting piece on Tunisian angst towards al-Qaradawi's visit to Tunisia. One wonders how much of that anger is state-based, since al-Qaradawi has been critical of state human rights violations in Tunisia.
More on Morocco's attempt to increase the space for political participation for women. Sarah Touahri highlights the government's initiative for "a system aimed at encouraging women's representation on commune councils...as part of the government's efforts to fund parties' local election campaigns." Only time will tell if this new initiative will bear any tangible fruits for women representation in the political system.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Sacred and the Profane

Interesting article in the Economist on the limits of freedom of expression in Morocco's territory of the sacred. This continues to be a source of concern for the future of political reforms in the country.

Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb

Interesting piece on the financial predicament facing Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. At least, Algeria and Morocco are in agreement of that common threat.

Morocco-Iranian relations

The recent decision of Morocco to sever ties with Iran illustrates the growing concern by Arab countries of the rising regional power of Iran. Granted the Bahrain controversy was key in that decision, but there is a sense that Iran is increasingly alienating many of its Arab Sunni neighbors. Morocco is already concerned about Iran's efforts in the kingdom to proselytise Shi'ism in a predominantly Sunni country.