Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Like the electoral process, the aftermath of the election results unfolded in an impressive fashion. Most of the losing parties conceded defeat and “bowed to the will of the Tunisian people. The elections are historical not only in Tunisia, but for the rest of the Arab world as well. Tunisians rose up to the challenge as the whole world observed their electoral contest. In so doing, they set the example for the rest of the Arab world in their ability to conduct peaceful democratic elections. The Tunisian success assuages fears in some western circles and local skeptics on the ability of Arab societies to fully implement basic institutional tasks leading to the elections. In this respect, most Tunisians I talked to commend the colossal work of Yadh Ben Achour, head of the Election Commission (ISIE), in the tedious task of party list registration.
Tunisia has passed the first test with flying colors, but the toughest work lies ahead. The new government and constituent assembly have to tackle issues of freedom of the press, police reform and economic development. The new constitution should undoubtedly embody principles of separation of powers, horizontal accountability, individual and group liberties and a firm emphasis on the rule of law. Islamist leaders of al-Nahda will be the first Arab Islamist party in charge of a political system. The naysayers and alarmists will inevitably doubt the abilities of al-Nahda and question its motives. Al-Nahda will have to dispel orientalist arguments of democratic dissimulation and show real commitment to principles of good governance. Al-Nahda leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, has so far spoken in favor of a civil state and Tunisia's secular liberal code of personal status, which among other things, bans polygamy. His vision is for a synthesis between Islam and modernity as al-Nahda aims "to ensure stability, to reform justice, and to prosecute corruption cases, putting an end to it, in all its forms."
These are remarkable times for Tunisia and the Arab world. Despite still re-entrenched dictatorial regimes in Syria and Yemen, Tunisia and Libya (except for the summary execution of Gaddafi) show the potential for an Arab democratic renewal. No longer can the world dismiss the Arab Middle East region as a zone of democratic deficit. As Tunisia undergoes a fascinating political experiment, the eyes of the world will be closely watching, but ultimately the fate of Tunisia is for the first time in the hands of its own people.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
The book provides a new approach to the study of the prevalence of authoritarianism in the MENA. It re-introduces socio-institutional variables into this debate without resorting to essentialist macro-claims; rather, it focuses on the micro-dynamics of symbolic power. The book provides an alternative way to conceptualize political legitimacy and power in the Middle East. It argues that the monarchy’s religious authority and its use of rituals of power limit the ability of Islamist and non-Islamist opposition groups to contest the monarchy’s legitimacy. This study goes beyond most institutionalist accounts of authoritarian persistence by exploring the micro-dynamics of symbolic power and the extent to which the regime uses rituals of power to create a political culture conducive to the monarchy’s supremacy in the socio-political realm, thus promoting regime stability in Morocco.
These rituals have been institutionalized in the political system and have become part of the political discourse in Morocco. The study examines the effects of the ritualization of the political process on oppositional—especially Islamist—forces. The book argues that the monarchy’s religious authority and its use of rituals of power impede the ability of Islamist and other opposition groups to mobilize and to penetrate Moroccan society. The prevalence of this cultural and social hegemony contributes to the stability and resilience of the monarchical authoritarian regime in Morocco.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Unlike the relatively easy toppling of Zine al-'Abidine Ben 'Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, the Libyan affair dragged on for over six months. The liberation of Tripoli required intense fightng on the ground and some 75 NATO air sorties. Most importantly, the fighting have claimed more than 13ooo lives. Few feel vinidcated in their support of NATO's involvement in Libya, but that should be shortlived and all efforts must focus on post-Gaddafi reconstruction. The Libyan fight for liberation showcases the varied nature of the Arab spring as change can either result from peaceful protests or sometimes through violent means.
The Liberation of Libya also proved that NATO's involvement has been key in depleting the power of pro-Gaddafi forces. The air and ground fighting simply proved too much for Gaddafi loyalists. NATO's mandate to protect the advances of the rebels into Tripoli quickly turned into an action for regime change, following the launch, Saturday, August 20, of Operation "Siren of the Sea." NATO's involvement signals a new era in successful international intervention based on humanitarian legitimacy, where the cost of non-intervention is higher than measured and calibrated military involvement.
As Libyans regain control over their destiny and their oil resources for the first time in 42 years, the harder part of state building lies ahead. Libya presents greater challenges than any other Arab country. There is virtually no apparatus of the state, no constitution and no coherent political institutions that could serve as a platform for transition towards potential democratic governance. Libya also features significant tribal cleavages that have to be taken into consideration as the new Libyan state is built. For four decades, Gaddafi played tribes against each other, and there is still significant tribal rivalries in Libya. Everyone is jubilant in Libya today, but the future could prove even tougher than the military fighting.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Back from Tunisia where I was a guest observer at the Board meeting of the Foundation of the Future (this will be subject to a future blog post). Tunisia's post revolutionary experience is under way with its ups and downs. The first day I was there, my friend went to the movie theater to watch Nadia el Fani's "Ni dieu, ni Maitre," (Neither God, nor Master) where she was assaulted by so called Salafis. Nevertheless, Tunisia has started a progressive movement towards change. However, my mind is with Morocco ahead of the constitutional referendum tomorrow. I have made my position clear in previous posts. This one includes a couple of pictures I took and a wishful thought the referendum was about meaningful reforms.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
One would think that Morocco is headed towards better times, especially as the king promised constitutional reforms last March. There also seemed to be an air of openness in state-society relations. Even after the Argana bombing in Marrakech, state authorities showed a measured response to the terrorists act far short from the wholesale arrests launched after the 2003 bombings in Casablanca. Those were promising indicators of a nuanced state approach to civil society and protest movement's demands for democratic reforms. However, events in the last two weeks suggest a determined state retreat from early progress, and a shaky commitment to meaningful reforms.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
These developments were only eclipsed by the sensational news of the death of master terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Bin Laden's death deals a significant blow to al-Qaeda, but it is does not put an end to the militant ideology that has spelled disaster for the Islam and the world. Al-Qaeda may be losing ground, but al-Qaedism is still present amongst us, notably through its different subsidiaries in different parts of the world. In the Maghreb, the scepter of al-Qaeda is ever palpable with the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM remains marginally active in the northern Sahara region of Sahel, and responsible for kidnapping and killing scores of foreign aid workers and tourists.
AQIM maintains Jihadist aspirations to carry attacks in north African countries. But they've denied any involvement in the argana cafe bombing. In the midst of the Arab uprising, states might lose sight of the ever present threat of militant Islamism. There is a need for an effective counter terrorism strategy, which will not be successful without the joint cooperation between Maghreb and Sahel states. Perhaps the current Algerian-Moroccan rapprochement leading to an eventual re-opening of the borders is a positive step that could potentially aid in combatting AQIM. Such optimism is only tempered by the on-going conflict over the Western Sahara, which Algeria is significantly involved in on the side of POLISARIO.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
So far, political parties and civil society organizations have offered their own versions of proposed reforms to the constitution. Their proposals largely reflect the wide ranging demands for complete overhaul of the constitution including the (in)famous article 19 of the constitution that sets the king as the purveyor of both spiritual and temporal powers. This article does not give effective powers to the king, but endows him with a symbolic status above all political forces in the kingdom, as "Amir al-Mu'minin (commander of the faithful), the supreme representative of the nation and the symbol of unity..the guarantor the perpetuation and continuity of the State."
Real reforms will have to focus on the principles of separation of powers and popular sovereignty. Setting those only as the backbone for a massive campaign to bring about accountability and transparency in the public sphere. This means dismantling the existing kleptocratic and nepotistic structure of government. The regime knows that whatever the constitutional revisions are in June will have to be vast in scope and radically different from earlier constitutional reforms. Moroccan society is growing anxious and bolder as they directly address their monarch with demands direly needed in a country placed to be a model for constitutional monarchism.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
1. Enshrine in the Constitution the rich, variegated yet unified character of the Moroccan identity, including the Amazigh component as a core element and common asset belonging to all Moroccans;
2. Consolidate the rule of law and the institution-based State; expand the scope of collective and individual freedoms and guarantee their practice; promote all types of human rights - political, economic, social and cultural rights as well as those relating to development and the environment - especially by inscribing, in the Constitution, the Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s well-founded recommendations as well as Morocco’s international commitments in this domain.
3. Elevate the judiciary to the status of an independent power and reinforce the prerogatives of the Constitutional Council to enhance the primacy of the Constitution, of the rule of law and of equality before the law;
4. Strengthen the principle of separation of powers, with the relating checks and balances, and promote the democratization, revamping and rationalization of institutions through the following:
* A parliament emerging from free, fair elections, and in which the House of Representatives plays the prominent role; expand the scope of legislative action and provide parliament with new powers that enable it to discharge its representative, legislative and regulatory mission;
* An elected government which reflects the will of the people, through the ballot box, and which enjoys the confidence of the majority of the House of Representatives;
* Confirming the appointment of the Prime Minister from the political party which wins the most seats in parliamentary election, as attested by election results;
* Consolidating the status of the Prime Minister as the head of an effective executive branch, who is fully responsible for government, civil service and the implementation of the government’s agenda;
* Enshrining, in the Constitution, the Governing Council as an institution and specifying its prerogatives;
5. Shore up constitutional mechanisms for providing guidance to citizens, by invigorating the role of political parties within the framework of an effective pluralistic system, and by bolstering the standing of parliamentary opposition as well as the role of civil society;
6. Reinforce mechanisms for boosting moral integrity in public life, and establish a link between the exercise of power and the holding of public office with oversight and accountability;
7. Enshrine in the Constitution the institutions concerned with good governance, human rights and protection of liberties.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
First of all, the nature and style of government in Morocco is different that in the Arab republican states, where political legitimacy is lacking. The Moroccan monarchy is largely popular and entrenched in the socio-cultural foundations of the country., so much so that in Morocco we can actually talk about two layers of political authority that help set the monarchy as regime and political order above the political fray, and one that is capable of deflecting all criticism towards the state government led by the prime minister. This is not surprising then that the small protests we’ve seen so far in Morocco, notably in Fes, Tangier have largely been demanding for the king to sack his government and away from any calls of regime change.
Another factor is that maybe M6’s early reforms proved key in deflecting some of the anger we see in the Arab world today. As he established one of the first truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the atrocities of years of lead and compensate victims of those years of state violence. The king also to introduce some small scale political reforms inviting vast array of political parties to partake in relatively open elections, and empowering a relatively viable civil society, which brought about significant policy changes to some social issues: women issues and Amazigh. However, there have been recent setbacks especially in the spaces allotted to the press, with the incarceration and economic asphyxiation of major independent newspapers and magazines. This is where the challenge for the country lies ahead. Allowing a modicum for freedom of expression outside state intimidation, retaliation and undergoing constitutional changes to reduce the scope of political powers of the monarchy.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
An Open Letter to President Barack Obama
January 30, 2010
Dear President Obama:
As political scientists and historians who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.
For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday “political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.
There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away,” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.