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ELECTIONS IN MOROCCO: KING MOHAMMED IV MEETS THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE "ARAB SPRING"

The November 25, 2011, parliamentary elections will be the first conducted in accordance with the just ratified new Constitution.

Morocco's reforms process has three key phases:

1. Restoration of individual rights including the reversal of constraints imposed during the reign of King Hassan II.

2. Implementing a comprehensive regionalization program. The improvement in economic posture, education and access to media focuses people's attention on localized issues. Given Morocco's diverse population, the key to addressing these concerns has been by providing added powers and authority to councils, municipalities and governorates.

3. National-level Constitutional reforms which are based on giving more powers to political parties, Parliament and the Government. Significantly, the reforms abolish the King's nominated prime minister and power-ministers and replacing them with individuals selected by the winning party or coalition and confirmed by parliament — thus reducing the King's hands-on involvement in governance.

In past four years, the implementation of the key facets of the reforms process has been submitted to the public's approval in national and local elections. The overall new political system — based on personal freedoms and greater power for the political parties — was implemented via the 2007 parliamentary elections. The regionalization and empowerment of local-level governance were implemented via the 2009 local elections. The Draft Constitution was overwhelmingly adopted in a national referendum on July 1, 2011. These new constitutional reforms are being implemented via the 2011 parliamentary elections.

These changes are taking place under complex circumstances.

Moroccan society is undergoing profound changes as a result of domestic developments — mainly improvement in economic posture, better education and access to electronic media — and external inputs: mainly the regional upheaval and blowback from the radicalization of the expatriate community in Western Europe. The transformation and modernization of the Moroccan economy from labor-intensive agriculture-based to industrialization resulted in unprecedented population mobility. This process was expedited by the new national infrastructure which makes travel easy and cheap. Consequently, Morocco has experienced rapid urbanization in response to the growing needs for labor.

Given Morocco's conservative, tribal-based social structure, the population movements and accelerated urbanization bred social instability and security challenges. The main reason was the sudden vanishing of the inherent security of tribal society and the emergence of Islamist and other radical lures as substitute and panacea. Meanwhile, the above domestic developments also led to the emergence of a generation of westernized computer-skilled youth.

During the past year, the leftist radicals among them have been greatly influenced by the impact of electronic social media as ostensibly manifested in the so-called "Arab Spring".

All of these issues and trends will manifest themselves in the November 2011 parliamentary elections and are bound to impact the outcome.

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