By Benjamin Villanti
By Benjamin Villanti
Morocco World News
June 21, 2011
In the last few days, US media coverage of King Mohamed VI’s Friday speech and proposed reforms has been cautiously optimistic. As noted the NY Times in its reporting, “his plans fall considerably short of a constitutional monarchy that many protestors have demanded … But the proposals he unveiled on Friday were a considerable effort to try to get ahead of the calls for change.”
The US media in its coverage has also been quick to note the potential for Morocco, through the proposed constitutional reforms, to serve as example for Arab governments in responding to pro-democracy protestors.
So far, Jennifer Rubin, in her Washington Post blog on Monday wrote the most enthusiastically of the King’s proposals, describing them as part of “a new ‘landmark’ constitution.” Rubin focused her praise on measures promoting human rights, including cultural, religious and for women. She was particularly impressed by the explicit endorsement for such rights in an Arab country. “The constitution and the speech explode several myths,” wrote Rubin.
In the New York Times Sunday Edition, columnist Nicholas Kristoff wrote a piece, called “Standing up to the King,” analyzing the leader’s actions. “Perhaps no Arab ruler responded as wisely to this year’s pro-democracy protests as the king of Morocco.” But Kristof conditioned his remarks, noting the “exceptionally low bar” that has been set by other governments. Kristof noted some of the inconsistent actions on the part of the King over the past few months and described the proposals “as a step away from autocracy, though not creating the democracy that protestors want.”
However according to Kristof, “The government now seems to be at a turning point.” Having recognized that since the 1990s Morocco has taken steps to make the country more open and less repressive than many of its Arab counterparts, Kristof wrote of the king’s latest efforts that “If he does embark on wider democratic reform, he could make Morocco… even more of a trailblazer. Morocco would show Middle Eastern rulers that they can respond to popular pressure with ballots rather than bullets.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board opined on the constitutional reforms in its Tuesday edition. The Post also acknowledged that the proposed reforms do not meet calls for genuine democracy and that “the King would retain extensive powers.” However, according to the Board, his speech Friday “spelled out a flawed but potentially workable way forward, both for his country and for other Arab monarchies.” According to the Post’s Editorial Board the reforms must be seen as “the beginning and not the end of political transition.” This process to come, according to the Post, will require that the government “listen to and compromise with pro-democracy movements, rather than dictate all change from above.”
The so far, cautious endorsement by the US press of the significance of the proposed constitutional reforms for Moroccans and for other Arab countries, was summed up in Kristof’s concluding remarks that “there’s a whisker of hope.”