Morocco: Moderate Islamists triumph

The Magreb begins to show the way to other countries engaged in the Arab Awakening, as a trend emerges of moderate Islamist victories.


Emulating the highly successful moderate Islamist Justice and Development government of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, initially Hamadi Jebali's Ennahda Movement in Tunisia and now Morocco's PJD led by Abdelilah Benkirane have won their respective countries' first democratic elections. 

In the Moroccan election, the PJD took 107 of 395 parliamentary seats and under newly-devised constitutional arrangements King Mohamed VI must invite the leader of the largest party to form a government.

A trend is emerging. When Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in Egypt, fear was expressed in the West of a takeover by hardline Islamic purists amongst the Muslim Brotherhood. Concerns have been raised also about extremists taking power in Syria and elsewhere. But these appear to be ill-founded. The experience so far is of popular deference to democracy and a preference for a pluralist society. Turkey showed everyone the way, Tunisia followed suit and now Morocco looks set to form a coalition of moderates embracing broad electoral appeal. This bodes well for Libya, where a democratic state is being forged at long last. It's also encouraging for Egypt, where the Brotherhood has lost ground lately as they've stood aloof as people struggle to oust the military 'interim' regime prior to upcoming elections.

The Moroccan King's power stems from the monarchy's huge popularity. It was always going to be likely there'd be a peaceful transition towards a constitutional role for the head of state. At present, Mohamed VI retains policy control over defence, security and religion. He's bound to want to hang on to power over the first two in particular. And by claiming direct line of descendence from the Prophet, the Ameer Al Moomeneen or prince of the believers has a special role to play, and place in Moroccan society, when it comes to religious matters.

Morocco enters a new phase in its history with the arrival on the scene of a democratically elected Prime Minister. And moderate Islam appears to be gaining the upper hand. Turkey's mature democracy is a true role model indeed.

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