Never-ending reformism from above and dissatisfaction from below: the paradox of Moroccan post-Spring politics

Never-ending reformism from above and dissatisfaction from below: the paradox of Moroccan post-Spring politics

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Cavatorta, Francesco / Fabio Merone
Discussion Paper 16/2020

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

ISBN: 978-3-96021-127-3
DOI: 10.23661/dp16.2020
Preis: 6 €

For scholars, policy-makers and casual observers, there is no doubt that Morocco has undergone an impressive transformation process since Mohammed VI came to power in 1999. The country projects an image of liberal-democratic modernity and socio-economic progress that the international community is happy to go along with. But at the heart of Moroccan modernization lies a glaring paradox: despite two decades of reforms, the dissatisfaction of ordinary citizens with the way the system works has been consistently high, and a number of socio-economic and political indicators do not support the regime’s claim that the country has democratised or is democratising. This article examines the country’s political system through the reformist process – political, economic and social – that began in the 2000s, continued with the constitutional changes of 2011 and culminated with the two PJD-led governments that followed the parliamentary elections of 2011 and 2016. In particular, this study examines the reformist drive in the context of the inter-paradigm debate between democratisation and authoritarian resilience. We employ four criteria to determine to what extent Morocco has democratised: the accountability of decision-makers, the participation of a plurality of voices in the formulation of policies, the degree of individual freedoms and the protection of human rights. This article concludes that the reformist process is simply a narrative the regime has adopted to fend off international criticism and to reconfigure domestic institutions. The fundamentally authoritarian nature of the regime has not changed, and the dominant institutional role that the monarch – unelected and unaccountable – plays undermines all claims of democratisation.

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