Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations

Aida Alami, in her New York Times piece “Morocco's Democratic Changes Fail to Appease All”, critiques Morocco’s recent constitutional referendums. Alami points out that critics have viewed the referendum as inadequate, the process as invalid, and the constitutional changes as cosmetic. However, there are a few points that Alami does not take into account in coming to her conclusions.

Firstly, the article fails to realize that Morocco is in a region that is, by all accounts, behind in a democratic institutions. To expect it to change overnight into a constitutional monarchy or some other type of representative government is unrealistic. These processes take time to develop. It took the United States 88 years after its founding to deem that slavery of another individual as illegal. No one, not even Morocco itself, believes that this constitutional referendum fully solves the lack of representative government. The King himself stated in his address to the nation that the new constitution is no silver bullet, saying, “As perfect as it may be, a constitution is never an end in itself, but rather a means for the establishment of democratic institutions.” Put into perspective of the entire Middle East, however, this is an unprecedented step forward. While other regimes have either ignored protestor’s demands, given vague promises, or clamped down on protestors, Morocco has actually introduced a set of reforms and presented it to the people. This will not only have implications within Morocco itself (and the Western Sahara conflict), but also across the broader region. There is admittedly much work to be done, but this is a response to citizens’ demands which should be applauded.

The article states that only 13 million out of the 20 million citizens eligible to vote were actually registered to vote. That comes out to 65% of those able to vote were actually registered. This is not far behind the United States, where the percentage is 71%. Once again, considering the Arab world is just coming into the democratic era, this is a promising number. Also, of those who did vote, 98% voted in favor of the referendum. Of course, this is not “all”, but it is at least indicative of a large number of Moroccans accepting the reforms.
The title of the article itself reveals another flaw in its expectations. The title states that not “all” are happy with the changes. Is this not an obvious statement? No matter what was proposed, would everyone be happy? Such is the nature of a society- there will be some that are happy with certain courses of action, others who would have liked to go a different route. Once again, the United States is an apt example. The current debt ceiling negotiations are guaranteed to not appease somebody. Even on less contentious issues, there is never a 100% appeasement rate. It is not fair to keep such a high standard on such policy initiatives.

Morocco is not “there” yet. Its internal situation, and its issues with Western Sahara, are ever evolving. While it is important for those on the outside to encourage reforms and progress, it is equally imperative that expectations be realistic. It is vital that the context of the region’s history and politics be taken into account when judging the pace of change.


  1. Good Job !I think the author managed to come up with relevant critics on Aida Alami's article based on the current constitutional referendum of Morocco.

  2. Above all, Morrocans are pro the new constitution that will enventually be reflected on the social life and dynamics of the nation.

  3. No matter how many cristics are made regarding the new Moroccan constitution, one can realize the effects of this referendum only in the long run !