RABAT, MOROCCO – Islamist parties have swept into power in two North African countries—Tunisia and Morocco, as the winds of this Arab Spring continue to precipitate historic changes throughout the Maghreb.
Thursday, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI received a telling phone call from Moncef Mazouki, Tunisia’s newly elected president and leader of his country’s dominant Islamic party.
Morocco’s recent elections, the culmination of nearly nine months of major constitutional and governmental reforms, not only produced a new Moroccan prime minister who now holds the role and responsibility of head of state, but who is also leader of the DJP, Morocco’s largest Islamic political party.
President Mozouki had placed his call to King Mohammed to congratulate him on the peaceful transition Morocco has made toward democratization and to suggest that the Moroccan process should serve as a model for other North African states as they attempt to evolve into freely elected democracies.
He also stressed the potential for economic development between Tunisia and Morocco and the opportunities now open for regional intergration. Both Morocco and Tunisia, he pointed out, are already trade partners in phosphate and other commodities, but both also are burdened with high unemployment, especially among their well-educated graduate populations. Both economic and political intra-government decision-making might now benefit both countries.
Tunisia, as well as other states in the Maghreb, president Marzouki commented, have much to learn from the Morocco experience, and can benefit by the example of King Mohammed’s political, economic, and religious reforms, which he believes can provide new impetus to both countries and reinforce their bilateral relationship, while improving opportunities for economic development and political reform throughout North Africa.
While some observers have pointed out that the Arab Spring could produce an Islamic tsunami, as country after country puts Islamists in power, the leaders of both Tunisia and Morocco are focused on economic development, job creation, educational reforms, and better living conditions for the electorate. They are not focused on the imposition of Sharia law or Islamic fundamentalism.
Morocco’s new Islamist prime minister stated on election night, as his party overwhelmingly and unexpectedly defeated two parties led by high ranking government incumbents, that his priority was finding at least 250,000 new jobs for young Moroccans and not bothering with the number of centimeters a woman’s skirt must be above her knees.
Said Temsamani is a Moroccan political observer and consultant, who follows events in his country and across North Africa. He will visit the United States in December to meet with journalists, academics, and policy makers following events in the Maghreb.