SUMMARY:Mohamed VI’s Morocco: Twenty Years On
July 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of King Mohamed VI’s ascent to the throne in Morocco. Throughout the past two decades, Morocco has witnessed significant political, diplomatic, social, and economic developments that call for an evaluation. At the outset of his reign, the young monarch projected an image of a caring, modern, and involved leader who was committed to improving the lives of his subjects and bolstering democracy, expanding civil liberties, gender equality, and addressing the dark chapter of human rights abuses – the “years of lead” - during previous decades. Yet, notwithstanding some progress in these areas, the hopes for evolution towards a more genuine constitutional monarchy have not been realized.
This panel examines major developments in Morocco since Mohamed VI’s accession. Its nuanced approach to Moroccan politics and society links developments in the kingdom to Morocco’s historical and political paradigms, while raising new questions and themes that break ground for new research. It offers evaluations of public pronouncements and the reality on the ground that are frequently misinterpreted, thus contributing to an advanced conversation about the dynamics shaping the Moroccan polity.
The first paper focuses on the dissatisfaction of many Moroccans over current economic and political conditions, using data from surveys that examine the reforms initiated during Mohamed VI’s reign. The second paper addresses the ongoing climate of protests and unrest, primarily in the northern Rif region, that have erupted in the shadow of those very reforms, and the authorities’ harsh responses to them, highlighting the limits of the state’s commitment to political liberalization. The third paper takes a critical look at the status of women in Morocco, since women’s rights are often invoked in national and international discourses to attest to that very commitment. The fourth paper investigates the changes in Morocco’s foreign policy, especially its re-engagement with the African Union and the impact of this renewed focus on Morocco. Together, these studies offer new readings of Morocco’s trajectory over the past twenty years, and highlight the roots of renewed political and social movements that challenge the status quo, eight years after the large-scale “Democracy Spring” protests that roiled the kingdom.
The panel's comprehensive theme offers a timely and much needed opportunity to reconsider many prevailing notions about Morocco, which may be applicable to other settings across the region.