Reform: third way or the highway

30 August 2012

Morocco’s new leaders say they are changing how things are done, but many prefer a faster pace of reform

Officials serving in the government of Morocco’s new prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, are keen to stress their commitment to the country’s “third way”. They say it is a compromise between revolution and political stagnation, taken since protests broke out across the country in early 2011.

Incremental change coupled with gradual economic and social development, say officials, are preferable to an uprooting of social and political order. But just how gradually can that change be implemented?

Already, Moroccans are becoming sceptical about the new government’s ability to act independently of the palace, combat corruption, and create new jobs and economic opportunities.

This is not to say Benkirane is not keen to implement positive changes in a country where 4.5 million people live in absolute poverty. It has already made free healthcare available to 8.5 million people while cutting fuel subsidies that benefit the rich more than the middle class.

These steps should be lauded, but little has been done to adjust economic policies created by less powerful governments. Meanwhile, the Benkirane leadership admits all major decisions are taken by head of state King Mohamed VI.

For political change to be lasting, Benkirane must prove that his government is independent and capable of asserting itself. Otherwise, Moroccans are increasingly likely to dismiss the “third way” as little more than a ruse to continue the order of years gone by.

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