In a September 20, 2007 article for the American Prospect, Shadi Hamid comments that recent elections undermine Morocco’s image as a democratic oasis undergoing gradual, yet purposeful, political reforms.
Earlier this month Morocco, one of America’s closest Arab allies, held national elections. Touted as a bold step toward democracy, the vote was closely watched in the West. But the elections, rather than proving a success, have raised difficult questions about the future of Moroccan democracy and highlighted the flaws in America’s approach to democracy promotion.
In the lead-up to the polls, analysts painted the contest as a test of Islam’s political strength. Islamists had risen to power in Iraq, Palestine, and Turkey; and many wondered whether Morocco would be next.
The main Islamist organization in the country — the Justice and Development Party (PJD) — was widely expected to win the largest number of seats, following the lead of religious-based groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the similarly named Justice and Development Party in Turkey. But instead of securing a projected 70 – 80 seats, the PJD won only 47, coming in second to the secular Istiqlal Party. This is the first time an Islamist party has disappointed after an unprecedented series of electoral gains for Islamists throughout the Middle East.
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