Fareed Zakaria is typical of those commentators who point to countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Jordan, and Morocco as models for gradual democratization, notes Brookings analyst Shadi Hamid.
“The absence of free and fair elections should be viewed as one flaw, not the definition of tyranny…. It is important that governments be judged by yardsticks related to constitutional liberalism,” Zakaria writes. “Despite the limited political choice they offer,[they] provide a better environment for life, liberty, and happiness of citizens than do … the illiberal democracies of Venezuela, Russia, or Ghana.”
To the contrary, says a former regime insider.
“There is no Moroccan exception. It’s an authoritarian regime, that’s all,” says Prince Moulay Hicham (left). “After the death of King Hassan, it quickly became evident to his son that change implicates costs and trade-offs. He was not ready to make sacrifices, and the regime just went back to its old ways.”
Nicknamed “the Red Prince,” he grew up to become a political activist whose public support for democracy has put him at odds with his family in Morocco. He exiled himself to America and was banned from the presence of the king for advocating a constitutional monarchy, like that in Britain or Spain, Aida Alami writes for The New York Times:
In April, he published a new autobiography, “Journal d’un Prince Banni,” or Diary of a Banished Prince, that weaves together a series of vignettes and anecdotes to give readers a rare glimpse into Morocco’s royal family. But it also serves as a harsh political critique of the kingdom from an insider…..
In 2011, as the Arab Spring was sweeping autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya from power, King Mohammed offered constitutional reforms that guaranteed more social equality and attention to human rights. But Prince Moulay Hicham says those changes were once again cosmetic, and he has repeatedly urged the kingdom to make swift changes. Real democratization, he argues, is the only change that will save the monarchy in the long run.
The prince, who holds degrees from Princeton and Stanford, and is a former United Nations peacekeeper in Kosovo, serves on the advisory board of Human Rights Watch and has founded various institutes. A businessman and passionate advocate of green energy, he also produced the award-winning documentary “A Whisper to a Roar,” on the fight for democracy across the world.
“This book is harsh because the reality is harsh,” said Ignace Dalle, author of “Les Trois Rois” (The Three Kings), a book on the Moroccan monarchy. “Moulay Hicham is right; this cannot last forever.”
King Mohammed has come under fire for his stranglehold on the economy and for micromanaging the elected government.
“I don’t see in Mohammed VI’s entourage any advisers who will tell him to move forward,” Mr. Dalle said. “They are too absorbed by their own personal interests.”
John Waterbury, an American scholar and author of “Commander of the Faithful,” an extensive account of Morocco’s politics, said Prince Moulay Hicham’s book provides intimate details that shed light on the monarchy and the king’s entourage. That attempt at transparency, Mr. Waterbury said, was bound to spark shock and anger.
“In his advocacy, Moulay Hicham is hard on many Moroccans, especially the rich and privileged that live off rents provided by the Makhzen,” he added, referring in Arabic to the establishment elite. “His critique has been building for years. It has been manifest both in family occasions — weddings, birthdays, even deaths — and in his published opinions in Le Monde Diplomatique and elsewhere.”