Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham writes for the American Interest on how Morocco stands out as an oasis of stability amidst a region in turmoil, thanks both to the circumstances of history and to prudent leadership:
Sitting, as the preamble of its 2011 reform constitution proclaims, at the crossroads where the Arab Islamic world converges with Europe and Africa—all of which are in various stages of ferment and even crisis—Morocco stands out as something of an oasis of stability.
Unlike other rulers in the region, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has weathered the turbulence of recent years well. Today, in the 16th year since his accession, he enjoys widespread popularity at home, as I witnessed firsthand this past Friday when thousands of elected officials, community leaders, and ordinary Moroccans from across the North African country converged on the capital for the annual renewal of their loyalty to the monarch. (The King, in turn, reaffirmed his commitment to defending the rights of citizens, as well as the independence, territorial integrity, and welfare of the kingdom.) The enthusiasm on display was not surprising given the middle path Mohammed VI has managed to chart, steering the country clear of both revolutionary tumult and violent repression, while simultaneously avoiding the trap of religious extremism. As many of their neighbors continue to come to terms with the so-called Arab Spring, Moroccans have adopted a new constitution and elected a new government, one led for the first time in the country’s history by a (moderate) Islamist party; another election is schedule for September and is already shaping up to be highly competitive contest between a number of parties, both Islamist and secular-leaning.