Has Morocco found the magic formula? The right path to democracy, that is a reformist path without the vagaries of revolutionary upheaval? On July 1, 98 percent of Moroccans approved a new constitution said to give more prerogatives to elected institutions at the expense of the monarchy. The regime and its allies have hailed the process as a model of consensual and peaceful change. This idyllic depiction does not withstand the check of reality. The constitutional process was hurried and no serious monitoring took place during the voting period. More fundamentally, the monarchy reluctantly initiated the constitutional reform process.

The Arab spring and its incarnation in Morocco, the February 20th movement, forced the regime’s hand. Its attitude toward the February 20th movement has balanced between disdain and outright repression. And while the passage of the constitutional reform was supposed to weaken contestation and put an end to the weekly demonstrations organized across the country in dozens of cities with attendance in the thousands, the pace of pro-democracy continued unabated. Fueled by a mix of economic and political frustration, these manifestations of discontent are unlikely to stop. It is far from clear that the power elites allied with the monarchy are taking the new constitution as a first step toward more political liberalization. Their reluctance to heed the democratic demands indicates that the constitutional reform was a cosmetic concession to stem the wave of the Arab spring. Resistance to change combined with the resilience of the contestation front might indicate that Morocco have merely delayed more profound, even revolutionary changes to its political system.

About the Speaker

Aboubakr Jamaï is the founder and editor of the French version of the news website lakome.com. He is the founder and editor of the Moroccan weekly magazine Le Journal Hebdomadaire. Jamaï began his career in finance, co-founding Morocco's first independent investment bank in 1993. After two years advising international emerging market funds with holdings in North Africa, the company, Upline Securities, became the first Moroccan-based bank ever selected to manage a privatization project in Morocco. In 1996, Jamaï joined the Executive Secretariat of the Middle East and North Africa Economic Summit as a financial and economic adviser. This organization was set up by the sponsors of the Middle East peace process to foster economic cooperation in the region. He co-founded Le Journal and Assahifa in 1997 and 1998. In 2008/09, he was a visiting scholar at the University of San Diego where he taught courses on political Islam and politics in the Middle East.

His articles have been published in the New York Times, TIME magazine, El Pais, Le Monde, and Le Monde Diplomatique. Aboubakr Jamaï won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award in 2003. In January 2008, he won the first Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse University’s “Tully Center Free Speech Award”. In December 2010, he won the Gebran Tueni Award, the annual prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Jamaï has been selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader for 2005. He was a Yale World Fellow in 2004 at Yale University. He was a Nieman Fellow in 2007 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and a Mason Fellow in 2008 at Harvard University. Jamaï holds a Master of Business Administration from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School.

Co-sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation