#Feb20, King's Speech, Morocco, Protests

Ahead of Sunday’s Protests #Feb20 Lessons and Options

Reactions to King Mohammed VI’s speech on constitutional reform continued throughout the week, culminating in two timely TV programs by Morocco’s official channels, TVM and 2M around the change agenda. The live programs Moubacharatan Ma3akoum (Live With You) and Kadaya Wa Arae (Issues and Opinions) featured guests from the February 20th Movement. Both were carried out in Moroccan dialect “darija”, instead of the usual classical Arabic. This language choice was deliberately adopted by the programs’ hosts in order to allow educated and non-educated Moroccans alike to understand the critical issues at stake.

The fact that leaders of a controversial movement are given the opportunity amid protests to come on public TV, publicize their demands for change, and explain their positions, is an unprecedented approach in Morocco and the region, and the Moroccan communication department deserves full credit for this initiative.

This last week, international media have also renewed their interest in Morocco. In the US, NPR discussed the demands of Amazigh Moroccans who ask that their language be treated as an official language alongside Arabic. The New York Times ran a video that revealed the young architects behind the change movement discussing their organization strategies, and quarrelling about leadership.

This increased information transparency, and national media access shows that in just a few weeks, the political debate in Morocco has taken a dramatic step further, and that the dream of a new era is possible and achievable in Morocco.

Morocco’s change dynamic has a clear regional advantage: It is an uprising built around the king, rather than against him. The King’s March 9th constitutional speech reinforced this distinction. Through his speech, the King provided support for the change agenda and legitimized the demands of the February 20th movement. The Royal position meant that supporters of the status quo lost credibility, and that the only responsible way forward is tangible, meaningful change.

Now that voices of the youth movement are channeled through official Moroccan media outlets, its members seem increasingly keen to reach out to their most unlikely supporters. Yesterday, they walked around the main avenues of the Moroccan capital Rabat handing out multicolored roses to law enforcement officers. On Sunday, they will march to consolidate the king’s speech, and reaffirm the need for comprehensive reforms.

If the February 20th protests revealed that the King and the people agree that change –beginning with constitutional change- is needed, the March 20th scheduled protests will prove if they can agree on how to achieve it.

We are  hopeful that Sunday’s protests will take place in a climate of restraint, peace and constructive dialogue, and that Morocco will confirm its predilection to become a regional model where democratic transition can be peaceful, real, and sustainable.

Good luck Morocco!

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