Paul Lachine

The Maghreb’s Modern Islamists

The Arab Spring has led not to Western-style liberal democracy, but to the rise of Islamist parties. The new Islamist governments in Tunisia and Morocco won elections after running on a moderate platform, but they will have to resist pressure from their most conservative supporters, and marginalize extremists in order to succeed in power.

FEZ – Just over a year ago, the Arab Spring sparked dramatic change throughout the Arab world. Popular movements have brought a range of avowedly Islamist political parties to power, replacing the largely secular former regimes. What that will mean for these countries, and for the region, is one of today’s central geopolitical questions.

In North Africa, two Islamist parties have come fully to power via democratic elections: al-Nahda (Renaissance) in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, and the Justice and Development Party (PJD) in Morocco, both of which now lead new coalition governments.

Whereas a popular revolution produced regime change in Tunisia, Morocco underwent a peaceful transformation that left the monarchy in place. Last July, Moroccans voted overwhelmingly to approve a new constitution that shifts executive power from the king to the prime minister, who will now be fully responsible for the cabinet, the civil service, and the implementation of government policies.

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