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The Maghreb’s Modern Islamists

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.

The king retains some prerogatives, such as the authority to select the prime minister (from the parliament’s majority party) and the head of the army. Furthermore, like heads of state in other parliamentary systems, he has the right to appoint the government ministers and ambassadors, dissolve the parliament, and dismiss the cabinet.