Morocco's next chapter

A changing of the guard in Morocco's political structure "could be the litmus test" for political Islam in the region, according to one Arabic language editorial. Other topics in today's roundup: Republican folly in the US, and Iraq's gift to Iran

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A new coalition government signals a new start for Morocco but it faces daunting challenges

On Wednesday, the second Islamic cabinet to accede to authority in the region as a result of the Arab Spring was formed as Abdelilah Benkirane, the head of Morocco's Islamist PJD party and the newly appointed prime minister of Morocco announced his new coalition cabinet, the first of its kind in the history of the kingdom.

This could be the litmus test for the movements and parties of political Islam that, until recently, had always been in the opposition camp and their leaders persecuted and imprisoned, suggested the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

"It is quite easy to be in the opposition and criticise liberal or non-Islamic governments' programmes and magnify their flaws and shortcomings," said the paper.

PM Benkirane is a dynamic politician known for his openness to other non-Islamic movements and his readiness to coexist with different ideologies. He is well aware of the importance of this test for himself and his cabinet. As he announced the cabinet formation, he admitted that his task is by no means easy. He added: "Morocco needs the efforts of its men and women to build a prosperous future for the coming generations." Then he went on to affirm his strong belief in the Moroccan people who "are capable of miracles" as he described them.

"Rightly so," commented the paper. "What the Moroccan citizens need ... is a government of integrity and good administrative capabilities. It must be highly transparent, accountable and free of corruption. It must prioritise competence over partisanship to avoid repeating former patterns."

Among the many challenges facing the new cabinet, economy is probably the most sizable. The economic situation in Morocco requires colossal efforts to find a solution; the unemployment rate among the youth has surpassed 20 per cent and the main sources of income, such as agriculture, tourism and complementary industries, call for a new administrative perspective that attracts additional Arab and foreign investments, which would in turn create job opportunities and generate more money for the kingdom "that suffers from severe financial anaemia".

Contrary to previous Moroccan cabinets, Mr Benkirane's cabinet counts only one woman in its formation, the minister of Solidarity, Women, Families and Social Development. "The single female appointment was unfortunate news and a bad start for the first Islamist-led government in modern Morocco. Moroccan women have had a primordial role in the kingdom's reformative uprising and they are highly qualified in all domains."

The kingdom of Morocco is on the threshold of a new and different phase that was forged by the will of the people and through ballot boxes and free elections.

It is the season to be folly in the US

The Republican Party electoral campaign to select a candidate to challenge the incumbent president Barack Obama started this past week in the upcoming presidential race next November.

This signals the start of what is commonly known as "Folly Season", a familiar occurrence that preludes the race for the White House, said the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

Folly season is the time where various candidates attempt to appeal to the voters by raising inconsequential but exciting issues that are closer to "tabloids" than to political proposals. This is in addition to auction-like bids to woo this or that lobby.

"It seems that the season to be folly has started early this year in the US," opined the paper. "Especially following the scandalous recent statements of the Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich regarding the Palestinian people."

Evidently, he was met with fierce competition from his republican counterparts at a time when silence fell on the US administration that can't afford at this time to infuriate the all-powerful Jewish lobby.

As usual, the Middle East peace process will be the biggest victim of the quest for presidency. Once again, the Palestinians will have to wait for the outcome of the elections to start all over again to attempt to revive the stalled process should Mr Obama remain in his position.

Iraq goes to pieces to bolster Iran's power

When the cracks in the system reach the top in a country like Iraq, it becomes almost impossible to bring back cohesion at the popular base level that has fallen prey to sectarian divides, suggested the columnist Rajeh Khouri in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

"What is happening now in Iraq is an acceleration of the process of eradication of the state," he said. "Ever since Tehran-backed Nouri Al Maliki was imposed as prime minister, matters have been heading towards more divisions.

"For two years, the Americans did nothing to rectify the situation and, upon their departure, they left Iraq at the disposal of the Iranians."

As the Syrian uprising continues to swell, Tehran feels that its power in Syria and through it in Lebanon and Palestine is threatened; therefore, Iraq became its first line of defence. Hence, Tehran is attempting to impose absolute control over its neighbour by reinforcing Al Maliki's position and weakening his opponents.

"The fatal triage in the Iraqi political community doesn't augur to stop anytime soon, especially as the Sunni provinces are increasingly pushing for autonomy, just like the Kurds. In the meantime, it isn't too much to ask: what is left of Iraq?" the writer concluded.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem