The protests’ persistence signals that the expiration date is approaching on Mohammed’s tactics for defusing and diverting Moroccans’ demands for democratic, uncorrupt government. If Mohammed is to maintain the “Moroccan exception”—his nation’s relative stability in the turbulent Arab world—he can no longer offer merely symbolic changes that preserve authoritarian rule.
Moroccans’ insistence on real change, and the dangers of violent upheaval if they are ignored, are growing. With them grows the danger that extreme and violent Islamist movements, which so far have been contained in Morocco, will spread in an increasingly frustrated young population.
Here’s the problem: Mohammed may be unable to produce the real democratization and transparency that protesters demand, because that would risk exposing the steady growth of systemic corruption under his rule. The United States, which routinely acknowledges corruption’s corrosive effect on Morocco’s governance, will not press Mohammed on the issue.