The Spring Revolutions in the Arab word that started in December 2010 produced three major trends. The first one was reflected in the success of the removal of both the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorships. The collapse of both corrupt regimes took less than a few weeks. The second trend is reflected in the continuous protesting by the people to remove the ruling regimes in Yemen, Libya and Syria. The Libyan situation turned into a civil war between the revolutionary forces and Gadhafi’s army. The unfortunate consequence of the three authoritarian regimes is that the death toll has exceeded expectations and so far run into the tens of thousands. Furthermore, tens of thousands have fled the states into neighboring countries to escape from the ruthless acts of the ruling regimes.
The conflict in the three states, which has been going on for more than 3 months, will continue until the removal of the corrupt leadership of Yemen, Libya and Syria.
The third trend of protesting that has been taking place is reflected in Jordan and Morocco, where the protestors’ movements have been relatively peaceful ones and casualties have also been minimal.
Both royal regimes have been acting in a wiser manner in their slow responses to the demands of the protestors. The protestors in both countries did not call for the removal of the kings, but have been asking for a constitutional monarchy to limit the authority of the kings. Also, the protestors in both states have been demanding constitutional reforms and the free election of parliament members.
In both states, the kings responded in positive manners, reflecting willingness to initiate some reforms. In Morocco, King Muhammad VI has supported constitutional reforms. He stated that a new constitution will be presented to the public to be voted on in early July. The new constitution will provide for a free parliamentary election and the winning party will have the power to appoint a prime minister. However, the king still has to approve the Minister of Interior. Also, the proposed constitution continues to state that the king is the commander of the armed forces and the head of the religious authority.
Members of the February 20 have already rejected the proposed reforms and will continue their protest for more real political reforms. They want truly democratic reforms and the separation of powers. Morocco has been facing increasing poverty and a high rate of unemployment, especially among young people. Also, an ethnic conflict has been going on with the Berber population, who constitute more than 50% of the population of Morocco. They have been demanding that their language, the “Amazig”, be an official language like the Arabic language.
In the proposed new constitution, the Amazig language will be recognized as a second official language. Nevertheless, the constitutional referendum in July will reflect the will of the Moroccan people. This is still not the end of the conflict.
In Jordan, King Abdullah II responded to the protestors’ demands by creating a 52-member committee to start a national dialogue in Jordan to draft new electoral laws for the elections of members of parliament, where the winning party will have the responsibility to choose the prime minister. The prime minister will be held accountable to the parliament and not the king. In the new proposed law, the king relinquished his authority to appoint or to order the prime minister to resign. The king also asked the leaders of the 33 political parties in Jordan to merge and create three major political blocks that will make it easier for the winner in parliament to appoint the prime minister, who will be responsible for forming his new cabinet.
King Abdullah the II proposed political reforms shows a willingness to share power with the proposed winners in the parliament, reflecting accommodations to the protestors’ demands. How soon this will be implemented is still unclear. Nevertheless, the king’s authority remains and it is not clear if he still has the power to dissolve parliament.
The interesting observation in both kingdoms in Morocco and Jordan is that King Muhammad VI and King Abdullah II showed some flexibility in their responses to the protestors’ demands, in order to avoid the bloodbath similar to the ones that have been going on in Libya, Yemen and Syria.
Nevertheless, the reactions of the public to the proposed constitutional reforms in both Morocco and Jordan will be reflected in the result of the referendum. The situation in Saudi Arabia looks totally different from the ones in Jordan and Morocco.
The Saudi royal family is living in the past and pretending that the changes that have been taking place worldwide are irrelevant to their kingdom. Even the events that have been taking place since December 2010 did not signify to them that the Arab population is thirsty for democracy and freedom and wants to have the right to run their own lives. The drastic changes that have been taking place in the Arab world by rebelling against authoritarian regimes are a reality that the citizens will continue to fight to achieve.
The tragedy in Saudi Arabia is that the ruling political elites are too old to rule and they are still living in the past. To them, stability is the number one issue. For this reason, King Abdullah, who is 86 years old, has approved a large budget where more than $130 billion in additional money will be designated to special projects such as monthly salaries for the unemployed until they find a job. It has been reported that the rate of unemployment in Saudi Arabia exceeds 15%. Also, the construction of new housing projects to accommodate the poor is another special project, as well as an increase in government workers salaries and the creation of more jobs for the unemployed. These are some of the reforms that King Abdullah has announced recently to appease the young people who have been trying to start protests but have failed so far because security forces have arrested their leadership. King Abdullah’s new policy is an attempt to avoid people’s rebellions similar to what has been happening in the rest of the Arab world. For how long such a policy will be effective is to be seen. The critical point that the Saudi regime has failed to see so far is that freedom of expression and freedom to elect the political leadership is the norm of life worldwide that the Saudis are deprived of. I would say that it is a matter of time before the Saudi regime will collapse and the young people will achieve their freedom.