Morocco continues to rank as the most democratic country among 10 in the Arab world, though the overall report by two research groups is downbeat over the development of democracy since the 2011 spring.
The Arab Democracy Index, published by the Arab Reform Initiative and The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, is based on information gathered and surveys carried out in 2015. While the publishers noted that much has changed since 2015, their overall conclusion is that there is a "stubbornness to reform."
Former United States Ambassador to Morocco Edward Gabriel, however, believes the country deserves its position at the top of the rankings for the fourth time. Gabriel is chief executive of The Gabriel Company, whose clients include the government of Morocco and the Washington-based Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP).
"Morocco's rank at the top of the Arab Democracy Index is a result of the vision and leadership of H.M. King Mohammed VI," Gabriel said in a statement to Maghreb News Wire. "It is also a credit to the engaged citizens and active political parties who have created the dynamic of vigorous democracy, robust campaigns at all levels of political office, and free and fair elections for over two decades."
In a press release issued by MACP on behalf of the Moroccan government, the lobbying group cited the executive summary of the report, which noted that the country showed improvements in a number of areas, particularly “related to surveillance of the press, the hindering of political party activity, personal safety, and school dropout rates.”
Researchers fanned out across 10 countries -- Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco -- to compile information for the index. They looked at the parliaments' ability to ensure accountability, judicial independence, oversight of security services, the standing of women, the standard of education, and the freedom of the media.
The index ranks countries out of a score of 1,000. The authors noted the overall index had dropped 10 points to 571, with Morocco at 735 and Saudi Arabia at the bottom on 419.
Tunisia, in second, showed the most improvement since the last survey, with Jordan in third.
"Much has changed in the Arab region during the preparation of this report," Bassma Kodmani, executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative, said when the report was published. "However, the overall decline in the Index was largely expected because of the shrinking or closure of the space for freedoms that opened to the Arab communities in 2011. And now it is becoming clearer that the optimism of a breakthrough in the process of democratization that accompanied the Arab Spring revolutions was not realistic."