The Arab Spring’s Second Bloom
When did the Arab Spring end? Some analysts place it in March 2011—the start of the “Arab Winter” or the week when “the empire struck back,” in the words of Marc Lynch. And it’s true that there came a point, when Saudi troops marched across the causeway into Bahrain and Muammar Qaddafi swore to hunt the dissidents in his country alley by alley, that it became impossible to maintain the heady optimism of the early weeks of the revolutions in the Middle East. The cynicism deepened as the NATO intervention in Libya dragged out through the summer into the fall and civil war erupted in Syria. The Arab Spring wasn’t the same after that week in March, but did it end—or just change?
In early 2011, Morocco looked poised to join the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Like Tunisia, there was a self-immolation and a series of demonstrations, signs of a protest movement more pronounced than in any other Arab monarchist country other than Bahrain. Then, King Mohammed VI tried a different tack than his more ill-fated peers: he introduced a series of constitutional reforms that would supposedly empower marginalized groups through an elected parliament. A referendum was held, protests abated and new elections ushered in an Islamist parliament. And, as far as the monarchy was concerned, that was supposed to be the end of Morocco’s revolution—an early precedent of the “Arab Winter.”
But a second spring is in season in the Arab world. Despite the constitutional reforms, a new protest movement has taken to the streets in Morocco, motivated increasingly by “quality-of-life questions,” according to Issandr El Amrani. This is not mutually exclusive with the motivations that spurred the political protests of early 2011, but the economic component of recent protests seems more and more evident. It is also happening in Algeria, where “high unemployment, inadequate housing, and a dearth of social services” have brought protesters (and state security forces) back into the streets. Jordan, which has mostly stayed aloof from the Arab Spring, has noted a marked increase in labor protests.