Obeying the Commander of the Faithful


Morocco's King Mohammed casting his ballot at a voting station in Sale, near Rabat

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI casts his vote in a polling station in Rabat, Morocco. Photograph: Reuters

A left-handed Czech defeated a right-handed Russian at Wimbledon;  a right minded Syrian, Assad fired the mayor of town where his father’s regime is said to have killed as many as 30,000 because too many people demonstrated; the Venezuelan and Yemeni presidents are too sick to govern;  Lebanon ‘s Hezbollah leader,  Nasrallah said Israel and the United States are guilty of killing the former prime minister, Hariri in 2005, not any of his party loyals and if anyone tries to arrest his guys he will cut off their hands; Egyptians are in Tahrir Square again demanding a real change; people wearing red shirts are voting for change in Thailand; Libyan Gaddafi is promising to go to Europe and start killing Europeans if the bombing doesn’t stop; and in Morocco either 60 percent of the eligible voters voted or 70 percent voted, but which ever number you believe it is much larger than in any election recently.

The voting in Morocco was a referendum on a new constitution as proposed by King Mohammed VI.  The king has been watching the events around the Arab world and is hoping to keep his thrown by giving up some of his authority to popularly elected representatives.  No one knows whether this will be the real change the people in Tahrir Square are seeking, or whether it is just a reshuffling of deck of appointees without any change in the rules of the game.  Across the Arab world is getting little coverage as Assad, Nasrallah and Gaddafi dominated the news; those media outlets reporting on the vote in Morocco, most show a picture of someone voting, give the percentage of the voters who voted and the  percentage that voted in favor of the new constitution (usually put at 98 percent), but the reports offer very little insight into potential outcomes. Except, unlike in Thailand the constitution can be implemented without any fear the army will interfer.

I did read two interesting quotes from Morocco, one by a voter and one by an abstainer; the quotes might offer some insight, but then again the might not.  The abstainer was on the way to beach with his surfboard, he said there was no point in voting: “If they really meant to change anything they would have done it a long time ago.”  The voter expressed no opinion on the new constitution, although she had voted for it – why did she vote for it?  “I voted ‘yes’ because we have to obey the Commander of the Faithful,” she said.

How could one disobey or disagree with the Commander of the Faithful?  Isn’t that what any political leader really is, the commander of those faithful to the party’s position?   Nasrallah, Assad, Gaddafi, Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and all of the rest of the world’s leaders see themselves as the Commander of the Faithful, don’t they?  And we, the faithful, are expected to vote the party line – aren’t we?  In the coming weeks to Congress discuss debt, taxes and social policy, we will get a chance to see the faithful being faithful. In the meantime, congratulations to the people of Morocco and Thailand, they got to first base at least – casting the vote.

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