“I only desire (your) betterment to the best of my power; and my success (in my task) can only come from Allah. In Him I trust, and unto Him I look.” ~ HM King Mohammed VI
a jubilant crowd takes to the streets of Rabat after the King's speech
On Wednesday, HM King Mohammed VI gave a speech to the nation. In it he announced significant reforms, and if initial reactions are any indication, it will set Morocco up for positive constitutional change. In the rare TV and radio speech to the nation, the popular monarch said a new commission would suggest constitutional revisions to him by June, and the overall project would be put to Moroccan voters in a referendum.
The speech went further than most analysts had expected. As Zouhair Baghough, writing for Morocco Board, says "It is historical because less than two months ago, what was considered to be a definitely confirmed balance of political strength heavily in favour of the Monarchy, has been suddenly reset to a different equilibrium. We have moved from an executive monarchy –with no constitutional reform agenda in sight- to a blitzkrieg-style commission with a June 2011 deadline."
In detail, here are the seven most significant reforms that HM King announced:
1. Enshrine in the Constitution the rich, variegated yet unified character of the Moroccan identity, including the Amazigh (Berber) component as a core element and common asset belonging to all Moroccans.
2. Consolidate the rule of law and the institution-based State; expand the scope of collective and individual freedoms and guarantee their practice; promote all types of human rights - political, economic, social and cultural rights as well as those relating to development and the environment - especially by inscribing, in the Constitution, the Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s well-founded recommendations as well as Morocco’s international commitments in this domain.
3. Elevate the judiciary to the status of an independent power and reinforce the prerogatives of the Constitutional Council to enhance the primacy of the Constitution, of the rule of law and of equality before the law.
4. Strengthen the principle of separation of powers, with the relating checks and balances, and promote the democratisation, revamping and rationalisation of institutions through the following:
* A parliament emerging from free, fair elections, and in which the House of Representatives plays the prominent role; expand the scope of legislative action and provide parliament with new powers that enable it to discharge its representative, legislative and regulatory mission;
* An elected government which reflects the will of the people, through the ballot box, and which enjoys the confidence of the majority of the House of Representatives;
* Confirming the appointment of the Prime Minister from the political party which wins the most seats in parliamentary election, as attested by election results;
* Consolidating the status of the Prime Minister as the head of an effective executive branch, who is fully responsible for government, civil service and the implementation of the government’s agenda;
* Enshrining, in the Constitution, the Governing Council as an institution and specifying its prerogatives.
5. Shore up constitutional mechanisms for providing guidance to citizens, by invigorating the role of political parties within the framework of an effective pluralistic system, and by bolstering the standing of parliamentary opposition as well as the role of civil society.
6. Reinforce mechanisms for boosting moral integrity in public life, and establish a link between the exercise of power and the holding of public office with oversight and accountability.
7. Enshrine in the Constitution the institutions concerned with good governance, human rights and protection of liberties.
Reaction to the nationwide protests
The Moroccan government has said it had heard the demands for more change and was committed to speeding up reforms, which it said were already on its national agenda.
Opposition Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) leader Abdelilah Benkirane welcomed the speech saying that Mohammed VI had "reacted positively to the demands made by the parties and young people. We are almost surprised," he said in a first reaction, welcoming the monarch's "powerful" response. "The PJD is satisfied. This development looks more like a revolution and the concerned parties are asked to work seriously to make the contents of the speech become reality."
"This is a break with a discredited past," said political scientist Mohamed Darif. "He has met the demands of many Moroccans who never stopped to ask for institutional and political reforms. This speech breaks with the monarchy as an executive power. It does not create a parliamentary monarchy but provides for a balanced monarchy where power is divided between the king and a government based on parliament."
On the streets, the reaction has been very positive but some social networking sites and bloggers warned that the people must be vigilant to make sure the reforms are delivered in full.