Friday, March 11, 2011

Reactions to the King's Speech

The momentous changes flagged by HM King Mohammed VI (see here) have been widely reported around the world. The response has generally been positive, although some analysts are questioning the short time frame.

London's Financial Times -

In a speech late on Wednesday, the king said he had “decided to introduce a comprehensive package of constitutional amendments”, which would be drawn up by a committee headed by a constitutional expert.

The committee is to consult widely with political parties, youth organisations, intellectuals and others before reporting back in June. A new draft constitution will then be submitted to a nationwide referendum, the king said.

But the vocabulary used and the style of the televised speech – the king stood solemnly flanked by his son, the seven-year old Crown Prince Hassan, and his brother, Prince Moulay Rachid – indicate that any reforms will be directed from the top with a firm

Long-time Moroccan royal adviser André Azoulay said in London on Wednesday that he had been “surprised” by the “maturity” of young people who took to the streets in Tunisia and Egypt.

“When I saw what they said about the reasons for their demonstrations, I was surprised by the maturity they showed” and their commitment to peaceful protest, he said in a presentation at the British Council headquarters. “I felt proud.”


The United States has welcomed the Moroccan king's pledge to implement "comprehensive constitutional reforms" aimed at improving democracy and the rule of law in that country.

A statement by State Department spokesman said, "This is a moment of profound change in the region and under the leadership of King Mohamed VI, Morocco has made significant achievements in the economic, social and political realms."


The French government hailed the monarch’s decision as “brave.” France also described, as "responsible", "courageous" and "major" the speech delivered on Wednesday by HM King Mohammed VI, commending the "decisive" constitutional reforms announced by the Monarch, the Quai d'Orsay said on Thursday.

"The speech given yesterday by King Mohammed VI is responsible and courageous. We are convinced that it is, for Morocco and for the entire region, and particualrly in the current context, a major speech," the spokesman for the French foreign ministry, Bernard Valero, said at a press briefing.

He added that Paris "commends in particular the announcement of decisive constitutional reforms aimed at consolidating the status of the Prime Minister as the head of the executive branch, enhancing the democratic legitimacy of the government, and ensuring a clear separation of powers, based in particular on better efficiency of Parliament."

"The announced reforms regarding the judiciary, the status of women, the variegated character of the Moroccan identity and the regionlisation modes are also as important and exemplary. The adoption of these reforms via referendum is likely to reinforce democracy," he said.


In Spain the response was also positive. The Spanish government hhighly commended the "historic" reforms announced by HM King Mohammed VI in his speech on Wednesday.

The "historic" reforms announced by HM King Mohammed VI are "important" and respond to the aspirations of the Moroccan people" ~ Spanish secretary of state for foreign affairs, Juan Antonio Ynez-Barnuevo.

Ynez-Barnuevo, addressing the upper house foreign affairs committee, said the constitutional reform, which is to bolster the separation of powers and reinforce the government’s executive role, constitutes "a historic anouncement," hailing the leadership capacity of the Monarch "who has been receptive" to the aspirations of his people by deciding to introduce "important constitutional amendments."

Other responses:

Sudden change on the magnitude proposed by the king was hard to imagine even two months ago, writes Zouhair Baghough on his blog, The Moorish Wanderer.

“Political strength, heavily in favor of the monarchy, has been suddenly reset to a different equilibrium," writes Mr. Baghough. "We have moved from an executive monarchy – with no constitutional reform agenda in sight – to a blitzkrieg-style commission with a June 2011 deadline.”

Claire Spencer, the head of Chatham House's Middle East and North Africa Programme, called the king’s speech “momentous” but said that most experts and ordinary Moroccans were waiting to see is “how much life” will be breathed into the often moribund political parties in Morocco in coming months.

“Is there enough time before June to make serious change?” she asked.

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