Friday, June 17, 2011

Morocco's King Announces Reforms

During his address to the nation, HM King Mohammed VI, announced that in future the head of government should come "from the ranks of the political party which comes out top in parliamentary elections." This came as no surprise as this measure had been promised earlier this year. However, to pass into law the measures announced will have to pass a referendum in July.

"We have managed to develop a new democratic constitutional charter. The constitution enshrines a citizenship-based monarchy". ~ HM King Mohammed VI

The Gulf News reports that "the moves by King Mohammad VI, who heads the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty, are being closely monitored by Western nations and Gulf Arab monarchies, which have so far dodged calls at home for reforms and are anxious the Moroccan model may end up raising the bar of expectations too high in their countries."

In part of his address, the Monarch addressed the issues of social justice and human rights. He said... "The Moroccan constitution will also be a human rights constitution as well as a charter for citizenship rights and obligations. In this regard, the draft constitution provides for the pre-eminence of international covenants - as ratified by Morocco - over national legislation."

The final draft of the reformed constitution explicitly grants the government executive powers, although the king would keep exclusive control over military and religious fields and pick a prime minister from the party that wins parliamentary elections.

In another change, ministers, ambassadors and provincial governors, who are interior ministry representatives at regional level, would be proposed by the prime minister, although the king would have to approve the choices.

Further, the prime minister would be able to dissolve the lower house of parliament after consulting the king, house speaker and head of the constitutional court.

Reaction from the February 20 Movement

Najib Chawki, an activist from the February 20 Movement, said the constitutional reform draft "does not respond to the essence of our demands which is establishing a parliamentary monarchy. We are basically moving from a de facto absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The king would keep exclusive control over military and religious fields and pick a prime minister from the party that wins parliamentary elections."

Protesters have also demanded that King Mohammed enforce accountability, fight corruption and limit the influence of the secretive palace elite. These demands have very wide support in Morocco. The King remains extremely popular, but the issue of corruption, employment and the stranglehold of the "old elites" is an almost universal concern

The protests did not go as far as demanding an end to the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty but neither did they manage to attract a following similar to what was seen during revolts in Tunisia and Egypt which inspired the February 20 Movement.
They have, however, attracted activists of various ideological backgrounds from extreme-left to Islamists and from wealthy businessmen to indigenous Amazigh activists.

Lahcen Hadad, a member of the country's governing coalition, told Al Jazeera."His powers have been reduced significantly in the sense that he is only the supreme leader of the armed forces and the commander of the faithful. Most of the executive powers and judiciary powers are given to other bodies so that is an important change - the king has accepted to share the power," he said.

But he said there were no groundbreaking changes included in the speech. "I think that if you read the actual constitution and what he has announced now, there were no revolutionary reforms that he is announcing"

Early reaction from social media is mixed. One issue that did get a lot of support was the proposal to make tamazight/Amazigh and official language. As a tweeter put it "today is such a historical day in my country, morocco , happyyyyy cuz my mother tongue tamazight, is now an Official Language !!"

The country will decide on July 1 which does not leave very much time in which to campaign for a "yes" vote or a "no" vote.

"A REFLECTION" SUBMITTED BY A READER: Your many readers who live in democracies will have their own thoiughts about how sensible it was for the King to call for a "yes" vote. His advisors could surely have warned him against taking sides. He would have gained so much by stepping back and being "seen" to be above the politics.

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