Mohammed VI in an address to the nation [17 June 2011] put forth a plan to reform the monarchy in Morocco. Moroccans will be called on to vote it up or down on 1 July.
Immediately the youth who demonstrated on 20 February last protested the king’s project: it did not go far enough, meaning he did not turn back flips thereby with a wave of a wand transform absolute rule into a constitutional monarchy.
The house of Aloui has sat on the throne of Morocco for almost 300 years. Unlike his father Hassan II, Mohammed VI or M-VI as he popularly called, is more reform minded, and seizing on the protests among his own people, spurred on by the ‘Arab Spring’ in neighbouring Tunisia and then Egypt, he has been able to quiet rising popular discontent.
Let’s consider some his proposals: Morocco is at least 60 per cent Berber.
+ Berber would be recognised as a national language with Arabic.
+ The prime minister formally appointed by the king, would become ‘president of the government’, and so designation by the majority party in legislative elections.
+ A governmental council of ministers will meet in the presence of the king once a week, to determine policy. The final decisions remains with the ministers.
+ The prime minister also can dissolve parliament, once the perogative of the king according to the current constitution, and not only that his powers are enhanced as they pertain to civil service, public enterprises, public administration, and the like.
+ Moroccans can now appeal to a newly created Constitutional Court to press for civil rights, meaning greater gender equality, for example, since the new constitution will recognise equality between the sexes, and what’s more, by recognising international conventions, ‘freedom of conscience’ is given more latitude, as does freedom of religion.
+ Reform of the judiciary. Now the minister of the justice is appointed by the king and represents him. The reform will allow a higher degree of independence from the throne.
+ The king will remain ‘Commander of the faithful’, separating the distinction between the king as religious figure and head of state.
+ The king cum monarch is in theory and practice inviolate.
In brief, Mohammed VI, if the constitutional change is plebiscited by the people, has taken a big step to liberalising and democratising Morocco, ultimately loosening the reins of a tight run monarchy towards a more constitutional form of government.
Morocco, lest we forget, has political parties, on the left to the right and the religious right. Mohammed V permitted the Communist Party to exist, for example. It has a variety of newspapers in Arabic and French, with a liberty of expression, which often brings seizure. It has an excellent university system with instruction in Arabic and French, and to an extent, academic freedom and publication.
Since the time of Mohammed V, meaning independence, the throne has ruled with a soft hand at times and a fist of iron at others, especially during the reign of Hassan II.
Although illiteracy, high unemployment, corruption, among other social ills exist, Morocco has managed to maintain a patina of tolerance and progress for a ‘traditional Arab monarchy’.
The proposed constitutional reforms have the ring of liberality and democracy, in spite of the youthful voicess calling on the people to reject them.
Overall, M IV is intent in forging a new direction for his country and for keeping the throne intact for his heir Hassan.