I waited eagerly for hours to watch the King of Morocco unveil a new draft constitution according to which my country will be governed for years to come. The king described the draft constitution as progressive. The national media and the predominantly domesticated political parties said it was advanced, democratic and even revolutionary.
For me and for thousands of those Moroccans who have dreamed of a democratic constitution that grants the power to the people, the unveiled reforms were indeed progressive. But the question is, how progressive are they?
The answer is: Very little. I found the long-awaited royal speech quite disappointing in many ways.
It was designed to stave off democratic protests that have swept the Arab world and was expected to introduce fundamental reforms that would strengthen an elected government, strip the king of many religious and political powers and ensure the separation of powers, including judicial independence.
But as I read the draft constitution, I discovered that the king has barely surrendered any meaningful powers.
The draft constitution elevates the prime minister to the “head of government’’ and ensures he is selected by the king from the party that received the most votes. Previously the prime minister is selected by the king regardless of election results.
The head of government will have the new powers of choosing and dismissing cabinet members—with the approval of the king—and will be able to fill a number of other government positions. The selection, however, of the powerful regional governors will remain in the King’s hands.
The king will also remain the supreme commander of the armed forces and the “commander of the faithful.”
The new constitution introduced the Supreme Security Council — which will make security policy—and it will be chaired by the King.
The unveiled constitutional amendments are undoubtedly progressive, but they are insufficient to satiate popular demands for reform. The King remains to have almost indefinite ruling powers. He appoints the cabinet (executive), can dismiss the parliament (the legislative) and he is the head of the Supreme Judicial Council. Besides, he has the military and security forces in his hand.
To make sure his new draft constitution is passed, the king called for a “yes” vote in a referendum to be held on July 1. He also instructed political parties and media to campaign for the project.
In response, the youth-led February 20 movement, which has brought thousands of people onto the streets in unprecedented calls for change, has opposed the constitutional reforms, which it described as cosmetic. The group called for nationwide protests on Sunday against what sees as a “granted” constitution.
The group is unlikely to cease demonstrating in the streets, and if it continues to do so, the regime will eventually lose its patience and will likely resort to cracking down on protesters. The consequences of this are unpredictable, but violence only yields violence.
This post was originally published on June 18 on english.alarabiya.net
Mustapha Ajbaili, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at Mustapha.firstname.lastname@example.org