How progressive is Morocco monarch’s proposed constitutional change? Not very

The national media and the predominantly domesticated political parties said the Moroccan king’s reforms were advanced, democratic and even revolutionary.


Moroccan journalist and writer. 3 comments

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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
Mustapha Ajbaili, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at

Swirly divider

Written by

Posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011

  • Share on Twitter
  • Facebook
  • E-mail
  • Google Reader
  • Permalink

3 comments on “How progressive is Morocco monarch’s proposed constitutional change? Not very”

  1. I made a comment in the above article called ”

    Moroccan (R)evolution: “Where Are You Taking Us Brother?”

    Your comments would be appreciated, I thought it better to not repeat myself.


  2. Abderrahman

    The referendum on the constitution did not have a single goal: “Ratification of the proposed constitution”. From what I understand in system design, it is clear that the referendum had several goals. Chief among them was the ratification of the constitution. But one could not be ambivalent to the importance of measuring the support for the February 20th movement. I strongly believe this goal of measuring the strength of the movement (and quantifying it) has been captured in data collected from the polls. This was not a survey but a census of the entire population’s sentiment even with the 72% participation rate(a very high ration by international standards, assuming pas de trbikh). From a tactical perspective, this is genial. From a strategic perspective only time will tell. But if I have to make a bet, I believe the danger is no longer from the February 20th but from other forces within the Moroccan society. What are these forces and what kind of influences or power they may exert is the question. M6 has support not only among the tribal areas or elite but one should consider other demographic support. My prediction is that Morocco will survive this test and an economic expansion will follow. Which will be followed by additional societal transformations that may raise ambiguity and uncertainty in a small segment of the population while attracting more support from another. That’s my $0.50. I could be wrong and I will have to explain to my grand children one day how grandpa was unfit to analyze political landscapes because he was not equipped to do so.

  3. My personal and professional view (I monitor life here based on security – protective, social and economic risks) is that there are four risks to stability and security here in Morocco with the fourth being ignored both by the State, the media and Moroccans themselves.
    1. Foreign Islamists, such as the Salafi movement, Al-Qaeda in the Magreb and the existing Islamist parties that do or may look outside. This has always been the number one enemy here and has been controlled and monitored well by the services.
    2. Economics. Thouhg Morocco has been relatively immune from the banking crisis, the flow-on is starting here and there is nothing that provokes and creates confusion, mistrust and anger than increased financial hardship. The old food-riots because of bread price rises is an old but still valid example.
    3. Is misinformation and outsider politics. This, the Feb 20 Movement but be included. The Arab Spring has nothing to do with Morocco’s reforms, which have been on-going now for 11 years. Though perhaps announced a year or so early, this constitutional change was always on the cards. However, the internet-supported revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt with its large social-networking tool has also to a degree incorrectly targetted or affected the youth and activism in Morocco and that is a danger because it mis-targets the issues. The foreign media with no real source-base assumes also incorrectly and a self-perpuating myth of revolution exists and from a security point, is activated.
    4. The second largest and long-term largest risk to Morocco is the party political system here. There is 35 political parties of which most are in fact personality cults, some even with their own newspapers. At least 12 share identical political agendas but follow “a leader” rather than the agenda which shows the political immaturity. These are going to be more powerful now under the revision and that is a risk. There is a good saying that says a politically mature democracy is not valued by the quality of its government but by the quality of its opposition. Will the debate be in parliament or does it spill onto the streets? If it does the latter, then like with King Hassan II the King and the military could deside that this immaturity is damaging the country and (perhaps rightly?) decide to force change again in another direction.


Leave a comment:

You can use the following XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.

Swirly cluster