ISSN 2330-717X

Morocco And Its New Constitution – OpEd

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By Seyyed Mohiaddin Sajedi

The governments of Spain and France have welcomed the Moroccan king’s decision to hold a nationwide referendum on the constitution.

The referendum will be held on the first of July and the king himself has announced that he will vote in favor of it. The February 20 Movement has also announced that it is against constitutional reforms because the people had no part in amending it. According to the opposition, the king’s powers are so great under the new constitution keeping the country far from becoming a constitutional monarchy.

Morocco
Morocco

Based on the draft of the new constitution that has been announced by the king –and amended by a special committee chosen by the king himself- more power has been given to the prime minister and the parliament.

For example, the king will have to seek the prime minister’s approval to dismantle the parliament and vice versa. Also, the king would have to select the prime minister from the party that has won a majority in parliament through popular elections. In the new constitution a large number of incentives are given to the people who speak the Amazigh language.

Despite the fact that Islam is the official religion of Morocco the king has called himself the ‘commander of the faithful’ and nobody is allowed to oppose it. The king is allowed to interfere in selecting ministers, military commanders, and other national figures. Under the current constitution the king has ‘spiritual’ position.

Based on the draft of the new resolution the king will share some of his power with the parliament and the cabinet but he will still be able to enjoy unchallenged power in other areas.

This is a source of disagreement between him and the Moroccan youth in the February 20 Movement who are calling for an independent counsel to carry out the reform. They want to be able to choose the members of the counsel themselves in a free election. The opposition believes the people currently have no say in reforming the constitution.

Government media has already started their campaign to encourage people to come to the polls and vote in favor of the reforms. One can only wait and see what the Moroccan people will vote for. Unlike the current constitution, which gives the king absolute power, the new constitution opens a new door to the inclusion of people in the governance of their country through electoral processes.

Aside from the constitution and the demand for a constitutional monarchy, where the king plays a ceremonial role, financial corruption and political favoritism is another reason why the Arab Spring reached Moroccan soil.

The method of implementing and guaranteeing the execution of the constitution is more important than the constitution itself. There are concerns that Morocco’s king would try to bring his intended prime minister to power.

Before announcing the draft constitution, people’s protests in Morocco did not face the government’s harsh reaction like in Syria or Libya. It is not clear what reaction the king will show if people vote against the constitution in the upcoming referendum. Or if the opposition will accept if the results are positive?

Whatever result the referendum produces, it will be important for the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council, which in its last meeting invited two other monarchies, Jordan and Morocco, to join the organization. The establishment of a Monarchy Association in the Arab world was interpreted as an attempt by these countries to safeguard themselves against the storm of changes.

Jordan adjoins Saudi Arabia and can be connected to the (P)GCC by using political interests as an excuse, but Morocco is on the other side of the Arab world, and its new constitution will increase its distance from Persian Gulf’s autocratic states.

The King of Jordan Abdullah II is also under pressure from people to change the country’s political establishment and hold free elections so that governments are no longer the puppets of monarchy.

Changes in Jordan and Morocco would be welcomed by the US and Europe, and according to media reports American diplomats often visit the palaces to encourage Jordanian and Moroccan kings to make changes.

Jordan’s geographical position, which shares a border with Israel and the future state of Palestine, increased the White House’s sensitivity towards the issue.

Governmental reforms and guided democracy in Jordan rather than popular movements and regime change are necessary for the US.

Differences in views and interests between the US and Saudi Arabia regarding political changes in the Arab World are evident. Although in his Middle East address, US President Barack Obama intentionally did not mention Persian Gulf emirates and only referred to Bahrain, probably these states will be pressured by the US to begin voluntary reforms.

It will not be long before Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud regrets inviting the Jordanian and Moroccan kings. Any kind of change in Jordan and Morocco is not desirable for the (P)GCC which houses autocratic monarchies.

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