The King's Speech: Good Start but Incomplete!
[By Arezki Daoud | email@example.com | 508-981-6937 | Twitter: @northafrica] Under pressure from the street, the King of Morocco Mohamed VI recently gave a highly anticipated speech on his political reform agenda. Although no doubt the speech provided some positive news, deflating popular pressure, and moving Morocco one step forward, many more steps are needed to fulfill and comply with the legitimate demands of Morocco’s youth and the pro-democracy movement.
As Morocco builds its next roadmap, it will not be easy to get full consensus on the country's upcoming political landscape because pressure to keep the status quo is immense. Morocco is a long-established nation with deeply-rooted rules and so changing direction will lead to possible disruptions. Indeed many interest groups, including the so-called Makhzen, have benefited from the Morocco of pre-2011 and will resist the call for reform. We have already seen that resistance materialize through the King's own speech and his subsequent appointment of a conservative figure to lead the reform process. Putting conservative and reform in one sentence shows how contradictory the system can be.
The speech provided some ideas of where Mohamed VI wants to go, but the positive practical aspects of it were largely overshadowed and diminished by the lack of substantive targets on the fundamental factors of human dignity. The speech focused on practical territorial management and a reshuffling of the executive chairs. Emphasis was given to the need of regionalization, decentralizing governance and empowering the regions to handle their own affairs. While the broad idea of regionalization and decentralizing governance is a welcome one, it does not rise to the level of importance of enshrining human rights, women rights, free speech, free press, free practice of religion (or not), and all other factors that enhance human dignity, areas that have not been fully discussed by Mohamed VI in his speech.
Although good in what it seeks to achieve, regionalization is more suitable for countries with massive ethnic problems like Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire where the ethnic, tribal and religious divisions are source of misery. At 274,460 square miles, Morocco is about the size of the US State of Texas, where the governance system does not call for the type of regionalization the King is proposing for his country. Beside, Moroccans from Tangiers in the extreme north to Tarfaya in the south, and even when including the disputed territory of the Western Sahara, their ethnic makeup does not justify an advanced regionalization. So as the King makes proposals, creative ideas remain missing. It is still about how the executive branch will work and how the regions will operate, but not enough is being said about the human factor at the individual level.
Could this stance be anticipated? Yes indeed. It would be naïve to think the Monarchy is going to challenge its own "prerogatives" after being in power for such a long period of time. The Alaoui dynasty of Mohamed VI has been in place since it replaced the Saadi dynasty in the mid 17th century. In power since then, the monarchical system will have a substantial say in what's coming next. While wanting to give more to the people, degrading its powers will not be easy to achieve without a big political fight.
But as the process moves forward and the debate launched, let's give Mohamed VI the benefit of the doubt. He is after all from a new generation that identifies itself with modernism, democracy, the rule of law, and high-speed communications. He also knows that this is the kind of environment that is also toppling regimes at the speed of the Internet. And so a new paradigm shift has to be introduced soon in Morocco to prevent future conflicts. And as he said in his speech “I call on everyone to continue contributing to this general plan to bring it to maturity, through a wide-ranging, constructive national debate,” well then, let’s start the debate. In this early engagement from the Moroccan monarch, some of our first reactions to what was proposed. The broad themes of Mohamed VI’s ideas include…...Continue here | Not a subscriber? follow this link | Join our mailing list.