Morocco's Draft Constitution: Much Ado about Nothing
[By Arezki daoud | The North Africa Journal | firstname.lastname@example.org | US+508-981-6937] The Moroccan people are holding their breath on what's coming on the political front. Insiders involved in the political reform with front seat view of a proposed draft of the new constitution promised by the King say this one is a "game changer." Many even go as far as calling it "revolutionary." But how revolutionary is this draft document? For those seeking smooth transition to democracy, they are going to be hugely disappointed. In many critical areas, it seems as if the reform commission used a thesaurus to change words to make it sound like a real change is happening. But the reality is otherwise. The King will continue to rule, may be not so directly now yet certainly via proxy.
For example the King will now become the "Supreme Representative of the State," instead of the "Supreme Representative of the Nation." Well what does that mean in real terms? As far I can interpret, he will continue to call the shots no matter what, in fact solidifying the Monarchy's control of all State affairs.
Then it is said that the Amazigh language will be national language. Then again neighboring Algeria has had the Amazigh language recognized in its constitution for several years. Yet, a visit to Amazigh land in the Kabylie region of Algeria and one can see blatant discrimination against the Amazigh people in the hands of those who represent the State. So let's not be fooled, recognizing Amazigh language means nothing if not followed with actions on the ground and that means economic resources to those people.
Now further into language semantics: the draft constitution proposes to erase the term Prime Minister and replace it by President of the Government (President du Gouvernment). Let's be real here, this is just a exercise in synonyms shifting and if the King is the "Supreme Representative of the State," changing the name would mean nothing, except that one person will be called Mr. President. Furthermore, the famous Article 19 is maintained with some changes called by the authors as "revolutionary" as well, but which I consider window dressing. Article 19 still insists that the King is the Commander of the Faithfull because of the "historical legitimacy" to the benefit of the Monarchy, whatever that means. But the draft constitution says the King can remain source of new laws (called Dahir) but only in religious matters. That may be true, yet the fact that no movement by the new President can be made without Royal consent is indicative that the King will continue to call the shot and will make decision by proxy.
OK I don't mean to be all negative. I do recognize that the fact that Mr. President will come from the political party with the highest number of votes in the legislative elections is somewhat a better idea that what we have been used to. In this case, the President may be more tempted to report to the voters and that's a good thing. But something suggests that we are not getting the full story. What's the link between the President and the "Supreme Representative of the State." Is the latter like the British monarch? Or does he (always a man) have the ability to impose policies and government decision. The truth is the real power still remains that of the King.
Still on the positive front, the cabinet and the Walis (Provincial Governors) will be appointed by the President. How this will happen and what is the role of the Monarchy remains to be seen as well. One more problem in this picture is about the other proposed idea of decentralizing government put forth by the King himself, an idea that calls for the regions to decide on who would govern them at the local level. If the President is now trusted to appoint the Walis, with Royal consent, then should we expect the King's regionalization initiative to be scrapped?
Well, here's the truth: nothing the President will want to do would happen without the explicit agreement of the King. That's been in the constitution forever, and it is in the proposed "revision." And so we are back to square one.
As for the parliament, its legislative coverage will theoretically expand from 9 areas to 40. The Chamber of Representatives will be able to form Commissions of Inquiries if 20% of its members agree. Motions to Censure and the removal of the government can be approved with only 33% of the body. Personally, I think this is excessive, a policy clearly meant to weaken the President and his cabinet. Here again, the Executive branch is stuck between the Monarchy, without which nothing can be done, and the Parliament, which acts as a deadly threat that can clearly be used by the King to reset the agenda and remove the threat, if any.
Meanwhile, it appears the Monarchy is slated to gain some more power, ironically in the name of "less power." For instance the Justice Minister will no longer preside on behalf of the King over the nation's highest judiciary body, the Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature (CSM). Instead, the function will swing back to the Monarchy. But the good news there is that female judges for the first time will be allowed to join the CSM, and so we give the Commission some credit on that front.
How will these changes be greeted in Morocco? Very simple: millions will be disappointed and their fight for democracy will go on. Millions of others, typical conservative pro-Monarchists will support it, calling it "revolutionary." Outside of Morocco, the typical reactions from the likes of Paris and Washington would be the usual congratulatory statements of a democracy on the move, and some in these governments will privately express their displeasure for the lack of progress, but only privately.
In the final analysis, unless the King comes forward with new changes in draft 1, we are anticipating sustained tension on the Moroccan political scene going forward, not the likes we see in Siyria or Yemen, but much more subtle movements. The momentum built by the youth pro-democracy movement will not slow and might be reignited by these latest announcements. We conclude that at this stage the response of the commission appointed by the Monarchy as lackluster as a lot more remains to be changed.