June 17, 2011 (Al Arabiya)
June 17, 2011 (Al Arabiya)
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI unveiled landmark reform proposals curbing his wide-ranging powers in a nationwide address on Friday night that came after widespread demands for reform.
“We have managed, three months after having launched a constitutional revision process, to develop a new democratic constitutional charter,” he said in a televised address to the nation, according to Reuters.
Morocco’s reformed constitution will make officials more accountable and will give the government greater powers, but King Mohammed VI will remain a key power-broker in the security, military and religious fields, according to the new proposals.
After facing the biggest anti-establishment protests in decades, King Mohammed VI in March ordered a hand-picked panel to conduct consultations with political parties, trade unions and civil society groups on constitutional reform with a brief to trim the monarch’s political powers and make the judiciary independent.
In the final draft of the reformed constitution, King Mohammed VI will keep exclusive control over military and religious fields and allows him to pick a prime minister from the party that wins parliamentary elections.
The 47-year-old monarch can still dissolve parliament but after consulting a newly-introduced Constitutional Court, of which half the members are to be appointed by the king.
Under the proposals drawn up by a reform panel appointed by King Mohammed VI in March, the prime minister will become the “president of the government,” according to the draft.
The prime minister will be chairing ministers’ council meetings. Such meetings can decide on the appointments of provincial governors—powerful representatives of the interior ministry at regional levels—and ambassadors, a prerogative currently exclusive to the king.
The prime minister will also be able to debate general state policy, according to the proposals.
The new “president of the government” will also be able to dissolve parliament, assuming another role previously accorded only to King Mohammed VI.
Among the new competencies of the parliament would be declaring a general amnesty, also currently only the king’s domain.
The judiciary would meanwhile be independent of the legislative and executive authorities. King Mohammed VI has until now headed the council that has appointed the country’s judges.
The king’s status in the constitution as “sacred” would be dropped but he would still hold the title of Commander of the Faithful, which makes him the country’s only religious authority.
The proposals, to be put to a referendum on July 1, follow nationwide pro-reform demonstrations inspired by other popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world.
The keenly awaited reforms are intended to transform the kingdom’s political system into a constitutional monarchy, as demanded by the February 20 Movement named after the date of its first nationwide pro-reform protests.
The youth-led group has brought thousands of people onto the streets in unprecedented calls for change, inspired by uprisings that toppled the autocratic rulers of Tunisia and Egypt in January and February.
Security forces drew international condemnation last month for using violence to break up a protest in the country’s biggest city, Casablanca, when scores of people were injured.
The reforms also foresee indigenous Berber becoming an official language alongside Arabic. This would be a first in the Maghreb region of north Africa.
The proposals also say Islam would remain the state religion but freedom of belief would be guaranteed while the king’s status as “holy” would be dropped.
Excerpted from Al Arabiya