By Brahim El Guabli*
By Brahim El Guabli*
November 21, 2011
Morocco World News
As revealed in Part I, the major political parties in Morocco were not interested in constitutional reform prior to 2011. Three major developments have since taken place in North Africa and the Middle East, and imposed a reconfiguration of the political map in the region. The Moroccan politicians felt the need to act quickly and smartly after:
- The ouster of Ben Ali on January 14th after one month of popular demonstrations in the country which were started by the self-immolation by Mohammed Bouazizi whom a Tunisian civil society member called the “entrepreneur who liberated the Arab people”
- The beginning of the Egyptian uprising on January 25th which ultimately ended by the resignation of the president and a much waited for success of the civil peaceful uprising in the country.
- These inroads have inspired other people in the Middle East and in the Maghreb to take to the streets and demand more democracy and social justice (from Libya to as far as the Arabian Gulf).
- The foreign friends of the ousted regimes added insult to injury when they sided with the people’s will and even supported their demands for change.
It is within these conditions that February 20th Movement was born in Morocco. The movement defined itself as being made of: activists who demand reforms, human rights and political activists and reform-minded Moroccans who aspire to live in dignity in a free democratic society. The movement stressed its independence from all the organizations and political parties in the country.
It members developed a set of socio-economic, social and political requests whose meticulous analysis shows the primacy of a larger democratization in the country along with the consecration of social justice issues as a national priority. One of the first documents from the movement listed the following demands: the establishment of a new constitution that represents the popular will, the dissolution of the government and parliament, the establishment of a transitional government accountable to the people, an independent and impartial justice, bringing symbols of corruption, abuse of power and pillagers of public money and national wealth to justice, awarding Amazigh language and culture a constitutional status, immediate release of all political detainees and detainees of opinion and all activists that were arrested because of their activism , enlarging the spheres of freedom in the country, stopping the high cost of living (the Movement for the fight against the High Cost of Living initiated by AMDH in 2006 played a seminal role in this effort) and increasing salaries and universalisation of social services and welfare.
In order for the Februrary 20th Movement to be efficient in achieving its goals without being elitist or unrepresentative of the general Moroccan mood, it sought to garner support for its activism from all social and economic classes in the country, and especially among the youth. It also strove to keep its ideological independence vis-à-vis the political parties that tried to cannibalize its capacities and channel its activism from the outset to serve their political agenda. Their independence is so cherished for the activists in the movement that they never missed an opportunity to reiterate that they were not guided by the political ideology of any party. The specter of the Justice and Charity Group lurked around the movement and marred its name after members of the group allegedly occupied important positions within its structure.
The response of the Moroccan authorities to the requests emanating from the Moroccan youth did not take long. The Monarch addressed the nation in a televised speech on March 9th 2011. The entire speech was dedicated to the regionalization process that was initiated in the country which required a constitutional setting in order to implement the new provisions devised to enhance the local democracy. The King expressed his full awareness “of the immense challenges ahead, of the legitimate aspirations expressed, and of the need to preserve accomplishments and redress inadequacies”. He tasked an ad hoc committee under the chairmanship of Professor Abdellatif Mannouni to formulate a draft constitution by no later than June 2011, and provided the following guidelines, among others, for the new constitution:
- Enshrine in the Constitution the rich, variegated yet unified character of the Moroccan identity, including the Amazigh (Berber) component as a core element and common asset belonging to all Moroccans.
- Consolidate the rule of law and the institution-based State; expand the scope of collective and individual freedoms and guarantee their practice; promote all types of human rights – political, economic, social and cultural rights as well as those relating to development and the environment.
- Elevate the judiciary to the status of an independent power and reinforce the prerogatives of the Constitutional Council to enhance the primacy of the Constitution, of the rule of law and of equality before the laws.
- Strengthen the principle of separation of powers, with the relating checks and balances, and promote the democratization.
- Confirming the appointment of the Prime Minister from the political party which wins the most seats in parliamentary election, as attested by election results.
- Consolidating the status of the Prime Minister as the head of an effective executive branch, who is fully responsible for government, civil service and the implementation of the government’s agenda.
- Enshrining, in the Constitution, the Governing Council as an institution and specifying its prerogatives.
- Shore up constitutional mechanisms for providing guidance to citizens, by invigorating the role of political parties within the framework of an effective pluralistic system, and by bolstering the standing of parliamentary opposition as well as the role of civil society.
- Reinforce mechanisms for boosting moral integrity in public life, and establish a link between the exercise of power and the holding of public office with oversight and accountability.
- Enshrine in the Constitution the institutions concerned with good governance, human rights and protection of liberties.
Abdellatif Mennouni’s commission conducted large consultations with the major stakeholders in the country. The commission led wide consultations with civil society activists, political parties and representatives of all vital sectors before writing up the draft constitution which was submitted to the King in June as expected. Again the work of the commission was not the locus of unanimity among the different activists but, like any other political process, it created a healthy debate in the country. Moroccans were asked to vote in a referendum for the proposed reforms on July first. The Government claimed that the turnout was 72.65% and that a stunning majority of 97 percent of the voters adopted the tenth constitution in the Moroccan history, despite the fact that many components of the movement of Feb 20th Movement called for the boycott of the referendum. Now, Morocco has a new constitution that literally reproduces many of the elements contained in the King’s March 9th speech which laid down the roadmap for these reforms. To be continued....
*Brahim el Guabli is a professor and political analyst in the United States. Prior to relocating to the US, Brahim was involved in the Moroccan civil society for many years.
This is the text of Brahim El Guabli’s presentation at the panel discussion on the Moroccan Elections organized by Morocco World News and the Middle East Institute at Columbia University.
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