Morocco’s King Mohamed VI has announced reforms to rewrite the country’s constitution and grant greater powers to elected politicians, including the prime minister and parliament. Activists in the youth-based February 20 movement immediately countered that the reforms are “not enough” — are indeed only cosmetic and do not allow for a “true separation of powers” — and have called for more protests on Sunday, says the BBC. Protesters are calling for “a truly democratic constitution and a parliamentary monarchy.”
Under the proposed reforms, the king still retains control over the military as well as other key power. He will still choose the prime minister, but must do so “from the party that wins elections to what, up until now, has been a largely rubber-stamp parliament,” according to the Guardian, which points out some additional limitations to the reform:
And analysts pointed out that while the prime minister would be in charge of domestic policy, he does so with the king’s permission and with the monarch still able to pass his own decrees.
“He is sharing some executive powers with the PM [but] still retains significant ones,” said the respected, if anonymous, Maghreb Blog on its Twitter feed. “The changes do nothing to his real discretionary, religious and military powers.”
The prime minister will also be considered the “president of the government” and be able to dissolve parliament.
The king also retains religious power. In Muslim Morocco, the king is the highest religious authority in the country. The proposed new constitution formalizes him in this role as the commander of the faithful with one slight change: The term “sacred” is no longer being used in the regard to the king, who is still considered “inviolable.”
The king also proposed to officially recognise Berber or Amazig as an official language, alongside Arabic. The Berbers make up some 60 percent of Morocco’s population and were its first inhabitants, but say they are widely discriminated against.
After the new proposals were announced by King Mohammed in a television address, the streets of Rabat were filled with cars displaying Moroccan flags and honking their horns. Some have welcomed the king’s speech and, noting that the proposals are “a major advance,” said that “the kingdom of Morocco has joined the list of democratic countries.” Nonetheless, says the Guardian:
Najib Chawki, a February 20 activist, said the constitutional reform draft “does not respond to the essence of our demands which is establishing a parliamentary monarchy. We are basically moving from a de facto absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy”.
Activists claimed that the reform programme initially introduced by King Mohamed, who brought in greater freedoms and improved women’s rights when he inherited the throne 12 years ago, had effectively ground to a halt.
Activists also reported on Twitter that at least one pro-democracy reformer had been attacked by pro-government supporters.
Protests in Morocco have been mostly peaceful so far. The proposals are to be put to a referendum on July 1, just two weeks away. As the Guardian reports, 44 percent of Moroccans are illiterate, so it is questionable about how fully all of the population will be informed in time for the referendum.
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Photo taken May 10, 2011, of the Feb 20 movement planning new protests by Magharebia.