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Morocco Implements a New Constitutional Phase, Continuing to Move Ahead of Trends

Morocco Implements a New Constitutional Phase, Continuing to Move Ahead of Trends

Rabat, Morocco --- November 24, 2011 ... With the Middle East in many areas in political flames, Morocco is doggedly pursuing its evolutionary yet dramatic governance reform process which ranges from giving more self-rule authority to the country’s diverse regions to profound Constitutional reforms aimed to adapt to the changing times.

On March 9, 2011, King Mohammed VI, in a major speech to the nation, announced "the next phase of the advanced regionalization process" which is aimed to strengthen Morocco’s "democratic development model" and bring about "the substantial revision of the Constitution" which would, in turn, serve as the foundations for "comprehensive reforms" the King has said that he intends to initiate. The King cited the immense progress and "accomplishments in the area of promoting democracy" as the reason for his decision "to start enshrining advanced regionalization in the Constitution".

The "constitutionalization of regionalization" would be based on several key guidelines:

* Give the region its rightful place in the Constitution as a territorial entity, within the framework of the unity of the State, the nation, and the territory, keeping in mind the requirements of balance and national solidarity at inter- and intra-regional levels;

* Stipulate that regional councils would be elected through direct universal suffrage, and that regional affairs would be run in accordance with democratic principles;

* Empower the presidents of regional councils — instead of governors and walis — to implement council decisions;

* Promote the participation of women in the management of regional affairs in particular, and the exercise of political rights in general; in this respect, the law should favor equal access by women and men to elected office;

* Review the composition and powers of the House of Councilors thoroughly and in such a way as to enhance the regions’ representation in the House. As regards the representation of trade unions and professional organizations, it remained guaranteed by several institutions, particularly the Economic and Social Council, the aim being to rationalize the performance of institutional bodies.

Significantly, the key element of the process further empowered Morocco’s diverse population base — a tapestry of tribes, nations and religions spreading between the shores of the Mediterranean in the north and the border with Mauritania in the south — to better express their unique heritage, culture, and distinction with a wider self-rule within single unified Morocco.

"Our ultimate objective is to strengthen the foundations for a Moroccan regionalization system throughout the Kingdom, particularly in the Moroccan Sahara provinces. It should be based on good governance which guarantees a new, more equitable system for sharing not only powers, but also resources between the central authority and the regions," the King stressed. At the same time, however, there will be no special treatment to any part of the country. All Moroccans — from the Mediterranean to the Mauritanian border — will enjoy and benefit from the greater freedoms and self-determination accorded by the unfolding "constitutionalization of regionalization" reforms.

"What I do not want is a ‘two-speed’ regionalization, with fortunate regions that have the resources required for their progress on the one hand, and underprivileged regions lacking the requisites for development, on the other," the King stressed.

 To ensure the irreversibility of the regionalization process, the King resolved to enshrine it in the

Moroccan Constitution. Toward this end, the King decided to make "the regionalization process" an integral and central component of "a comprehensive constitutional reform which is designed to upgrade and revamp state institutions". The King announced that he "decided to introduce a comprehensive package of constitutional amendments based on the seven key elements below:"

1. Enshrine in the Constitution the rich, variegated yet unified character of the Moroccan identity, including the Amazigh component as a core element and common asset belonging to all Moroccans;

2. 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 — especially by inscribing, in the Constitution, the Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s well-founded recommendations as well as Morocco’s international commitments in this domain.

3. 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 law;

4. Strengthen the principle of separation of powers, with the relating checks and balances, and promote the democratization, revamping and rationalization of institutions through the following:

* A Parliament emerging from free, fair elections, and in which the House of Representatives would play the prominent rôle; expand the scope of legislative action and provide Parliament with new powers which would enable it to discharge its representative, legislative, and regulatory mission;

* An elected government which reflects the will of the people, through the ballot box, and which enjoys the confidence of the majority of the House of Representatives;

* 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;

5. Shore up constitutional mechanisms for providing guidance to citizens, by invigorating the rôle of political parties within the framework of an effective pluralistic system, and by bolstering the standing of parliamentary opposition as well as the rôle of civil society;

6. 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; and

7. Enshrine in the Constitution the institutions concerned with good governance, human rights, and protection of liberties.

In order to implement these far-reaching reforms, the King announced the formation of a special committee to write the new Draft constitution. This would be "an ad hoc committee for the revision of the Constitution" which would be chaired by Mr Abdeltif Mennouni, one of Morocco’s leading legal and constitutional experts. The ad hoc committee was expected to report back to the King by June 2011. Once the new Draft Constitution was completed, it would be submitted for the people’s approval via referendum, and only then — assuming it was accepted — for adoption and implementation by the Government and Parliament.

In his conclusion of the speech, King Mohammed VI highlighted the historical significance of the evolutionary character of Morocco’s governance reform process.

"The launching, today, of this constitutional reform is a milestone in the consolidation of our distinctive model which is based on democracy and the pursuit of development."

Indeed, these new reforms are an integral part of the long-term process of "thorough institutional reform" initiated by King Mohammed VI soon after his ascent to the Throne in July 1999.

The current phase of the process can be traced to the aftermath of the parliamentary elections of

September 7, 2007. These elections were a major step in the modernization and democratization campaign initiated and led by King Mohammed. Rabat committed to domestic reforms — particularly democratic reforms and individual rights — as the cornerstones of the country’s ascent into the 21st Century.

With a democratically-elected Parliament in place, it became imperative for Morocco to complete implementation of the King’s domestic reforms process. On November 6, 2008, King Mohammed delivered a major speech commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Green March. The King announced the next phase of reforms which Morocco would embark on in the near future. These would be most important domestic and governance reforms.

The crux of the speech articulated the King’s decision that Morocco resolved to unilaterally implement the "sophisticated process of regionalization" which would ultimately provide all Moroccans with a new system of local governance.

Given the immense diversity of the population of Morocco, the new policy of regionalization would enable all Moroccan to better secure and express their distinction and traditions within the framework of unified yet diverse Morocco. In practical terms, the King talked about granting more powers to the local governments — that is, municipalities and regional councils — so that they could adapt to the distinct character and traditions of each and every population group and region of the country. Essentially, the King announced the launch of a process of profound domestic reforms in Morocco, both structurally (redistricting) and governance-wise (regionalization).

The King stressed that Morocco could no longer postpone domestic reforms until there was commensurate progress in the international arena.

"Whatever the developments concerning our national cause at regional or international level, Morocco will continue to rely on itself and uphold its legitimate rights. It will remain vigilant and mobilized and will preserve the cohesion and unity of the internal front, which is the source of our strength," the King said. Therefore, the King explained, "Morocco cannot afford to remain idle; nor can it allow the country’s development and democratic process to be subject to the tactics and maneuvers of others."

As a result, the King announced on November 6, 2008, that he had decided "to open a new page in the ongoing reforms" he had been spearheading.

Toward this end, Morocco "shall soon be launching a gradual, sophisticated process of regionalization which will cover all parts of the Kingdom, especially the Moroccan Sahara region".

Significantly, the reform program would apply equally to all Moroccans: as he said, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Mauritanian border, and from the Atlantic coast to the Algerian border. The King stressed the significance of the reform process and outlined the roadmap for the nation.

Taken together, the reform process the King announced constitutes a major stride toward further democratization and greater freedoms — both personal and communal — for all Moroccans. The King concluded that "whatever the circumstances, the Kingdom of Morocco will remain true to its cultural identity as an open nation, encouraged and inspired by the credibility enjoyed by the Moroccan model at regional and international levels."

The King’s preference, expressed in 2007 and 2008, for a gradual and measured implementation of the far-reaching reforms was soon proven correct. The structural reforms — that is, the redistricting of Morocco — were completed by Summer of 2009. The success of the reforms were immediately put to the test and confirmed in the local elections of June 12, 2009. The election was professionally conducted and clearly reflected the public’s involvement in, and commitment to, the reform process. Hence, with the redistricting phase successfully completed and proven through the exceptionally successful elections of June 2009, it was time to undertake the more important and challenging component of the King’s reform process: the governance-wise regionalization reforms.

And so, on January 3, 2010, the King announced the launching of the next phase in Morocco’s progress toward modernization and democratization without losing its unique character as one of the world’s oldest monarchies.

The next challenge would be the implementation of the "sophisticated, national regionalization model" starting the Summer of 2010. Toward this end, King Mohammed addressed the nation on January 3, 2010, and announced the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Regionalization in order to formulate the future structure of the Kingdom. "This is a watershed moment, the start of a structural project which, hopefully, will mark a turning point in territorial governance," the King stated. The King stressed that the establishment of the committee was "the beginning of a new dynamic towards a thorough institutional reform. Viewed from this angle, the extensive regionalization we want to achieve is not a mere technical or administrative procedure, but rather a major initiative for the overhaul and modernization of state structures and for the achievement of integrated development."

The committee’s mandate was "to draw up a general plan for a sophisticated, national regionalization model, covering all of the Kingdom’s regions," which would be submitted to the King. Morocco continued to grapple with the quest for the right balance between the national unity represented by the historic monarchy and the diversity of the population: a tapestry of tribes, nations and religions cohabiting a geographically diverse country stretching from the densely populated urban north to the vast and empty Sahara in the south. Therefore, the King explained, the Committee’s task would be "to develop a [Moroccan] typical national regionalization system and avoid mere imitation or replication of other countries’ experiences". The King emphasized that Morocco "is one of the world’s most longstanding monarchies. Throughout the ages, the Moroccan monarchy has remained the guarantor of national unity."

The new regionalization initiative thus heralded Morocco’s "taking bold, national stances or devising innovative responses to crucial issues facing the nation".

So, in his January 3, 2010, speech King Mohammed VI articulated that the forthcoming reform would be a major national challenge which would chart Morocco’s future character. He urged all Moroccans "to be acutely aware of the stakes involved in the crucial area of broad-based regionalization". Ultimately, Morocco’s "national ambition is to move from fledgling regionalization to advanced, democratic, development-oriented regionalization," the King explained.

The King concluded by reiterating his "objective of making extensive regionalization the institutional pillar of the Moroccan state; an institution-based state that upholds the rule of law, fulfills the requirements of good governance and concomitantly defends not only the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation, but also the right of each and every Moroccan to dignity and responsible citizenship in a united, secure, advanced, solidarity-based country".

Now, as the King noted in his March 9, 2011, speech, the new phase of reforms was indeed based on the report of the Advisory Committee on Regionalization. "On 3 January 2010, I had asked the Committee to prepare a general conception for an advanced Moroccan regionalization model," the King reminded. The further formulation of "this general plan [in order] to bring it to maturity through a wide-ranging, constructive national debate" was consistent with the King’s address on August 20, 2010. In this speech, the King explained that "building on the progress achieved with respect to decentralization, [he] launched the major project of advanced regionalization in order to promote good governance at local level and press ahead with integrated development." Toward this end, he instructed the Committee "to come up with the broad lines of a typically Moroccan system of advanced regionalization that takes into account the realities and specificities of our country."

The conclusions and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Regionalization now serve as the basis for the next round of reforms. On February 21, 2011, the King ordered the organization of the Economic and Social Council. Chakib Benmoussa, who as Interior Minister oversaw the beginning of the implementation of the King’s regionalization and democratization reforms, was nominated by the King as Chairman of the Council.

As is the case in all Western democracies, free and fair parliamentary and local / regional elections give the public venues to express their political opinions and affect both national and local issues. However, the emergence of fringe groups and interests as a result of the accelerated modernization and urbanization — some legitimate and some burning nonetheless — required additional attention and further study. And this is the mandate of the Economic and Social Council.

Morocco already has a combination of a traditionally-legitimate form of government with individual and political freedoms enabling all citizens to express their distinct regional and localized traditions. To further improve and consolidate this diversity while further improving democracy and independent judiciary, Morocco has "decided to undertake a comprehensive constitutional reform," King Mohammed VI said on March 9, 2011.

"Considering the accomplishments in the area of promoting democracy, Morocco is in a position today to start enshrining advanced regionalization in the Constitution in order to make sure that it will stem from the direct free will of the people."


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