Home > Democracy > Moroccan reforms go far, but “all or nothing” approach may be best

Moroccan reforms go far, but “all or nothing” approach may be best


Moroccan King Mohammad VI offered the most sweeping reforms of any Arab nation during this revolutionary period. But when you have a progressive nation and a leader willing to go this far, it’s hard for activists to accept big changes when they would still be leaving plenty on the table.

Reformers have acknowledged the King has gone far, but in doing so he may have sacrificed some bargaining leverage. With a few more tweaks limiting the King’s powers, the proposed Moroccan constitution could be a benchmark for the rest of the region — and it would be wise for reformers to push for that rather than accept the tempting constitution being dangled in front of them.

While other nations in the Arab world might have to settle for incremental improvement in governance because rulers are strongly resistant to change — using force in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen — King Mohammad appears benevolent. And while that is certainly honorable in what has been a dishonorable era of Arab leadership, King Mohammad’s willingness to bend but not break may ultimately spell his downfall.

Notably, many of the King’s most important powers do not change and will help keep corruption and greed institutionalized. He would still be the unquestioned commander of the military. He still would have wide authority over religious issues. He would appoint all ambassadors and diplomats, effectively putting him in charge of foreign policy and keeping cronyism intact. He also could dissolve parliament after discussions with a new constitutional court — half of which he would have appointed.

So while there are greater guarantees of a representative democracy and power sharing (see below), the King would still have broad power to appoint confidants and friends to powerful positions. Still, the proposed changes seem to be made in good faith.

By offering so much but failing to offer a wholesale reform of his own powers, King Mohammad has given demonstrators a solid starting point. What he failed to realize is these protests in the Arab world are as much negotiation as they are a showing of solidarity and resentment. By acquiescing so much but still retaining a bulk of his powers, the King has shown he is reasonable and that he understands what a functional and fair government should look like.

But that is not the type of government he is proposing. Yet the King has shown his hand, that he indeed understands how a parliamentary monarchy should work. He has thus set in motion a movement that will ask for nothing more than an honest government with a limited monarch.

A brief rundown on some of the changes, as reported by CNN.com:

The reform movement has called for the creation of a parliamentary monarchy, an end to the influence of the king’s inner circle and for a crackdown on corrupt officials. Spain and Britain are examples of a parliamentary monarchy.

If the draft is ratified in a referendum set for July 1, its most radical change would be empowering voters to select a prime minister, thereby ending the longstanding practice in which the king has selected his own man for the job. The prime minister has tended to take his lead from the sovereign on key matters of state.

If Moroccans back the draft, then the new prime minister would have new powers in decision-making and in day-to-day management — relieving the king of a number of duties and aligning the style of management along the lines followed by some European Union countries.

In an example of power sharing, the draft constitution empowers the prime minister to dissolve the House of Representatives, and stresses that the king shall consult him before announcing the dissolution of parliament.

 

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