News / Africa

Moroccan King’s Speech Long on Reform Promises, Short on Details?

In this photo released by the Royal Palace, Morocco's King Mohamed VI flanked by his son Moulay El Hassan, left ,and his Brother Prince Moulay Rachid, right , listens to the national anthem after he delivered a speech to the nation, March, 9, 2011, at the
In this photo released by the Royal Palace, Morocco's King Mohamed VI flanked by his son Moulay El Hassan, left ,and his Brother Prince Moulay Rachid, right , listens to the national anthem after he delivered a speech to the nation, March, 9, 2011, at the

King Mohamed VI has sometimes been called “the King of the Poor” for the reforms he has instituted in that country since inheriting the throne from his father, King Hassan II,  in 1999.  He instituted wider media freedoms and allowed media to report on corruption; he released political prisoners and amended the country’s penal code to ban torture; he acknowledged the government’s responsibility for thousands of so-called disappearances and other past human rights abuses; and he compensated victims and their relatives.    

However, these gestures were not enough to guarantee Morocco’s immunity to the wave of discontent that has swept through North Africa since the beginning of the year.  Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, Moroccan youth began February 20 to stage street protests of their own.  

There is an important difference, however, between the uprising in Morocco and those in neighboring countries. Tunisians and Egyptians were calling for their leaders to step down.  Moroccan activists are calling for reform within the monarchy:  they want greater personal and civil freedoms;  they are advocating independent judicial and legislative branches;  they want something to be done about poverty which is most acute among rural populations.  And activists are insisting on an end to the nepotism and political corruption said to exist in the Crown’s own inner circle. 

Promises

In a speech televised on March 9, King Mohamed appeared to have listened to their demands. He announced he had appointed a committee of legal experts, charged with drafting draft amendments to the constitution. These, he said, would be put to a referendum in June.  He promised that the Prime Minister will in the future be elected, not appointed. 

He also promised to reinforce systems for, as he put it, “boosting moral integrity in public life". It was a clear allusion to corruption scandals that have peppered the press and were further underscored during the WikiLeaks scandal.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 23, 2011, during her meeting with Morocco's Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 23, 2011, during her meeting with Morocco's Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri

Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri was in Washington this week, reinforcing his country’s commitment to democracy. Responding to complaints that activists would not be included in the process of rewriting the constitution, he said that Morocco would take an inclusive approach to reform. 

“Everyone is invited to contribute,” he said. “The large majority of the main political parties participate and trade unions and many NGOs, including youth.  And then because his Majesty fixed the bar high, in terms of reforms, I am sure that there will be a large, large enthusiasm and a large majority of people will vote in favor of this reform.”

Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks last December cast accused the King and his inner circle of coercing and soliciting bribes in the country’s real estate sector.

Moroccan police officers arrest a demonstrator during a protest against government policy in Casablanca, March 13, 2011
Moroccan police officers arrest a demonstrator during a protest against government policy in Casablanca, March 13, 2011

Activists have since demanded that the King take action against cronies who have abused their positions. When asked whether such investigations might be forthcoming, Fassi Fehri responded simply, “No, no.”

He then added, “Morocco put its fingers on corruption, on justice reforms, on transparency many years ago.  And we work hard in respect of our law to go forward in this specific area.” 

Freedom, transparency

The Minister said that in the next month, many of the new reforms will be institutionalized and he stressed his personal commitment to transparency and freedom of competition among companies. 

However, some democracy advocates remain skeptical that the King will institute any substantial reforms, complaining that while the monarch was long on promises, he was a little short on details.   

Abdoubakr Jamai  is the former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Journal Hebdomadaire, one of Morocco’s most independent newspapers, it folded last year due to what at least one rights group termed financial stress and political pressure.   

“The speech remains ambiguous to many Democrats,” Jamai said, “because he [King Mohamed] claims that Morocco will usher in an era of democratization with the institution of a constitutional monarchy, with a Prime minister who will be designated from the winning party in parliamentary elections, with separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, et cetera.  The problem with all these things is that we were supposed to have them before.”

Jamai said that he did not believe the address was the speech of an institution happy to see democratization take hold; rather, it was the speech of an institution had lost some credibility and was being cornered into giving up some of its privileges.  

Democracy activists may be in the minority in Morocco, he added, but they are well organized and have many reasons to continue demonstrating.  “Because this minority is extremely committed, because Morocco is not a democracy, because there is such corruption, because there is such poverty in Morocco, because there is such social inequality and inequity in general, this minority in my opinion can only swell.  I don’t see it shrink[ing].”

If the Monarchy doesn’t consider more serious democratization soon, Jami warns, it could one day end up fighting for its very survival.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery US Storm Falls Short of Severe Predictions, Yet Affects Millions

NYC mayor says, 'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' yet blizzard warnings, travel bans remain for several East Coast states More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle with Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people were displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid