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

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid