The Kingdom of Morocco is among few North African Muslim nations to have been spared the ongoing civil unrest in the region, but outright rejection of constitutional proposals by the youthful majority poses great challenges to the future of the Mediterranean country.
Ahead of July 1, 2011 snap Referendum to approve new constitution reform proposals last Friday by hereditary Head of State King Mohamed VI, the youth–based February Movement on Sunday called for nationwide protest after rejecting some constitutional proposals. In the proposals, the King agreed to curb his political powers, pledging to build a constitutional monarchy with democratic parliament.
The King retains virtual hold of religious power and remains Commander of the Faithful. Furthermore, he would retain several roles such as heading Army and appointing Diplomats, while retaining the right to name top officials in strategic positions. The Prime Minister, now to be called the President of the Government, will have the power to appoint ministers and to dissolve parliament, which was hitherto the monarchs’ prerogative.
The proposals by the 47 years old monarch, who took over the power of over the world’s Arab longest serving dynasty in 1999, have received international endorsement from European Union Vice President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle.
“We welcome the King of Morocco’s announcement of the main elements of the new Constitution that will be submitted to referendum on July 1, 2011. It is a significant step and signals a clear commitment to democracy and respect for human rights. The proposed constitution touches on key elements of reform and modernization, such as separation of powers, strengthening the government’s role, judicial independence, regionalization and equality of rights between men and women”, they said in a joint statement.
They say once fully implemented, it would be a major step forward reforms already initiated by Morocco. They say that the proposed constitutional reform is in line with the ambitions of the Advanced Status in the relations between Morocco and EU and the latter is ready to support Morocco’s efforts to implement such far-reaching reforms.
Despite international endorsement, the constitutional proposals have failed to excite some young Moroccans. The February twentieth Movement- inspired by other popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world, has been calling nationwide pro-reform demonstrations since February 20th, 2011, hence the name of the movement.
The Movement is demanding far reaching political reforms. It has already galvanized young people in the cities of Casablanca, Marrakesh, Tangiers and Fez to have change and to fight corruption. “The constitutional plan as proposed by the King does not respond to our demands for a true separation of powers. We are definitely not going to endorse them,’ says February 20 Movement official Najib Chaouki.
Despite the uncertain political future Morocco, together with Mauritania, are the only countries which have expressed willingness to occupy the two seats reserved for Africa during the elections during 66th Session of United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New Yolk City in October 2011.