Saturday, June 18, 2011

Constitutional Reform in Morocco

Morocco’s King Alters Constitution

By Paul Schemm
The Associated Press
June 18, 2011

RABAT, Morocco — King Mohammed VI announced a series of constitutional reforms in a speech last night that he said will turn Morocco into a constitutional monarchy, though prodemocracy activists remain skeptical.

The new constitution elevates the prime minister to the “head of government’’ and ensures he is selected from the party that received the most votes, rather than just chosen by the king.

The prime minister also will have the new powers of choosing and dismissing Cabinet members and will be able to fill a number of other government positions, though the selection of the powerful regional governors will remain the king’s prerogative.

The king will also remain the supreme commander of the army and a new article formalized him as the highest religious authority in the country.

In addition, the king will continue to chair two key councils — the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Security Council — which make security policy.

Activists from the prodemocracy February 20 movement dismissed many of the changes, describing them as cosmetic.

“Before we had an absolute monarch, now we have an absolute monarch that is a pope as well,’’ said Elaabadila Chbihna.

The speech marked the culmination of a three-month review of the constitution at the order of the king after protests calling for reform swept the North African monarchy in February.

Morocco has long had a parliamentary system with dozens of parties, but they remain weak and many are beholden to the king and his advisers.

While the king remains popular in the country, there is deep dissatisfaction over the government and the advisers around the monarchy who are believed to be corrupt and rapacious.

The king said the reform “confirms the features and mechanisms of the parliamentary nature of the Moroccan political system’’ and laid the basis for an “efficient, rational constitutional system whose core elements are the balance, independence, and separation of powers, and whose foremost goal is the freedom and dignity of citizens.’’

The reforms also strengthen Parliament, allowing it to investigate officials with the support of just one-fifth of its members.

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