After 12 years in the throne and at a time of regional mobilization that has not left his kingdom untouched, Mohamed VI has announced today his intention to undertake a ‘comprehensive constitutional reform‘. According to his own words, he will give up part of his executive powers and will grant certain civil rights and freedoms in order to consolidate “our model of democracy and development“. It must be noted that the Constitution of 1962 (amended last time in 1996) establishes great powers for the Monarch, particularly reflected in the pompous article 19, which reads as follows:
The King, “Amir Al-Muminin”(Commander of the Faithful), shall be the Supreme Representative of the Nation and the Symbol of the unity thereof. He shall be the guarantor of the perpetuation and the continuity of the State. As Defender of the Faith, He shall ensure the respect for the Constitution. He shall be the Protector of the rights and liberties of the citizens, social groups and organisations. The King shall be the guarantor of the independence of the Nation and the territorial integrity of the Kingdom within all its rightfull boundaries.
The process of constitutional reform will be led by Abdelatif Mennouni, a constitutional expert well-known in the country for his devoted loyalty to the King. The process, as it has been framed, will be closely followed (and constrained) by the Head of State. The context in which this proposal is made does not leave much margin for hope. As documented by human rights organizations, Moroccan security forces committed murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and other forms of repression to civilians in the dismantling of the Gdaim Izik camp near Al-Aaiun (Western Sahara) last November. Nobody has been held accountable for these acts and the Moroccan Parliament manifested its intention to close definitely this episode and pretend it never happened. Morocco recently suspended Al Jazeera‘s operations in the country because the news network is not compliant enough. Freedom of association is regularly violated for those who dare to challenge any of the three main cornerstones of the Moroccan state: 1) the superiority of Islam, 2) the inviolability of the Monarchy and the Monarch, and 3) the territorial integrity of the country, which of course includes Western Sahara, a territory illegally occupied manu military by Morocco since the mid-1970s.
In fact, if Mohamed VI wants the international community to believe that he is really committed to the development of the Moroccan ‘model’ of democracy, he should ask the Saharawi people if they want to be part of Morocco or they prefer to live on their own in their own independent state. A referendum on this matter, promised by Morocco since 1991 and demanded by International law, would constitute the first truly democratic experience in Morocco. I’d really wish to be wrong, but I seriously doubt that Mohamed VI will be willing to hold human rights violators accountable, guarantee freedom of expression and association with all the implications therein, and respect the will of the Saharawi people. If he does not, a promise of a constitutional reform would only show that he is very scared with what has already happened to his ‘cousins’ in Tunisia and Egypt.
In the photo released by the Royal Palace, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI flanked by his son Moulay El Hassan, left,and his Brother Prince Moulay Rachid, right, listen to the national anthem after he delivered a speech to the nation. (AP Photo/Royal Palace/HO)