Morocco: A King’s revolution

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Though Libyans are yet to achieve a democratic revolution, the wave of pro-democracy ideologies blowing across the Arab world has forced Morocco to revise its constitution for the first time in 15 years, aiming to strengthen democracy. Morocco has so far avoided the unrelenting unrest that brought down regimes in fellow North African countries Tunisia and Egypt.

The monarch of Morocco King Mohammed VI flanked by his brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, and his 7-year-old son, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan told Moroccans’ in a unusual TV speech that a new committee would suggest constitutional revisions to him by June, and the overall project would be put to Moroccan voters in a referendum.

For so long, many labor unions, political parties and human rights groups have bellowed for changes to the constitution for years, and Article 19 has been one of their main targets.

The highly contested Article 19 largely underpins the near-absolute power that the king has in Morocco. It enshrines the monarch as “the defender of the faith” — Islam — and “guarantor of the perpetuation and the continuity of the state,” as well as respect for the constitution.

“By launching today the work of constitutional reform, we embark on a major phase in the process of consolidation of our model of democracy and development,” the king said.

The king said women’s rights and political participation would be strengthened, such as ensuring through law that men and women have equal access to elective positions.

There are plans to broaden individual freedoms, solidify the rule of law and strengthen human rights.

Analysts say King Mohammed is ready to make efforts aimed in part to devolve greater power to Morocco’s regions, improve the independence of courts, and ensure that the prime minister is selected by the majority party in parliament.

Early March, King Mohammed VI announced the creation of a new public agency for Human Rights. The National Council for Human Rights (Conseil national des droits de l’Homme — CNDH) replaced a previous board that had a purely advisory role. The decision came at the heels of demonstrations that took place in the northern African country on February 20, 2011. The event saw tens of thousands of people demanding reforms in the area of human rights.

While the news of more democratic Morocco appeals to Moroccans, King Mohammed has little to worry about in the way of full-fledged revolution as he enjoys broad admiration and respect, and few Moroccans question the monarchy system in place, which has existed for centuries.

Morroco remains an ally of both Europe and the United States under King Mohammed.

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