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Wednesday, 12 February 2014 12:00 AM

Morocco's "Arab Spring" - Reform of the Constitution, 2011

This article discusses the actions taken by the King following the protests in early 2011, discussed in the previous article. The latest changes in Government in 2013 and state of the 20th February Movement are discussed in our final article on this topic.

Holiday makers in Morocco were largely unaffected by these events, other than those near the infrequent demonstrations in major conurbations, which were largely peaceful.

The King initiates work on a New Constitution for Morocco – March 2011

Since 1996 the constitution of Morocco had remained unchanged, even after the enthronement of the King Mohammed VI (in 1999) and the significant reforms to government and society he implemented.

On 9th of March 2011, as a response to peoples’ demands in early 2011, the King declared the formation of a committee to work on a new constitution (to be concluded by June) that would subsequently be put to a national referendum.

Following that announcement, demonstrations continued to take place in 2011 and 2012. The 20th February Movement were not satisfied about the way that the members of the committee had been appointed and also continued to push forward the action on the announced reforms, reducing youth unemployment, and protesting against the rises in prices and police brutality during previous demonstrations. These demonstrations, although frequent, were relatively small and largely peaceful.

The New Constitution – June to November 2011

On 17th June the King announced the proposed constitutional reforms and, despite calls from the leaders of the 20th February Movement for a boycott (due to the undemocratic manner that the constitution had been drafted), the new constitution was passed by referendum on 1st July – officially with a 73% voted turnout and 98.5% “Yes” vote (disputed by some bodies). Despite some claims that the result of the vote was not reliable, even members of the 20th February Movement accepted that the overwhelming show of support indicated that their protests were now marginalised.

The main effect of the changes has been to:

·        Strengthen the role of the Prime Minister (he can now dissolve parliament).

·        Strengthen the role of the Parliament.

·        Strengthen the role of the parliamentary opposition.

·        Make Berber (Tamazight) an official language in Morocco

·        Combating corruption and bribery

The King ceded many powers in this shake-up but continues in his position as the chair of the Council of Ministers, as the military commander-in-chief, the chair of the Supreme Security Council and as the highest religious authority in Morocco.

On 30th July the King stated that the reforms should be put into effect swiftly, and that the national elections were subsequently brought forward from 2012 to November 2011.

Elections and a new Government, November 2011

On 25th of November 2011 the early elections were held and the moderate Islamist party, Justice and Development Party (PJD, a moderate Islamist party), came to power for the first time, under the Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. As it did not have an outright majority it formed a coalition with 3 other parties.

The government faced challenges, most significantly economically and socially, but Moroccans were optimistic for the future, and demonstrations all but ceased as the general populace were satisfied by the 2011 constitution and the changes that resulted, happy for time to be given to the government to take further action on the popular demands.