Monday, June 27, 2011

The New Constitution In Morocco

By Mohammad el-Ashab
It took the largest opposition party in Morocco over three decades to vote in favor of the amended constitution in 1996. And between the calls to boycott and oppose the previous constitutions, the National Union - whose name is now the Socialist Union –etched pages in the confrontation with the regime, ending with a historical agreement that turned the clock backward to the stage of fusion between the will of the king and the people.
The fact that the monarchy in Morocco constitutes an exception might be overlooked, considering that the revolution against the French colonial presence in the country broke out in its clearest forms when the colonialists exiled the ruling royal family. Moreover, the independence claims were linked to the return of royal legitimacy due to its religious, unification and historical symbolism. On the other hand, it was not odd to see the preamble of the new draft constitution – which embodies in the opinion of constitutional law scholars the constitutional spirit of the document – focusing on the multifaceted Moroccan identity.
Was it necessary to raise the question of identity again, after having experienced six constitutions since 1996? It is likely that the issue is related to the enhancement of principles extending beyond the political systems, in order to tap deep into the relations that affect the progress of the states, their components and history. Therefore, what the new draft constitution introduced, partly reflected the insistence on the principles, considering that states have principles, characteristics and abilities to ensure openness and development.
All constitutions demarcate the limits between and separate the prerogatives of the different powers, based on systems that maintain the balance and efficiency which draws its spirit – in democratic regimes – from the ballot boxes. Therefore, voting over the constitutional document is a key part of the democratic practice that has to be based on a set reference.
In the historical context, the breeze of the Arab spring fueled the monotonous gust and turned it into winds that swept the forts, legends and statues. It would thus be deficient to tackle the Moroccan experience at the level of the constitutional and political reform course without linking these reforms to preludes that prompted the transformations. The most prominent is probably the fact that the constitution amendment imposed itself on the day Moroccan Monarch King Mohammed VI ratified the regionalization system as a new mechanism to reallocate the prerogatives between the centralized state and its administrative and local surrounding, in addition to the fact that the proposal of the self-determination option to end the Sahara conflict carried a profound impact on the reconsideration of the state’s structure.
But beyond that, the reforms series in Morocco was seen over several stages. Firstly, it was necessary to bridge the gap between the regime and its oppositionists ever since the late King Hassan II realized he could not govern alone. And although he personally wrote – with his own hand - in the draft of the first constitution that the one-party system was banned, the road toward the instatement of political plurality was not paved with roses.
And when his successor King Mohammed VI noticed that his country’s history before he was enthroned featured dark points in the context of the political conflict which led Morocco to the highest levels of tension, he tried to improve the human rights records and introduced a new family code which recognized the principle of equality between genders. However, the success of the stage required additional efforts, namely the drafting of a new constitution based on the method of dialogue in which everyone participated, although some believed that the result was not satisfactory. This is part of the commitment to the democratic rules, based on which you can either approve or publicly reject any given step.
What is important now is not for the majority of the political and unionist figures in the opposition and the loyalist teams alike to proclaim their support of the new constitutional draft. Quite the contrary, the rise of some voices opposing it, such as the February 20 movement and the Justice and Charity Group, grant credibility to the debate that has become wide open. At this level, there is nothing better than drawing the lessons from history’s progression to assess the events and the positions.
Had the Socialist Union gone back in time, what would its position be toward the constitutions it opposed? The issue is not that simple but the taste of lemons can be mixed with the sweetness of honey, knowing that this mixture constitutes a traditional recipe to treat the flu.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 26/06/2011

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