From the Editors
On 1 July 2011, Moroccans went to the polls in a referendum promoted by King Mohammed VI to approve a new constitution to replace that of 1996. A vote of over ninety-eight percent, in an official turnout of over seventy-two percent, unsurprisingly approved the new text.
The new constitution supposedly represents a further step in the direction of establishing a liberal-democratic system and does indeed contain provisions to that effect. For instance there is now the explicit recognition that Morocco is a ”parliamentary constitutional monarchy,“ that national identity is pluralistic and not simply Arab and Muslim, and that, crucially, the figure of the King is no longer ”sacred.” but simply inviolable. In addition, the Parliament’s powers have been increased.
There is no doubt that the new constitution represents a concession to the Moroccan protest movement that emerged during the Arab Spring. Yet, this should not obscure the fact that the monarch strictly controlled and managed the whole reform process. In order to avoid further challenges to his authority and public role, Mohammed VI decided to pre-empt the most radical demands of the demonstrators such as the end to the monarchy’s executive role. He wanted to offer Moroccans a new charter that indicated the country was moving towards the establishment of democratic governance. With the vast majority of Moroccans approving the new constitution despite the 20 February movement’s calls to boycott the referendum, it seems that the monarchy has been able to end the debate about its primacy in the country’s institutional set up. Sectors of civil society, the vast majority of political parties, the trade unions and both the national and international press all supported the “yes” camp in the referendum, clearly suggesting that they still trust the monarchy to lead the reform initiative. While the provisions of the new constitution do represent a considerable change, critics have outlined that they are in no way radical or “democratic.”
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya's edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.
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