Conflict & Justice

Morocco: the king's speech


King Mohammed VI of Morocco waves to crowds during Throne Day Celebrations at the Royal Palace on July 31, 2006 in Rabat, Morocco.


Chris Jackson

Morocco’s King Mohamed VI promised greater political reform in a televised speech to the nation on Friday night, announcing a draft constitution that would limit the powers of his country’s 400-year-old monarchy.

The new constitution – which will be voted on in a national referendum set for July 1 – grants more authority to the nation’s elected parliament and prime minister.

Here are some of the key elements proposed in the king's speech (full text here):

  • Morocco’s prime minister will be chosen by the political party with the greatest representation
  • The PM will now serve as the official “head of government”
  • Plans for greater accountability of public officials
  • The constitution will also create a "youth council" to look at the problems young Moroccans are facing, such as high unemployment among graduates. 

Moroccans celebrated in the streets throughout the country after the king’s historic speech, which also proposes that the Berber language of Tamazight be made an official national language.

But some in the North African state are skeptical.

King Mohamed’s proposal will leave the monarchy with nearly complete control over the country’s armed forces and its religious authority.

Some pro-reformers believe the king is making only “cosmetic” changes to the constitution.

“We are basically moving from a de facto absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy,” activist Najib Chawki told the Guardian.

The king’s speech was intended to quiet a growing chorus of young activists who are demanding greater political reform in the North African state – but so far, it seems to have failed.

"The unveiled constitutional amendments are undoubtedly progressive, but they are insufficient to satiate popular demands for reform. The King remains to have almost indefinite ruling powers,” wrote Mustapha Ajbaili, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English.

Activists from the opposition February 20 Movement, named after the date when Morocco's 'Arab Spring' demonstrations kicked off earlier this year, have called for even more protests on Sunday, according to the BBC.

Demonstrations in Morocco have been largely peaceful, but some injuries occurred last month after police forces used wooden batons to quell unrest.  A man died of wounds sustained in protests earlier this month, reported the Associated Press.  

One blogger has created an online map of the protests taking place across Morocco on Sunday night.