Thank You Your Majesty, But No Thanks.
Cooler heads prevail. Though it is now almost 48 hours after the King’s Speech, and it is still early to say, I have made my mind up on the very issue of constitutional referendum: I will be voting No, and depending on the date, I will do my best to be in Morocco and campaign there, to the best of my abilities, to convince my fellow citizens not to abstain, and to think carefully before they vote Yes.
My stand on the issue should not be construed as the typical moaning of a ‘professional complainer’, or worse, the dangerous plotting of a full-paid agent provocateur. It should however be considered for what it is: the logical conclusion of lucid expectations. And I should think my nihilism (to paraphrase our matchless Communications Minister and official Government Spokesman, Khalid Naciri) remains constructive (I would not agree with those calling for a boycott, though I am sympathetic to their action as we do have a great deal in common). The panel in charge of re-writing the constitution has been appointed– and as far as regular citizens are concerned, no one was consulted on these appointed panellists (many of whom are respected constitutional law professors, but with no proven record of baldness in terms of constitutional reforms. His Majesty and his counsel played safe by choosing dull people. For the disgruntled citizens like me, it is a disappointingly sad omen on the likely drafted constitution.
Before I start elaborating on why I have made my mind up very early, I should perhaps address a ‘methodological’ issue: I have already recorded feedbacks on such early pledge, and these are not very encouraging; In a nutshell, we should all be grateful to His Majesty to grant us, contumacious subjects, our wishes (by
the way, it was a delight to read or listen to artistic flip-flops. God Bless the Internet and the snapshots.) So now, dissident voices should rally behind and mute their concerns. That, in my opinion, destroys the very basic idea of democracy. This timid reform is a first step or rather a substantial step in a never ending democratic process. And I believe expressing dissident opinion does not weaken this process, but strengthen it instead. Would you imagine a dull campaign where everyone calls for ‘Yes’?
Now, back to the process itself: it is quite obvious that 3 months are not enough to debate a genuine constitutional reform, and if I had access to some inside intelligence, I would say that the document in question has already been drafted in its core dispositions, and the 3 months are just a time lag to ‘educate’ the public –and mute the dissidence- on the idea that this is a ‘frontier constitution’. Alternatively, I can put on my optimistic hat and praise this time period as whip-up for all interested citizens to get their heads together and come up with whatever necessary or useful as a contribution to the debate.
Everyone of us, citizens at heart (and de facto subjects of the Crown) is eager to see that this reform unlocks the largest possible set of Royal prerogatives, so as to move from a constitutional monarchy (with virtually all executive powers concentrated in the hands of the King) to a parliamentary monarchy (where power resides effectively in the hands of the Moroccan people and their elected representatives). This commission is unlikely to deliver on the reforms front, not the least because its legitimacy is not popular, and the panellists are also likely to play safe and push for an upgraded version of the last constitution (1996). Under the assumption that the draft has not been prepared yet, It would have been best to table a longer time period (say a year instead of 3 months) and with a larger and more diverse commission (come to think of it, a constitutional convention is a much bolder, albeit much less expected move) whose members would not be restricted to an assembly of law scholars.
We still have 3 months to go. And when this commission presents its findings to the King and to the People, those of us who care about such things are presented with three alternative courses of action: either accept the draft and call for an affirmative vote, refuse the proposed constitution and vote no, or refuse the whole thing and refuse even to show up to the ballot. As a show of good faith -and an extraordinary effort in looking optimistic on my part- I will do my best to campaign intelligently for a ‘No’ Vote. Boycott, in my opinion is likely to undermine its goals more than it would help (the pro-boycott and I are of one mind on the undemocratic selection and outcome of such commission, that goes without saying)
Why vote no: as it happens, I have been involved with a certain political apparatus that has been remarkably constant and faithful to the concept of a constitutional reform. The Moroccan radical left has always been critical of the ‘the granted constitution’ and this stalwart stand on principles should be underlined when compared to the spineless, obsequious and unimaginative stand of mainstream political parties, who suddenly champion these reforms as ‘necessary’ and ‘beneficial’. I think a ‘No Vote’ or a boycott are only remaining faithful to their proclaimed principles.
My minimal set of reforms is unlikely to be matched. It simply means that I am not going to be satisfied with the draft constitution tabled for popular referendum, and as such, I would vote against it. This is democracy 101: I don’t agree, ergo I vote against. Any Belkhayat-style anathema implying I would be a traitor to the King and to the Nation should be dismissed as incoherent and shallow dithering of flip-floppers and opportunists.
A friend and fellow blogger expressed his concerns about the campaign itself, and I fully share them: are people like me be allowed to express their views on the public media outlets? Am I guaranteed that, if I ever was on the street, distributing leaflets and engaging with citizens to convince them not to vote in favour, no one will threaten my physical integrity? In short, will my voice be heard and not suppressed? And in a sense, it is worrying that I should ask these questions: I blog in English, and many of the issues I post about are not of the bread and butter kind of issue, but what would happen if I decide to go off-line and engage with other Moroccans in Morocco?
What is to be done, then? First, I will try to do what the commission is doing: draft my own recommendations on the upcoming reforms, simply as a passionate citizen doing their best to make their voice heard on the internet, democracy lives by informed and diverse opinions.
Second, we need a target for No-voters. The good news is, such popular consultation is not one about outright majorities, and the symbol it embodies has a far greater reach than the actual result: I should like to think that a minimal figure of 30-40% ‘No’, though a minority at the end of the day, is too high a figure for the Monarchy and its courtesans to parade around the ‘undying union between the People and the King’ line. Such figure would genuinely show that a sizeable chunk of the population wants some change, real change. And as long as nihilists like me are allowed to express freely their views on the field, as long as everyone play by the rules, the referendum outcome could bring some surprises.