The Moorish Wanderer

Wandering Thoughts Vol.10

Ah, we are living in interesting times. In the sense that it feels like someone was shopping at a Wal-Mart of history, and on the way out, messed everything up: Nuclear disaster in Japan, right? The Allies moving (again) into Libya? The French are getting all hot and heavy for Bir Hakeim (I suspect the French president is going to claim the well as the Rightful property of Gaullist France…) we in Morocco, going back to 1996 and discussing the constitution. And there are but a few odd things happening the very year I don’t know exactly what’s happening in my life in 6 months’ time (a thrilling feeling I haven’t experienced since 2007)

So, I had this idea (like they do in West Wing…) walking in the park -in a unusual bright day, where I live- and I suddenly hit upon it: why not make some local administrative positions elective? Like the Moqadem/’Arifa, Sheikh, Caïd, Super-Caïd and so on… will no longer be a low-grade civil servant from the Interior ministry, they would be, quite simply, elected citizens overseeing the borough, the village or small city. What a crazy idea, one might think. I bounced it off in twitter, and well… it was not a wild success. Nor was it a colossal failure. I did get a comment though. And a very sensible one: cost, accountability and efficiency were the three broad issues that might hinder such policy. But still, electing Pachas, Caïds and Mokadems, That’s an idea, isn’t it?

Cost encompasses elections and retribution to the new local elected representatives. Apparently, during the last local elections, Interior Ministry paid up to MAD 550 Million in miscellaneous expenses: logistics and campaigning shared about half the total cost each. Surely if local elections coincided with regional elections, costs in terms of logistics would be shared (thus it reducing by half) and since all public funding for political campaigning can be stopped, the whole operation actually saves money to the taxpayers. It might come to the cost of excluding small parties, but it also get all of them on a sink or swim basis. Those that would be excluded are not necessarily the small organization, but the inefficient (and corrupt) ones. I need to discuss it further of course, but that’s the general setting. What about payment to the elected locals? The solution is either to fund it with small local taxes, by an allocation of dirt-collecting taxes (computed on a joint formula of water consumption and real estate value, mainly), or a percentage of revenue from concessions to the private sector or private individuals (receipts from letting public property for instance), or, if these locals are part of a depressed area, a federal stipend. In fact, and under assumption that these locals have a job on the side, a minimal contribution of MAD 700 per month can keep overall cost to MAD 200 Million.

Accountability is part of the package too. As it happens, an elected Moqadem is less likely to behave like a little Caïd (no pun intended) when their neighbours are the ones that put him, and directly so, in their office. If anything, accountability and local democracy are strengthen with such measures.

Then comes the issue of efficiency: how can Morocco keep itself together, if there are no local branches of central authority? To be sure, we need to get past that French tropism. Caïds and Moqadems have never been endowed with such extensive powers. Their prerogatives are the inheritance of French colonial administration. As such, they should be stripped of these powers, and in the effort of giving back power to the people, instead of being abolished, transferred from administrative to elective power. There is however a more profound motivation for it. It has to do with the unhealthy grip the Makhzen has on local issues. By depriving it from local ends, citizens can topple it down, both from the top and the bottom: at federal level with strong government and parliament, and at local level by turning the local functionaries into elected officials. Do we need a central authority with micro-managing tendencies? Can’t the Moroccan people be trusted to deal with their day-to-day matters by themselves? ‘Associations de Quartier‘ are doing a fantastic job in many cities, and they can be an excellent benchmark for the kind of direct and local democracy that builds the very idea of a responsible citizen. That’s an interesting thought that is going to foster.

For all the talks about constitutional changes in Morocco, and by comparison to the whole region, dissidents are being very moderate in their claims. And yet, for many of our fellow citizens, these grievances are borderline lèse-majesté crimes, if not outright full treason. I assume that is so because of the unbearable lack of historical insight regarding these constitutional matters. Let us have a look at the constitutional process: in our post-1956 Morocco, we have had 5 large constitutional referendums; 1962, 1970, 1972, 1992 and 1996. And when one looks up the main articles shaping up every new constitution, there is ample justification why I remain doubtful of any substantial changes, and why this ground-breaking consultation disappointedly turns out not to be so. (if anything, the 1908 draft constitution was, in many respects,  a more liberal one). Just compare  1962 vintage with 1996 (to give you an idea of the scale of change the constitution went thourgh)

1962: Would you imagine that, since 1962, there still is no ‘organic law’ regulating strikes? Apparently, it’s a bad equilibrium the regime does not want to get legislation going (because it might be too repressive) and trade unions lose a leverage if things are clearly spelt out. Better keep it blurry; both sides agree on it.

Article 19.

Le Roi, « Amir Al Mouminine » (commandeur des croyants), symbole de l’unité de la nation, garant de la pérennité et de la continuité de l’État, veille au respect de l’Islam et de la Constitution. Il est le protecteur des droits et libertés des citoyens, groupes sociaux et collectivités.

Il garantit l’indépendance de la nation et l’intégrité territoriale du royaume dans ses frontières authentiques.

Article 20.

La couronne du Maroc et ses droits constitutionnels sont héréditaires et se transmettent aux descendants mâles, en ligne directe et par ordre de primogéniture de S. M. le Roi Hassan II. Lorsqu’il n’y a pas de descendant mâle, en ligne directe, la succession au trône est dévolue à la ligne collatérale mâle la plus proche et dans les mêmes conditions.

Article 21.

Le roi est mineur jusqu’à dix huit ans accomplis. Durant la minorité du Roi, un Conseil de régence exerce les pouvoirs et les droits constitutionnels de la couronne.

Le Conseil de régence est présidé par le parent mâle du roi, le plus proche dans la Ligne collatérale mâle et ayant 21 ans révolus, du recteur des Universités et du président de la Chambre des conseillers.

Les fonctions de membre du Conseil de régence sont incompatibles avec les fonctions ministérielles.

Les règles de fonctionnement du Conseil de régence sont fixées par une loi organique.

Article 22.

Le Roi dispose d’une liste civile.

Article 23.

La personne du Roi est inviolable et sacrée.

Article 24.

Le Roi nomme le premier ministre et les ministres. Il met fin à leurs fonctions, soit à son initiative, soit du fait de leur démission individuelle ou collective.

Article 25.

Le Roi préside le Conseil des ministres.

Article 26.

Le Roi promulgue la loi. Il peut la soumettre à référendum ou à une nouvelle lecture dans les conditions prévues au titre V.

Article 27.

Le Roi peut dissoudre la Chambre des représentants par décret royal dans les conditions prévues au titre V, articles 77 et 79.

Article 28.

Le Roi peut adresser des messages au Parlement et à la nation. Le contenu des messages ne peut faire l’objet de débats parlementaires.

Article 29.

Le Roi exerce le pouvoir réglementaire dans les domaines qui lui sont expressément réservés par la Constitution.

Les décrets royaux sont contresignés par le premier ministre, sauf ceux prévus aux articles 24, 35, 72, 77, 84, 91, 101.

Article 30.

Le Roi est le chef suprême des forces armées royales. Il nomme aux emplois civils et militaire et peut déléguer ce droit.

Article 31.

Le Roi accrédite les ambassadeurs auprès des puissances étrangères et des organismes internationaux. Les ambassadeurs ou les représentants des organismes internationaux sont accrédités auprès de lui.

Il signe et ratifie les traités.

Toutefois, les traités engageant les finances de l’État, ne peuvent être ratifiés sans l’approbation préalable du Parlement.

Les traités susceptibles de remettre en cause les dispositions de la Constitution, sont approuvés selon les procédures prévues pour la réforme de la Constitution.

Article 32.

Le Roi préside le Conseil supérieur de la promotion nationale et du plan.

Article 33.

Le Roi préside le Conseil supérieur de la magistrature et nomme les magistrats dans les conditions prévues à l’article 84.

Article 34.

Le Roi exerce le droit de grâce.

Article 35.

Lorsque l’intégrité du territoire national est menacée, ou que se produisent des événements susceptibles de mettre en cause le fonctionnement des institutions constitutionnelles, le Roi peut, après avoir consulté les présidents des deux Chambres et adressé un message à la nation, proclamer, par décret royal, l’état d’exception. De ce fait, il est habilité, nonobstant toutes dispositions contraires, à prendre les mesures qu’imposent la défense de l’intégrité territoriale et le retour au fonctionnement normal des institutions constitutionnelles.

Il est mis fin à l’état d’exception dans les mêmes formes que sa proclamation.

Articl19 was already there… Articles  22 to 35 too. So, let us be correct in our assessment; right from the start, the essential powers the King took for Himself remained the same; And one other thing: Hassan II was not facing a youthful motley of protesters (ok, he was at a certain point, though they were not the main threat) but a more or less resolute coalition of battle-hardened politicians that knew about institutions and politics, and in any case were much more powerful, i.e. able to take to the street higher numbers of protesters. Really? Would February 20th extract more from Mohamed VI in 2011 than did the USFP from Hassan II in 1996? Let’s hope so!

1996: Nada, back to square one. The old ‘Nationalist Parties‘ (the Koutla) protested and railed, plotted and compromised, rebelled and protested, and in the end, a 40 years-long struggle went bust. What a price.

4 Responses

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  1. mouka said, on March 20, 2011 at 14:56

    What the leftists could not do to Hassan 2, the new movements for democracy will. The difference is simple but enormous.
    The leftists were divorced from the masses, they were revolutionaries, unable to connect with the average Moroccan. This is the main reason why they could not get support from the masses. Another reason is psychological, the average Moroccan knew very well what could happen to them if they engage in the political process. I remember clearly my parents warning me against any political activities, I remember my mom’s warnings “Ma3andak maddir bassiyassa, rah ghadi ighabrouk ou tandam 3la 7yatek”.
    This psychological fear has all but disappeared, thanks to the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Yemeni, and Bahrain revolutions. Another difference is the number of people that have realized that their political claims are very legitimate, that politics are nothing more than an opinion on how the country should be run and where it is headed.
    I am very hopeful that profound changes will come out of this enormous pressure placed on the Makhzenian system of governance.
    One remark about your “ideas” about how Moroccan local matters should be run. This is the system in almost all developed and democratic countries. Where I live, the government does not deal with ANY local matters. The schools, the politics, and even the policing is funded and run locally. Everybody is elected, and everybody knows they are accountable to the people. That makes for a police that doesn’t scare or terrorize citi

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on March 20, 2011 at 17:22


      Local government does not seem to interest political parties or government. Indeed, in anglo-saxon setting, what I happen to present my readers with seems a bit old-fashion.

      Thank you for the kind comment 😀

  2. mouka said, on March 21, 2011 at 01:23

    No, THANK you for providing us all for this blog where we can voice our frustrations and opinions about the politics of Morocco.
    I also live abroad. I too have seen first hand the miracles accountability and democracy can achieve. The township where I live is completely independent of the government. Its schools are outstanding, and police are doing nothing but “serve and protect”.
    I long for a Morocco where the voices of the majority have a say in how the country is run and which general direction it should be heading. The problem is that an “executive” monarchy that hoards all the powers cannot represent Moroccans and cannot address the concerns of all Moroccans. The monarchy and the makhzen survive thanks to a brutal repression of the people. Whenever a group takes to the streets to shine the lights on some issue, they are met by brutal beatings, imprisonments, and even torture, rather than listening to their legitimate demands and addressing them. I have been on the receiving end of the NICETIES of this regime many times over. I have several scars, the psychological ones being the ones that hurt the most.
    My family has also suffered from some absurd policies of this regime during the reign of Hassan 2.
    Without profound and sincere changes and reforms, Morocco will sink deeper into international oblivion, and the economical take-off that we have been waiting for so long will never occur. The so called “Injazat” make me laugh when I think about it. All these costly projects won’t make any difference in anybody’s lives, except the corrupt officials that supervise them.
    What we need is an independent justice system.
    What we need is a modern educational system.
    What we need is a more equitable sharing of the national wealth, while allowing free enterprise to flourish.
    What we need is a decent health care system.
    What we need is an accountable governance system.
    What we need is …..
    The list is enormously long, but the most important things needed are listed above.

  3. […] of specific boroughs. No, a Federal Morocco is out of the question. No, it will be chaos and mayhem if you make Mokadem and Caid positions elected offices“. In short, as long as a certain political project was deemed in compliance with certain […]

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