Every Word Means No
It’s a funny business, this constitutional thing. The more one looks at past referendums,the less they would be inclined to give it a chance as a pro-democratic move.
It is true we had some 5 major constitutional amendments (including the very first 1962 constitution) and yet we got stuck with the same old farandole: the King has it all, his powers derive from positive law (and the executive body in residence) and spiritual legitimacy (as the Commander of the Faithful in a De Jure Islamic community). And no matter how hard one tries to prove that such exaggerated concentration of powers is incompatible with basic democratic principles (as well as a gross distortion of Moroccan political history) the story goes unchallenged. Only a small core of resolute radicals gainsay the Regal supremacy, either on the premises of religious misgivings, like Al Adl, or because it contradiction a secularist and democratic values upheld by left-winger like the Democratic Left (i.e. PSU, PADS, CNI and Annahj parties) and Human rights activists AMDH.
Mainstream political parties, whether in government or parliamentary oppositions cosy up to the monarchy by trying to smooth as much as possible their position (if they’ve ever had any) on constitutional powers. Consensus is the word. Cranky, hurriedly patched-up in their defeat and taboo, but a consensus nonetheless.
It would be dishonest of me not to share regular doubts I have on that particular issue of voting. I don’t doubt my intrinsic position (that’s what you usually might expected from stubborn radicals) on voting No; It’s the whole exercise that could be qualified at best as political jocosity, if not outright ridiculous travesty of democratic debate. How can one lonely blogger, an expatriate student on top of it, engage in a confrontation with what is essentially a royal will. It can still be considered a Lèse-Majesté crime to stand up and call for anything else than a ‘Yes’ vote (a ‘No’ or a Boycott are equally an offence).
Will me and my likes be permitted to go on radio and TV to explain themselves freely? Will newspapers’ columns open up for contradictory views? Aren’t we -I assume there’s at least one other person that already made up their mind as well- crossing His Majesty’s will by calling for a different vote? That’s what happens when the constitutional is rigged so as to provide the ruler with discretionary powers. The game outcome is known even before it is played. Why, might one ask, waste time, energy and resources for a lost cause? These are my doubts. Are my actions going to matter?
On a different subject, the recent interview Foreign Affairs Minister Taib Fassi Fihri gave on France24, as well as his statements in the US are unequivocal: there is a ‘glass roof’ for constitutional amendment, and though many consider this roof to be reasonable, it doesn’t change much then present regime structure; worse, it doesn’t introduce those changes we direly need-and for which serious political parties have been militating since 1962-. These statements also confirm -or at least do reinforce it- the opinion the future constitution has already been written, and the next two months are going to be be there for political theatricals.
The No vote is based on two main and succinct arguments: first, we, as aspiring citizens, have not been consulted on this; The whole matter. Formally, the Highest Authority, according to the constitution, is not the King, but the People of Morocco (yes, it’s crazy, isn’t it?); and in this particular instance (as well as countless others) we have been robbed of our right to look into the amendments before they are cooked up.The same argument applies to the appointed members of the panel; they might be respected scholars in their own right, but Mohamed Q citizen has not been consulted beforehand.
Second, 3 months is deviously too short a period to discuss a seemingly important amendment. Actually, it amounts to even less than that: the commission has 3 months to dream up its recommendations, and in the happy event His Majesty agrees to its output, then immediately put it to the country. Those calling for a nation-wide debate will look like idiots, a new constitution will be voted and this brief interlude of unfettered debate will be closed. There are a lot of assumptions in this scenario, but the fact remains, an ambitious new constitution (that’s the sense it conveyed in the March 9th speech) cannot be wrapped-up in 3 months and voted on the fourth. That’s robbing the Moroccan people from a long-deserved new, actual democratic constitution.
Coming back on the sporadic doubts I have on the whole issue, It’s the expected impact a No campaign might have on the voters, regardless of any parasitical intervention from the Makhzen administration (I know my local Moqadem is a nice man, but if he has orders to dispatch his Mokhaznias, I don’t think I stand much chance to reason with them)
Assuming I would be allowed freely to distribute leaflets in my neighbourhood and engage with neighbours (a genuine democratic exercise, one might point out), how will we affect the final outcome? I am quite disillusioned when it comes to that: the new constitution will pass with a majority, and I have the feeling the size of such a win is going to matter more than its likelihood. I referred before to a vote of less than 80% Yes as a defeat. One of the main features our ‘National Consensus’ tenants like to boast about is that the Throne and The People are of one mind.
How will this square with say, a 30% no? Will the King put to practise the old Malekite saying that goes like: “The Khalifa can do away with the rotten 1/3 of His population in order to salvage the remaining 2/3″?