The Moorish Wanderer

‘Plan Maroc Vert’ – Grand Dams Redux?

Morocco’s Godwin Law evolves usually around the Big Dams built during the late 1960s and 1970s to burnish the economic legacy of King Hassan II.

La politique des barrages lancée par Feu Sa Majesté le Roi Hassan II dès 1967 traduit la pertinence des choix stratégiques opérés en matière de développement économique et social et de valorisation des potentialités agricoles du pays à travers le développement de l’irrigation.

(Rapport Cinquentenaire – Ressources en eau et bassins versants du Maroc : 50 ans de développement)

It also serves as the opening gambit for the strategy to justify nowadays’ “Grands Chantiers” policy. Let me go on the record to state my complete adherence to a policy designed to improve and expand public infrastructure with large public investment. There is nothing wrong with it, quite the contrary. However, the snag with the Grands Chantiers is essentially institutional: I suppose the benevolent authority only goes as far in its benevolence as its own interest lies in the mechanism design it enforce. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that a benevolent authority in Morocco doesn’t exist: once a player gets to set the rules, these are bound to be bent to their advantages.

But this does not fall within the purview of my post today; I have had a bit of a difficulty to gather data on the matter, but here it is. In a nutshell, I am interested in the dynamics of Agricultural and Non-Agricultural GDP per effective worker since 1955. The (big) Dams have been built with the ostentatious purpose of improving agricultural output by storing and distributing water. As one might assume, such investment should have led to an increased productivity per agricultural worker: after all, production in that particular subject is subject to diminishing returns (because of the fixed stock of land) and improving the use of a vital input should, at least on paper, increase productivity per worker over time. I am no expert in agricultural economics, but there are some properties one can observe across all productive sectors: building the dams should have a positive impact on productivity per worker; otherwise, why bother spending billions of Dirhams?

Base year 1955: Non agricultural output per worker increased 7 folds. Agricultural output per worker only doubled.

To compute productivity per worker means to first split total labour force and output into agricultural and non-agricultural, and compute their respective ratios (which is no easy task since HCP does not provide data on 1955-1959) and then plot their annual growth with 1955 as base year. Output per worker radically diverges right from the early years, from 1958 to be precise.

By 2011, the gap increased to the point where an agricultural worker has to work 5 times as much to match the output produced by their non-agricultural opposite number. Not only that, but agriculture in Morocco did not improve its productivity since it has stagnated; it has exhibited an average real productivity growth rate of 1,23% versus 3,71% for the other sector. In that respect at least, dams did not do very well.

Perhaps a case can be made as to the way I have computed agricultural productivity; after all, if rural population exhibits higher demographic growth, the ratio is flawed since rural labour market is a lot more homogeneous than national or urban markets, and hence demographic growth is akin to annual growth in the labour force. If anything, rural population has proven to increase at significantly lower levels compared to nationwide and urban growth. So this precludes a demographic caveat: productivity in Morocco’s rural fields is lagging, even as the whole economy grew and made use of technological change. So, did the dams do well? To check if these have been useful, we would expect a gradual cut in output volatility. After all, much of output fluctuations (especially in Morocco) is due to rain forecast (although that particular argument is bound to be discussed too) and the dams were there precisely to alleviate the randomness of rain seasons.

Before 1967, logged agricultural output per worker was around 9.14% and gradually increases to 10.68% for an average volatility around 10.21% an empirical evidence strong enough to conclude that agricultural output grew more volatile after the dams were built. Though there is no proof of definite correlation between both events, it is safe to say that these public investments failed to achieve their initial aim. If anything, the dams and the agricultural policy pursued since then hurts the vast majority of the Moroccan farmers. The quantitative impact of these policies remains to be published by the relevant authorities.

In that respect, agricultural GDP has been a drag on the aggregate growth, because it has failed to go beyond their structural diminishing returns. It has been a drag because in the final analysis, aggregate productivity is closer to that of rural sectors, which implies disproportionate concentration of technology in one sector and deprive the other actual weakens the sum of both. In that sense, to improve GDP growth means bigger technological changes in rural output per worker.

Plan Maroc Vert has made it clear their main action allocates 80% of its funds to the top 20% already modern, mechanized and export-oriented agribusiness industries (). This concentration in technology is similar to the failed experiences carried out ever since 1958, because it will confirm strong incumbents and at the same time submit smaller farmers permanently.

Five Score Years Later…

La Marche de l’Histoire” is perhaps the best Radio France Inter broadcasts – not nearly as great as its predecessor 2000 d’Histoire- but still; On March 9th Jean Lebrun invited Professor E. Berenson (NYU) to talk about Hubert Lyautey, conqueror, pacifier and first Resident General of the French Moroccan protectorate.

https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Lyautey_RFI.mp3?w=4e1d0679

you can download the entire broadcast on this weblink [mp3]

But my blogpost isn’t about Maréchal Lyautey. It is not even about French colonialism; I should say I have a declared interest in this; my entire higher education so far has been conducted under the French Grandes Ecoles system, and there is no doubt in my mind that until recently, my Weltschauung has been very French-centred. Education, cultural references, even my early reading list on Moroccan politics has been fashioned by French authors, historians or French-speaking references.If anything, me blogging in English is a kind of redemption from la Langue de Molière, and I don’t buy into the idea that Arabic as my natural lingua franca, Pan-arabism is just as dismal a cultural colonialism as the French influence.

former Sultan Abdelhafid posing as a gentleman farmer, carrying his nephew and future Hassan II (Source: Le Journal Hebdomadaire)

Sultan Abdelhafid signed the Fez treaty on March 30th 1912; Historians report that Saturday was rainy and grey – that day formalized Morocco’s loss of sovereignty. How it came to the Spanish-French protectorate has been pretty well established: high foreign debt, increasing foreign pressures to meddle with Imperial finances, and a traditionally weak central authority failing even to perform the basic -some might say sole- task of levying taxes, let alone suppress successfully Roguis and tribal uprisings all over the Cherifian empire. A succession of military defeats and weak sultans allowed French cavalry columns to egress North of the Sahel and West from the Moroccan-Algerian border, and a stylish, bloody shelling, then landing on the shores of the future Casablanca in 1907. Spaniards took advantage of

C.R. Pennell reports:

While French and Spanish troops nibbled at Moroccan territory, European creditors drained the treasury. Moulay Abdelhafid could not fulfil his bay’a by recovering the lost lands, nor by ending the debt.

The new Sultan needed money. He had recognised the Act of Algeciras, which has undermined his authorities, but customs dues alone were not enough. Abdelhafid needed foreign loans. Between January and April 1909 negotiations in Fez and in Paris produced a proposal to reorganize the Moroccan debt, at the price of increased French control over the Chaouïa and Oujda where only the fiction of Makhzen authority would be maintained.

That served Lyautey well, as he did not use brutal force to invade Morocco; he dubbed his strategy ‘oil slick’, which precluded slash and burn tactics the Spanish army was so keen on carrying out in the Northern part of Morocco. By 1912, the enthusiastic coalition that supported Abdelhafid’s bid for the Imperial throne waned: Chorfa and Ulamas, long exempted from tax duties,  refused to pay the Tartib (a non-Islamic tax) and so did the Guich tribes;

Abdelhafid was nominated under the conditions he would drive away the Christian aliens, he turned out to be their puppet, in 1910 Colonel Mangin was appointed to reorganise the Moroccan regular army, while French banks controlled all the receipts from the 227 Million francs foreign trade.

The idea of maintaining local elites and the Sultan wasn’t entirely Lyautey’s idea: Consul Gaillard pushed for a subtle indirect rule, whereby French troops were stationed in Morocco officially to restore the Sultan’s rule and protect his throne and his dynasty:

Article III: Le Gouvernement de la République prend l’engagement de prêter un constant appui à Sa Majesté Chérifienne contre tout danger qui menacerait Sa personne ou Son trône qui compromettrait la tranquilité de Ses Etats. Le même appui sera prêté à l’héritier du trône et à ses successeurs

(Fez Treaty – BO n°1 dated 11/01/1912)

France’s Premier R. Poincaré gave reason to Lyautey and Gaillard (promoted to the newly created Diplomatic Bureau of the Resident-General) over General Moinier (who was in favour of direct rule) and the attached legislation to the Fez treaty effectively put the Resident-Generalship under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – not the War Ministry.

But the reality of French rule was very Jacobin: military governors answered directly to General Lyautey, and civil comptrollers ranked second to the military establishment. Initially those arrangements were dictated by the urgency of dispatching a rapid-response force to the sporadic mutinies in the newly (re)created, 12,000 strong Moroccan army, and against the tribal M’hallas besieging Fez, Sefrou and Hajeb. Abdelhafid surrendered Morocco’s sovereignty (sold out, as a matter of fact), but the new Sheriff in town had to conquer a contentious land and wage a political fight with perpetually warring tribes. in Fez, Colonel Gouraud had to break the siege, while French columns were rushed to Souss and Marrakech to deal with Desert warriors led by Ahmed El Hiba.

The ‘Pacification’ officially ended in 1934, long after Lyautey had left the Resident-Generalship.

“New Politics” Inc.

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Moroccanology, Read & Heard, The Wanderer by Zouhair ABH on July 19, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I had this most peculiar conversation with someone “in high places”. I mean, I did not meet that person for an official purpose – it was a social visit, I leave official meetings to senior bloggers. The person’s rank and occupation were not obvious to me, as I was told, much later on, I was talking to an official from the Interior Ministry. And so, the summary of our discussion is a bit at odds with the kind of posts I usually publish: this is, if anything, a first-hand account of what seems to be the prevailing argument up there. Alternatively, I could be mistaken, and the green I am in practical politics might have been fooled with a tailor-made speech for would-be “young politicians”.

The thing is, the argument was extraordinary to my ears, simply because it betrayed what seems to be a newly developed, intelligent approach. That’s why I am posting about it: Intelligent. By intelligent I mean a very perverse – adulterating- policy into systematically chaperoning whatever novel proposal might pop in the Moroccan political discourse, carefully taking into its confidence any initiative likely or potentially likely to change things too radically. In a nutshell, the idea is to encourage young Feb20 activists to join mainstream political parties and shake them to their foundations. And as my interlocutor said, they have the next 5 years to achieve the following set of objectives: take over the partisan apparatus, topple down the old-guard leadership and before you know it, the Palace will hand over its powers and obligingly establish itself as a true parliamentarian monarchy. The perfect scheme, even to my taste. Who would oppose this offer? it sounds responsible and moderate, plus it has the advantage of cleaning political parties’ Aegean stables.

But there’s a catch to it. In fact, there are several of those: first off,there are boundaries not to cross -and those are tighter than you might think- second, there are “Moroccan exceptionalism” features one needs to take into account, i.e. not to rush things; and last, the State tropism is the only viable paradigm in Moroccan politics, i.e. the very concept of individual welfare, or community well-being is necessarily encompassed within the State, whether Makhzenian or modern. Supposing these young people manage to take control of these political parties within the next half a decade, the ensuing struggle would leave them paralysed, and in any case unable to put forward any controversial proposals. It might go otherwise, but one cannot erase 40 years of meaningless politics with one clean swipe of 5 years of fresh, youthful activism.

There was one aspect of our discussion I founded quite interesting to mention in extenso here: the official was very relaxed when I contradicted him, in the sense that he didn’t behave in that typical you-republican-in-disguise-plotting-for-the-downfall-of-our-beloved-fatherland and was very open and forthcoming in interacting with me – I mean he admitted the existence of dissent, and was generally in agreement that its existence and activism were strengthening more than threatening Moroccan democracy and development. But past beyond niceties about general principles, the typical Dakhilya way of thinking took over: “No, the Ministry or the Civil Service can’t supply you with Demographic features 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 guidelines (carefully laid out in High Places), then it is fine to be creative; Other than that, you are simply, and I quote: “Hard-headed”. Actually, this applied to those political parties he quickly guessed I was sympathetic to, or even a member of: PSU, PADS (and a little of Annahj, too).

The other thing we agreed upon was that the Feb20 demonstrations were no threat to the regime’s stability. Quite the contrary, I was comforted in my belief that the blueprints of 2011 Constitutional upgrade -for this is not a genuine reform- were already in place (apparently as early as 2000-2001) and needed only some acceptance from the partisan spectrum. Rather, political parties themselves felt threaten -after most of them castigated the daring youth for being either manipulated, unreasonable, radical, and finally stubborn. The Monarchy, the system surrounding it to be precise, is stronger both domestically and abroad.

Old Faithful

The gamble is subsequently very audacious: it is common knowledge the present political personnel is ageing, incompetent and/or largely corrupt. Palace has been trying to revive some Royal opposition, but failed with large parties, mainly because of a past policy of constant corruption and house-training. Parts of these high circles, it seems, understood the dangers of a too house-trained political personnel. Luckily enough, there’s a bunch of motivated, enthusiastic and pure new players around who seem to have as keen interest in politics. They can provide the suitable relief to political parties, and who knows, some fresh ideas to the other side as well. As a matter of fact, the whole argument can be summed up as follows:

“join political parties and make them look credible so as to seize power. The monarchy will not obstruct”.

Other things of peripheral interest to the main subject were mentioned as well: for his perspective, the 40 years long struggle between the National Movement and the Monarchy was very damaging to Moroccan perspective in growth, development and advancement in civilization. But then again, in his view, National Parties shouldn’t have engaged in a bras-de-fer with the Crown Prince, then King Hassan II. That curious (from my perspective anyway) interpretation of modern history was his reply to my favourite line: if the Monarchy was indeed keen to accept a real Parliamentary Monarchy, why was Abdellah Ibrahim Government systematically ambushed by the Crown Prince? It was as though his mind was definitely made up about that era, only he was respectful enough not to express it in blunt terms: the National Movement was the only responsible political body for the loss of time and resources Morocco suffered from over the last half a decade, not the Monarchy.

So here it is: at least one school of thought within the regime pushes for a renewal of politics, because it prepares an alternative power and so enact a smooth transition from the “Executive Monarchy” to  a true symbolic one. However, the transition has to be done on the regime’s term, and they will pick who qualifies and who does not. Even though the stated standard selection puts a large weight on competence and talent, the principle is un-democratic, and furthermore, the dictated terms are such that there is little room for political innovation: the State is still perceived as benevolent and in charge of individuals and communities, even though it has a poor record in achieving common wealth.

In short, I came back home even more convinced I should stick with the Hard-headed bunch. First because I don’t like patronising tones and schemes, and second, while I agree political personnel needs renewal and a great deal of political savyy, I do not believe the movement should be hurried, or artificially created. That reminds me of the Charm Offensive Fouad Ali El Himma undertook vis-a-vis the Radical Left – presumably as a vanguard of a Modernist-Monarchist movement- around 2005-2006; once in a while, the regime wants to pick the brains of its non-governmental elite by means of alluring promotion or honouring their scholarly work for instance.

Leave it Governor, the New Politics you are advocating cannot be the process of political engineering. the Changing of the Guard is coming, but on our own terms and time.

Polling Day

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on July 1, 2011

Today July 1st is going to be the dénouement of a 4-months long peculiar process: it started with whirling optimism with the Feb20 demonstrations (whose likely induced outcome I doubted, though I felt strong sympathies with the proposed agenda) then the whole thing wildly went off-course when the King delivered his historic speech on March 9th -I, for one, would not mind considering it historic- and from then on, the dark world of crude Moroccan politics took over. Not even boycotting the Abdelatif Menouni Commission managed to restore Feb20’s popularity, mainly because of its unability to offer a viable platform to rally more support to the cause, the movement, it seems, did not expand its support base.

Now with the June 17th speech the draft constitution is most likely to pass by a large margin; the unknown variables are the No-vote and the turn-out. Because polling is severely regulated in Morocco (and outright blocked during election time) there is no way to gauge the mood of electors, so basically, about 14 Mn registered people likely to either vote or abstain, and so would do so for a myriad of reasons, and probably these motives will never be polled, mapped and explained. Every election or referendum in Morocco is a lost cornucopia of information on the political thinking and values among the Moroccan population.

In dire need for Basri expertise in bottling up the Referendum

But I digress. I believe in party discipline as the essential feature of efficient partisan organization. Discipline of course, does not mean systematic suppression of dissent, but insures potential dissent expresses itself and makes sure it does not break away from the party line (and I would welcome the institution of a Whip position within the party). And on the issue of referendum, I unfortunately find myself at odds with the PSU‘s stand on referendum day: the party wants to boycott, I vote today. As I mentioned before, I would agree with 90% of the pro-boycott argument because it makes up my own position on the referendum. I disagree therefore only on the way to voice my discontentment with whole process: I believe a No Vote carries a stronger signal and shows moderation (I cannot believe I am making the case for Moderation) so I cannot understand why PSU and the Democratic Left went with the Boycott Option. Perhaps it might have to do with the very pressuring environment the party needs to cope with within the Feb20 movement;

Otherwise, I believe party leadership -and all the Pro-Boycott people- should observe and study very carefully the 1962 Constitutional Referendum: UNFP party was stronger, more organized, better-led political party and yet, they got beaten. Of course, Hassan II-era tactics are now obsolete: we have reached a level which absolved the Interior ministry from meddling directly with the everyday politics of campaigning. the Local administrative echelon, as well as notabilities acting as local representatives are endowed with a strange sense of patriotic duty, some might describe as a zealous, lick-spittle behaviour, and can thus do their masters’ bidding. And so, they would not hesitate into pouring money -taxpayer’s money- buying off local unemployed and mob to threaten and assault dissidents, or printing pro-Constitution leaflets and signs (the great thing with the Internet, pictures are taken, websites are snapshot, providing ample material for future political LOL) in a grandiloquent flourish the late Driss Basri wouldn’t have disdained.

Civic Nihilism. What Else?

And yet, in spite of all these fine things, I remain true to my word: I have set standards above which I would vote Yes for the new constitution. These standards have not been met, and so I shall express my discontent with the proposed draft. And contrary to some influential bloggers I know, I do not pretend to lead, or to be influential. That is merely my tiny voice expressing what it considers to be the highest legal norm in the realm. I am a fledgeling citizen in a fledgeling democracy after all, am I not?

And so the vote went on. the consulate was apparently closed for the very purpose of Referendum day. Two suits (presumably from the Interior Ministry) oversaw the voting procedure: the first one took the ID card to register the voter the second handed the envelope with the Yes an No bits of paper. I noticed a little counter device over the ballot box (a transparent one) so as to keep count of voters. Unfortunately, I failed to notice anyone acting as a civic watchdog (usually political parties or NGOs delegate individuals to oversee the procedure and the vote count) that might have to do with the fact that these organizations likely to engage in such initiative are calling for a boycott.

Well, speaking for my consulate, the turnout was quite high at 10 in the morning, and the overwhelming majority voted in favour of the draft (the polling booth was filled with the No leaflets) and quite frankly, it is a high turnout. I suppose we will all be updated on the final outcome this evening.

Update —-

Now, according to the figures put forward by the Interior Ministry late this evening, the turnout was 70% (reported by my colleague and friend Hisham) a high figure considering the threat of boycott and the hurriedly put together initiatives from local officials to scramble for voters backing up the turnout.

As for PSU party and our Democratic Left comrades, it is high time we started thinking about real policies. The parties of innovative thinking have been robbed of their salient feature: the stalwart support of constitutional reforms. We would look at best ridiculous if we keep on banging about that reform; As a matter of principle, calling for genuine reforms makes sense (it always does) but in the eyes of Moroccan electorate, that image of “Loony Left” is likely to stick even closer to an already isolated ideal of radical thinking and social liberalism.

The House Of Cards and the King of Aces

Constitutional speeches are like Earthquakes, and in every sense of the word: they are earth-shattering, and they often come in a pair: the wave and the counter-wave follow each other and when the magnitude is high enough, the effect on the landscape is impressive. But this earthquake is not one. As a matter of fact, it might very well turn out to be a false alert.

Yesterday evening, the King gave the second speech on the Constitutional Reform, and announced Referendum Day for July 1st, just like what Khalid Hariry tweeted about on May 18th when his colleagues and himself met the Interior minister. At the same time, the speech laid out the essential features of what is essentially the new constitution, which is more than likely going to be voted by a comfortable margin. Before considering the political implications of this extraordinary short time span for political debate and campaigning, as well as the already biased rules of the campaigning game.

Contrary to the constitution circa 1996, the project has been carefully drafted, with a special focus on detailed procedure, perhaps to excessive lengths. Because the past constitutions have been written -and then cosmetically arranged so as to give a façade of democratic constitution- by one man, the late king Hassan II, and by his own admission, the writing process is daunting, but in his case, he managed to produce five constitutions that fit his larger-than-life character and lust for power; The latest of these Hassan II-era constitutional pieces of legislation, the 1996 constitution, was supposed to seal the deal on political transition, the so-called “Alternance Consensuelle“. So compared to the succinct constitutions we have had since 1962, this one is a true constitutional lawyer’s piece of work. Too bad it has been written by mainstream and conservative panellists.

The 180 articles in the new constitution, contrary to what has been speculated upon, do not change the monarchy from executive to symbolic, but rather recognize a de facto actual exercise of power; as we shall see later on, the monarch retains a great deal of appointment privileges, and while he did cede many of his formerly privileges, these concessions are not enough for the new constitution to qualify as that of a parliamentary monarchy. This is so because many of its articles are bluntly contradicting various universal standards of democracy, among others the separation of powers, the precedence  given to and accountability required from the elected representatives of the people. None of these things have been mentioned in the new draft, and that is why I reiterate my stand on voting against the constitution on Referendum Day.

Of these cosmetic changes, there is also much to be discussed; The word cosmetic is used here advisedly, mainly because while they do provide feedback to long-standing grievances, they remain insufficient as to the expected efficiency, or even with regard to the political symbolism from such measures. Contrary to the 1996 vintage and previous, the new constitution admits the diversity of the Moroccan identity, as specified in the preamble:

المملكة المغربية دولة إسلامية ذات سيادة كاملة، متشبثة بوحدتها الوطنية والترابية، وبصيانة تلاحم مقومات هويتها الوطنية، الموحدة بانصهار كلمكوناتها، العربية – الإسلامية، والأمازيغية، والصحراوية الحسانية، والغنية بروافدها الإفريقية والأندلسية والعبرية والمتوسطية. كما أن الهوية المغربية تتميزبتبوئ الدين الإسلامي مكانة الصدارة فيها، وذلك في ظل تشبث الشعب المغربي بقيم الانفتاح والاعتدال والتسامح والحوار، والتفاهم المتبادل بين الثقافاتوالحضارات الإنسانية جمعاء.

“The Kingdom of Morocco is an Islamic state enjoying an unfettered sovereignty, and is firmly attached to its national and territorial unity, and is committed to uphold the fundamentals of its national identity and all its components, Arabic, Islamic, Amazigh, Hassani-Sahrawi, as well as the fruitful African, Hebraic, Andalusian and Mediterranean influences. Furthermore, the Moroccan identity has a special place for Islam, as the Moroccan people are attached to the values of openness, moderation and forgiveness, in addition to the mutual understanding with all human civilizations”. [all extracts are unofficial translations]

This piece of preamble, while signalling a significant shift in the official narrative, because it now recognizes the obvious, and finally admits that diversity does not harm national unity. But the encouraging opening soon fades away, and the disappointing, almost insulting order of precedence reminds all of us who credited the commission with some amount of good faith that the centre of power, with all its legitimacy, is not yet ready to abandon the Arabo-Islamic hegemony. Notice the order: Arabic, Islamic, then Amazigh, Hassani, and the Hebraic heritage is relegated to the rank of a mere “influence”. Though this might sound like a fickle, this ranking is actually important because the preamble does not explicitly put all these ‘fundamentals’ on an equal footing. And judges can justify many of their ruling by this, as it might come up. Consider the example of a citizen suing the local administration because they refused to register their infant’s Amazigh name. Suppose the case goes all the way up to the Courts. It might very well be that the Judge would sustain the administration’s decision by invoking the order of precedence in these fundamentals. And considering how conservative the Judges’ corps are, this instance is more than likely to be observed in the near future.

The New Royal Motto: "Monarchy Rules All, and That's Official Now"

The positive contribution in the preamble is the unequivocal support and endorsement of international treaties on Human Rights and International Law. This was one of the most important pledge activists wanted the government and the regime to honour, without restrictions or reservations. This does not mean the end of police brutality, or the abuses citizens have to endure whenever they need to deal with the local administration. Again, the liberal tendency within the document itself is hurriedly curtailed in the name of sovereignty (and thus, local context, a window of opportunity to conservative interpretation of international law) -Another peculiar article I noticed was the “Right To Live” (Art.20) and yet death penalty is not explicitly mentioned and abolished; alternatively, this could also be a constitutional roadblock against any pro-abortion legislation. In both cases, a well-meaning established principle is going to yield the opposite, reactionary outcome.

The articles themselves operate pretty much under the same mechanism, especially on the executive branch: the King heads the newly-established Security Counsel (Art.54) still retains the General Staff (Art.53) religious leadership (the 1996 Article 19 turns into Article 41) and finally all cabinet meetings where the strategic decisions are made.

الفصل 41

الملك، أمير المؤمنين وحامي حمى الملة والدين، والضامن لحرية ممارسة الشؤون الدينية. يرأس الملك، أمير المؤمنين، المجلس العلمي الأعلى، الذي يتولى دراسة القضايا التي يعرضها عليه. ويعتبر المجلس الجهة الوحيدة المؤهلة لإصدار الفتاوى المعتمدة رسميا، بشأن المسائل المحالة عليه، استنادا إلى مبادئ وأحكام الدين الإسلامي الحنيف، ومقاصده السمحة. تحدد اختصاصات المجلس وتأليفه وكيفيات سيره بظهير. يمارس الملك الصلاحيات الدينية المتعلقة بإمارة المؤمنين، والمخولة له حصريا، بمقتضى هذا الفصل، بواسطة ظهائر

الفصل 53

الملك هو القائد الأعلى للقوات المسلحة الملكية. وله حق التعيين في الوظائف العسكرية، كما له أن يفوض لغيره ممارسة هذا الحق.

الفصل 54

يُحدث مجلس أعلى للأمن، بصفته هيئة للتشاور بشأن استراتيجيات الأمن الداخلي والخارجي للبلاد، وتدبير حالات الأزمات، والسهر أيضا على مأسسة ضوابط الحكامة الأمنية الجيدة.

The innovation in this constitution comes from the appointment of a Prime Minister from the majority party after a general election. The perverse established mechanism is too obvious: should a political party not amenable to the King’s views win a seizable majority of seats, the King, or his advisers, can weaken them by picking a Prime Minister other than the Party Leader. Divide and Rule, so that only obedient Prime Ministers can be appointed. Other than that, the King still retains power to hire and fire Ministers.

On the Judiciary, nothing has been done. Judges are not independent, because the King still chairs the Supreme Judiciary Council (the name changed a bit, but the attributions remain the same)

الفصل 56

يرأس الملك المجلس الأعلى للسلطة القضائية.

الفصل 57

يوافق الملك بظهير على تعيين القضاة من قبل المجلس الأعلى للسلطة القضائية.

Article 64 is a concrete threat to the Members of Parliament’s freedom of speech and immunity. The fact that the article enumerates these highly political cases instead of those potentially related to common law matters is not only a political threat to outspoken MPs, it is also an implicit invitation for the peoples’ representatives not to be bold, and whenever they can get away with it, engage in corruption and other improper behaviour from an elected office.

الفصل 64

لا يمكن متابعة أي عضو من أعضاء البرلمان، ولا البحث عنه، ولا إلقاء القبض عليه، ولا اعتقاله ولا محاكمته، بمناسبة إبدائه لرأي أو قيامه بتصويت خلال مزاولته لمهامه، ماعدا إذا كان الرأي المعبر عنه يجادل في النظام الملكي أو الدين الإسلامي، أو يتضمن ما يخل بالاحترام الواجب للملك.

All in all, the reports on newspapers that the King has curbed some of his powers is an attempt to polish a timid political process, or outright ignorance of Moroccan politics since 1956. While it is true the new articles spend a great deal of lengthy and tedious enumeration of dispositions, they do not bring new concepts other than those necessary for the decorum. Actually, if it was not for these accessories, the constitution just writes down the powers ” The King discovers while He practises them” as Professor Mennouni once said.

This lengthy overview of the new constitution is two-fold: it explains why I stand by my decision to vote against the new constitution, and it describes quite eloquently the new regime we are living under. We have moved from the dictatorial Hassan-II era to that of Soft Authoritarianism. The red lines still exist, but there is no systematic repression on those who cross it. But to these impudent, contentious subjects, the retribution is random and sometimes harsh. In any case, both eras share the random-looking pattern of repression; But now that the Monarchy’s legitimacy is firmly and strongly entrenched, they can engage directly into formalizing their patronage over the other institutions.

From a historical point of view, and bearing in mind the evolution of the balance of forces between the Palace and its real opposition, this new constitution does not take away powers from the King, it does not add up some more (if that was ever possible) it simply recognizes the Regal Hegemony.