Morocco: Can Dinosaurs Become Butterflies?

RABAT, Morocco – Faced with a growing pro-democracy movement, King Mohamed VI of Morocco surprised many on March 9 when he declared in a nationally televised speech that he was willing to trim his powers and become a constitutional monarch. Toward this end, he named an 18-member commission to reform the constitution headed by the respected jurist and professor of law at Rabat's Mohamed V University Abdelatif Mennouni. The king asked Mennouni to submit a report to him by June outlining changes to be voted on in a popular referendum later this year.


Among the reforms announced by Mohamed VI were future elections for prime minister and regional governors instead of palace appointments; elevating Amazigh identity (as the often-discriminated-against Berbers are known here) as a core element of the nation's overall identity; and transforming the judiciary into an independent branch of the government.


M6, as the king is popularly called in this Northwest African nation of 35 million people, also spoke of "boosting moral integrity in public life," referring to widespread government corruption. He appointed a close advisor to head another commission to gather suggestions for constitutional reform from political party leaders, trade unionists, NGOs and the potent youth movement that has organized mass demonstrations as part of the ongoing democratic uprising in North Africa and the Middle East. While the king's actions are more than the political elite expected, they were not enough for some reformers and many young activists.


Abdoubakr Jamai, former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Journal Hebdomadaire, told Voice of America that for many in the democratic movement the king's speech was ambiguous "because he claims that Morocco will usher in an era of democratization with the institution of a constitutional monarchy, with a prime minister who will be designated from