Morocco revamps constitution to reduce royal powers

Arab World Materials 18 June 2011 05:11 (UTC +04:00)

Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Friday presented a constitutional reform cutting his sweeping powers and boosting those of the government, following months of demonstrations demanding more democracy, DPA reported.

In a televised speech, the monarch urged citizens to approve the reform in a referendum on July 1.

The new constitution removes the king's sacred status, though he will still be regarded as "inviolable" and remains the official leader of Morocco's Muslims.

The monarch can no longer freely choose the prime minister, but must appoint the head of government from the party with the most seats in Parliament.

The prime minister will acquire powers he did not have before, such as the right to fire ministers and to propose to the king names of eventual ambassadors or directors of public companies.

Security policy will be placed under a council chaired by the king, which will include the prime minister, the presidents of both chambers of Parliament and the president of the Supreme Court.

Thus, the king can no longer alone take decisions such as declaring a war or severing diplomatic relations with another country.

The new constitution seeks to establish a separation between the judicial and executive powers. The king will remain the official chair of the highest judicial organ, but he will now delegate that task to the president of the Supreme Court instead of the justice minister.

The constitution also places the Amazigh (Berber) language on equal footing with Arabic as an official language.

The constitution was drafted by a commission, which consulted the political parties, trade unions, non-governmental organizations and other representatives of civil society. It will thus be the first constitution in Morocco to have been created by the people, Mohammed VI said.

If approved in the referendum, the constitution will be Morocco's sixth since the country became independent from France in 1956.

The king announced the upcoming reform in March in an apparent attempt to stem the unrest that had spread to Morocco from other Arab countries.

Rallies are still staged frequently to demand more democracy, jobs and better living conditions. The protests have increasingly led to clashes with police, causing injuries to dozens of people.

The protesters earlier said the commission drafting the constitution did not represent them. The protest movement has not, however, questioned the institution of the monarchy itself.