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maandag 20 juni 2011

The King's Speech: A Double NO

The King's Speech: A Double NO

by: Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda
First I want to make a positive remark about the speech of His Royal Highness Mohammed VI to the Moroccan nation. In contrary to the the rest of the Arab leaders he acted more reasonable and relatively swift to the mass protests. I'm not a supporter of a radical approach that can potentially lead to total anarchy. We should realise that the Royal House institution is embedded in our history and is part of the unifying forces. Politics is not about what you desire or what is practically possible in the light of the current power relations. In my opinion politics is what we desire in the context of practical implications. The Royal House can be a potential unifying actor in the transformation that will lead to a true democracy. If this is what the King aspires than I am loyalist. The answer to this question is not clearly given in the 17th June speech.

A true democratic constitution can only be initiated with the will of the people, by the people and through the people. The King refers to the planned reform as a "ambitious project.....in close conjunction with the nation's stakeholders." From the perspective of the King it is ambitious to transfer some of the crucial powers to representatives of the people. From his perspective it is also in conjunction with the nation's stakeholders. From a democratic view of point his opinion doesn't matter. In order to have true democratic reforms we should vote for representatives who prepare a constitution and that draft should be the subject of true open and fair elections. So first we should vote for representatives who can be legitimised as nation's stakeholders and they should prepare a draft that needs the approval of the people.

There is a huge gap between true democratic reform and what the King proposed. What he proposed is the outcome of his own appointments, assessment of his own interests and under his own leadership. So it is not surprising the reforms are nothing more than window dressing. If we use objective measures to test whether there is a proposed constitutional monarchy the answer is NO with explicit caps. In every genuine constitutional monarchy the government is accountable for the political position of the King. His majesty addressed the following words:

,, Specify that the person of the King shall be inviolable...."

For example the Dutch constitution provides inviolability to the King, but the ministers are accountable. The "King" and his political statements are extracted from the democratic checks and balances and from the public debate. It is technically true that the constitutional draft talks about the "Head of Government" to be the prime-minister, but the King addressed explicit that he will head the" Council of Ministers." In combination with "inviolability" and the distinction made by two kind of "Governing Councils" it is not a democratic outcome.

"...Governing Council shall have extensive, specific executive powers, some of which will be of a decision-making nature, and others of a deliberative character; the latter will be referred to the Council of Ministers for decision, as part of the powers retained by the latter in terms of strategy, arbitration and general policy, including the preservation of macro-economic and financial balance, which has now became a constitutional norm."

It is true that the "House of Representatives" will have " the final say in the ratification of legislative texts,"but there is also a distinction made by the King between two kind of "governing councils." In His Majesty's proposals it is not clear whether all decisions are subject to the legislative process where " the final say in the ratification of legislative texts." has the final say.

Secondly His Majesty's claims to national security and religious affairs with no clear boundaries make a real democracy unbalanced.Religious decrees and national security policy can undermine the democratic legislative process and then enjoy precedence under the principle of priority. For example international affairs, but also freedom of speech can be frustrated by His Majesty to use a carte blanche. It is theoretically possible to delegate a head of state " undemocratic" powers" in a democracy as long these powers are limited by the rule of law in a democratic process and can be changed through a democratic process.

Those who argue that splitting up article 19 of the constitution guarantees the separation of powers in the context of rule of law should rethink this :

,,A separate article concerns the exclusive religious powers of the King, Commander of the Faithful and President of the Higher Ulema Council, an institution which has been elevated to the constitutional rank."

Exclusivity is not because the powers are restricted to religious affairs. Everything can be religion and is a subject of theological dispute. The exclusivity concerns the extraction of a democratic check on the exercise of His Majesty's powers in this undefined field of religion.

Thirdly the King can announce state of emergency which gives him more powers and dissolve the parliament. Everyone who has studied the history of the Arab Homeland understands the dangers.

Fourthly " "Higher Council of the Judicial Branch", as a constitutional institution headed by the King" will strengthen the powers of the King. As head he can appoint a certain number of judges and determine the constitutional interpretation of the rules. We will not have separation of powers and due to that we will have not checks and balances.

Last but not least: Constitutional changes cannot change the position of the King or be initiated without the King!.

These five elements mentioned in the speech show that there is a reposition of the current power structures rather than a reform. His majesty has the opportunity to lead our nation into a more democratic future. A reposition of the powers will only delay the development of Morocco.

His Royal Highness urged us to vote "yes." By doing so he dismisses himself from his role as arbiter. I don't want to be an opponent of an arbiter. I want to vote "NO." I urge the Commander of the Faithful to vote "NO." His position will be on the longer term subject of discussion for more democracy or should I say democracy at all.That will endanger the role of the institution as a unifying force.

A short note on the Amazigh language

The project of the revival of the Amazigh language is an artificial construction of a new language similar to Esperanto. No one can deny the existence of the diffferent languages of the Rif, the Atlas and the Sous. Those people have the right to speak their language, to be educated in their languages and to have their own languages as their own official language in their regions. This is an elementary right according international law and an expression of the various aspects of our nation.

But a common Amazigh language that is developed in a language laboratory has nothing to do with the languages which are spoken by the various ethnic groups. This artificial language next to the Arabic language as an official language does not reflect the identity and history of Morocco. An organic law such as proposed by the King that will actually force all Moroccans to adopt a new language is technically also forbidden in the context of international law. At least the people should have the opportunity to vote on this issue separately.

When it comes to the referendum I would recommend to the Moroccan people to vote NO and anotherNO. This recommendation does not exclude the pride people of the Rif , Atlas and Sous . I am in favour of official languages which reflect your true identities.