King Mohammed VI launches new political contract
July 29 was no ordinary day in Morocco. Millions of Moroccans waited impatiently for the king’s Throne Day speech. For nine months, the country had been gripped by a social and political crisis symbolised by demonstrations in the Rif region and they hoped the speech would provide a resolution.
During that time, Morocco’s political class engaged in territorial wars and finger-pointing. The people had lost hope in the political class and expected the king to give the last word on the situation.
This was the second time the people of Morocco had eagerly anticipated the king’s speech. The first time was March 9, 2011, during the height of the “Arab spring.” On that day, the Moroccan monarch announced a major constitutional amendment that expanded the prerogative of the head of government and personally guaranteed his commitment to transparent democratic elections.
It was the most comprehensive constitutional amendment since 1962. Morocco’s new constitution granted greater rights and advantages to minorities and focused on human rights, economic development, social justice and freedom of expression.
Constitutions, however, do not create the political class nor generate new mentalities. They simply create the right context for political, economic and cultural work. If the existing political class is incapable of absorbing the constitutional changes and responding to the higher expectations of the state, then new constitutional advantages are worth no more than the paper they’re written on. They would simply remain hollow slogans because the political class would be unable to rise to the higher standards set by the constitution.
King Mohammed VI understood that the process he started six years ago was not leading to the expected results, which explains the severe tone of the monarch’s speech on July 29. He was attempting to turn the country back on the right track.
King Mohammed VI’s speech marked the first time he had publicly and severely criticised the Moroccan political class. The monarch expressed his loss of faith in the political class and wondered aloud about the benefit of institutions, elections, political parties and governments if the country were to revert to square one.
The king’s sentiments and words echoed those of the citizens. For the average citizen, the political class considers political work not as a means to serve the higher interests of the citizen but as a quick way to get rich and powerful. In his speech, the king was definitely on the side of the average citizen.
The king was very critical of government officials who hide behind the royal palace when they fail their missions and thus place the royal institution in direct conflict with the citizens. He called on those officials to resign their posts and give the chance to other citizens because Morocco is rich with competent men and women. He said that not upholding one’s responsibilities was a form of betrayal.
It was obvious that King Mohammed VI had become very dissatisfied with how public affairs were being managed in the country.
Slightly deviating from tradition, the king devoted almost his entire speech to internal affairs. The Western Sahara dispute was brought up briefly towards the end of his speech.
The king has been steadfast in backing reforms in Morocco. This time, however, he was unwavering and insisted on applying the second clause of the constitution, which ties public office with accountability. When government officials lose sight of accountability, they become too complacent and ignore systematic deficiencies.
It is expected that concrete punitive measures will be considered against some government officials, especially considering the expected conclusions of the investigations launched a month ago into the blocked development projects in the Rif region.
In his speech, the king was clear. “We are in a new phase where there is no difference in citizenship rights and responsibilities between a state official and a citizen,” he said. “There will be no escaping from responsibility or punishment.”
The king has sealed a new political contract between the state and the citizens and between the political class and the citizens.