Morocco's king announces reforms

Monday 20 June 2011 12.55
Morocco - Support expressed for the announcement
Morocco - Support expressed for the announcement

Moroccan King Mohammed VI has outlined curbs to his wide political powers in proposed constitutional reforms and pledged to build a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliament.

The proposals will be put to a referendum on 1 July, the king said.

They devolve many of the king's powers to the prime minister and parliament.

The proposals come in the wake of nationwide pro-reform demonstrations that started in February, inspired by other popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world.

The 47-year-old monarch, who in 1999 took over the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty, holds virtually all power in the country, and he is also its top religious authority as the Commander of the Faithful.

In future the head of government should come ‘from the ranks of the political party which comes out top in parliamentary elections,’ the king said in a televised address.

It would mean a ‘government emerging through direct universal suffrage,’ he said.

The prime minister, now to be called the ‘president of the government’ will have the ‘power to dissolve parliament,’ which was hitherto the monarch's prerogative, the king said.

King Mohammed also pledged an independent judiciary and said the proposals would ‘consolidate the pillars of a constitutional monarchy.’

The king has until now headed the council that has appointed the country's judges.

Under the proposals, drawn up by a reform panel appointed by the king in March, the prime minister will be able to appoint government officials, including in the public administration and state enterprises, taking over an authority previously held only by the king.

The prime minister will also be able to debate general state policy with a government council at weekly meetings to be held in the absence of the king.

Under the current constitution, only the cabinet chaired by the monarch can decide on state policy.

Among the new competencies of the parliament would be declaring a general amnesty, also currently only the king's domain.

The reference to the king in the constitution as ‘sacred’ would be replaced by the expression: ‘The integrity of the person of the king should not be violated.’

The king would still hold the title of Commander of the Faithful, which makes him the country's only religious authority, and remain the head of the military forces and nominate ambassadors and diplomats.

The proposals also provide for indigenous Berber to be considered an official language alongside Arabic in the preamble of the new draft constitution.

A large section of Morocco's population uses one of the three dialects of the language.