Home > Uncategorized > Moroccan King Calls for Greater Democracy, Federalization

Moroccan King Calls for Greater Democracy, Federalization

In a speech to the nation on Sunday, January 3, His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco shocked the country and the world by taking not a step but a leap forward in democracy and transparency.

Announcing the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Regionalization, Mohammed VI has once again broken with the traditional role of monarchies, especially in the Arab and Muslim worlds, by institutionally sharing power between Rabat and the 16 regions in Morocco.

While His Majesty referred to this process in his speech as “regionalization,” it is in fact federalization. It is establishing a power-sharing system like that in the United States between the national capital – Rabat – and the states.

His Majesty described this enterprise as “a major initiative for the overhaul and modernization of state structures and for the achievement of integrated development.” In other words, His Majesty is fundamentally shifting the way in which not only government, but also the democratic process itself, is understood, shaped and functions in Morocco.

To us in the West, this may not seem like a “major initiative,” but it is unheard of in traditional societies like Morocco. We do not see any similar proposals in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. And we certainly do not see such changes being suggested at the hands of the monarchs of those countries! Even European monarchies did not themselves suggest a transition to democratic systems; instead, they found those systems thrust upon them!

But this kind of democratic progress is nothing new for the young king, who has been both the very embodiment and the strongest proponent of democracy in Morocco. It is Mohammed VI who devolved some of his own authority as king to the Parliament in order to advance democracy, and now plans to devolve some powers from the national capital to the regions. As His Majesty stated in his address, “In our efficient territorial governance system, I do not want regions to be merely formal, bureaucratic entities, but rather representative institutions composed of competent officials who can run their respective region’s affairs efficiently.”

Only the King of Morocco can push for such true democratic progress and openness. The monarchy in Morocco is a symbol of national unity, a source of national pride, and a centerpiece of national identity. His Majesty himself admits that his plan for federalization has its risks: “I consider this to be a key test for the success of the far-reaching reforms I am spearheading.”

His Majesty also had his eye on another issue when he gave this address: a solution to the Western Sahara dispute. Morocco has already proposed a very generous and accommodating autonomy plan for the Sahara, which would establish a self-governing system in the region with a parliament of its own and an elected governor endowed with authority from His Majesty. In many ways, it is an even more autonomous system than Puerto Rico shares with the United States, although Saharawi legislators elected to the national parliament will be allowed to vote. Other than national defense, foreign policy, and the postal system, the Sahara region will be fully autonomous. Even when it comes to foreign policy, the Sahara region under the plan can set up foreign trade offices.

The Autonomy Plan for the Sahara and the federalization plan for Morocco as a whole are serious, credible, and progressive developments for democracy and conflict resolution in the country. And no one can question His Majesty’s seriousness, as the Advisory Committee has been given only six months to develop plans for the federalization process and His Majesty has placed his full confidence in them.

His Majesty is serious about Morocco’s democratic progress, and this initiative can and will have long-term positive consequences for Morocco and will be the impetus for change in other parts of the world as well, especially in the Sahel region.

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