King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Friday announced changes to the constitution [speech text, video] which would transfer some of the political power held by the king to elected officials. The proposed changes would instill more authority in the country's prime minister, who would be given the power to appoint government officials as the "president of the government." The reforms would also ensure that the prime minister is the leader of the largest party in parliament, as opposed to being selected by the king. Mohammed said that if these reforms were approved, it would represent a transition to democratic institutions [BBC report] for Morocco. Mohammed would still retain certain important powers [Al Jazeera report] as chair of the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Security Council, leaving him control over the country's security, military and religious institutions. During his speech, Mohammed also emphasized the promotion of human rights in the reforms:
[T]he Moroccan Constitution will be a human rights Constitution as well as a charter for citizenship rights and obligations. In this regard, the draft Constitution provides for the pre-eminence of international covenantsas ratified by Moroccoover national legislation, as well as gender equality in civil rights, within the framework of respect for the Constitution, and for the Kingdom’s laws which are derived from Islam. The draft Constitution also provides for equality between men and women in all political, economic, social, cultural and environment-related rights. The draft Constitution confirms the commitment to all human rights, especially the presumption of innocence and guaranteeing the conditions for a fair trial. It criminalizes torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and all forms of discrimination and inhuman, degrading practices. The draft Constitution also upholds freedom of the press and of expression and opinion, as well as the right to access information and to submit petitions, in accordance with norms and criteria specified in an organic law.Mohammed's announcement comes amid protests staring in February, which called for democratic reform in Morocco. The changes are set to appear on a referendum July 1. Shortly following the speech, protests were called [Al Jazeera report] against the new constitution, with organizers calling for a more democratic constitution.
The announced reform are a product of a reform process announced in April following peaceful demonstrations [JURIST reports] demanding democratic reforms as part of the wider protests in the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Mohammed had previously made some concessions since the outbreak of protests including the release of political prisoners.