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Government & Politics of Morocco

Government

Morocco is an autocratic monarchy ruled by King Mohammed VI since his accession to power in 1999, when he was 36. His father, King Hassan II, ruled the country ruthlessly from 1961 to 1999.


Morocco is a constitutional monarchy and is governed under the 1972 constitution as amended. The king holds effective power and appoints the prime minister. The bicameral parliament consists of the 270-seat Chamber of Counselors, whose members are elected by indirect vote for nine-year terms, and the 325-seat Chamber of Representatives, whose members are elected by popular vote for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 15 regions.

The king appoints all ministers, heads the military and serves as the nation's spiritual leader. Religion-based political parties are mostly banned to prevent Islamic parties from gaining influence. Morocco's 295-seat national assembly is largely powerless.

Mohammed VI pledged to open government to various parties, rule according to law and give women greater roles. The king has yet to deliver on most promises.

Religiously coherent, Morocco nevertheless faces the challenge of political Islam. Islamist parties are banned or, as with the Party of Justice and Development (PJD), given conditional authority (PJD has 47 seats in the nation's 295-seat assembly). Salafia Jihadia, an Islamist party, organized the Casablanca suicide bombings in 2003. Islamists were behind similar bombings in Casablanca in March and April 2007.

Officially described in the 1996 constitution as a democratic monarchy, Morocco's hereditary monarch has wide executive power. He can dismiss the government, dissolve parliament and sign international treaties.

He also appoints regional governors and heads a "second cabinet" composed of former politicians, business leaders and army chiefs. This runs in parallel to the government and is widely known as the focal point for the Makhzen, the popular name given to the Moroccan establishment.

In 1997, a bicameral legislature was established, consisting of a 270-seat upper house or Chamber of Councillors, whose members are elected by an electoral college for nine-year terms. One-third of the members are renewed every three years. The lower house is the 325-seat Chamber of Representatives, members of which are elected by popular vote for five-year terms.

The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the monarch following legislative elections. The king also appoints the ministers of interior, foreign affairs, justice and Islamic affairs - often from outside party politics.

The prime minister heads a 31-member cabinet known as the Council of Ministers, yet many of its appointments are made by the king rather than the prime minister himself.

Some 26 political parties ran in the September 27, 2002, legislative elections, which were widely hailed as the first truly democratic ballot in Morocco's history. Four main political blocs were evident. The leftist bloc includes the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP); the former-communist Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS), led by Ismail Alaoui; the Leftist Unified Socialist Party (PGSU), led by Mohamed Bensaid Ait Idder; and the Socialist Democratic Party (PSD), led by Aissa Ouardighi.

On the centre-right is the moderate Islamist wing, there is the Istiqlal Party (PI), led by the veteran Abbes el-Fassi and the moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), led by Abdelkrim Khatib. More conservative still is the National Rally of Independents (RNI), led by Ahmed Osman, and the Constitutional Union (UC), led by Mohamed Abied.

Elsewhere, the pro-Berber parties include the Popular Movement (MP), led by Mohand Laenser; the National Popular Movement (MNP), led by Mahjoubi Aherdane; and the Social Democratic Movement (MDS), led by Mohamed Archane.

The September 27, 2002, ballot saw a number of innovations to the electoral system, including proportional representation in voting and a 10% reserved list for women candidates.

The ballot also saw a low turnout of 52%. More hardcore Islamist parties, such as Abdessalam Yassine's al-Adl wa al-Ihsana (Justice and Charity) party, called for a boycott. Justice and Charity is currently banned. There was also much fragmentation in the vote, with 22 parties out of the 26 claiming at least one seat.

The new government appointed by the King was formed with the USFP and PI as the main entities. Alongside them in the ruling coalition are five other parties, the socialist PPS, the nationalist PI, the centrist RNI and two Berber parties, the MNP and the MP. The moderate Islamist PJD, which trebled its vote to become the country's third largest political grouping, now forms the main parliamentary opposition.

Continuity is the keyword with the new government, since the USFP have been the ruling party before and three key ministers from the last government have also kept their seats. Mohamed Benaissa remains minister for foreign affairs, Fatallah Oualalou continues as finance minister and Mohamed El-Yazghi retains the post responsible for territorial development.

Government - At a Glance:

  • Type: Constitutional monarchy.
  • Head of State: King Mohammed VI
  • Head of Government: Prime Minister Abbas EL FASSI (since 19 September 2007)
  • Constitution: March 1972, revised September 1992 and September 1996 (creating a bicameral legislature).
  • Independence: March 2, 1956.
  • Branches: Executive--King (head of state), Prime Minister (head of government).
  • Legislative--Bicameral Parliament. Judicial--Supreme Court.

 

Politics

The Kingdom of Morocco, which sits at a crossroads between Europe and Africa, has had to navigate many challenges since it became an independent country. But the ascension of King Mohammed VI in 1999 has brought a new era of both political and economic liberation to the country.

The kingdom has enjoyed relative stability since gaining independence and though the state was characterised by a strong monarchy in the past, the current government has put in place anti-corruption measures among its civil servants and professionalised the military, in part by ending conscription in the near future to ensure recruits are motivated and up to the task of learning the latest in military techniques.

Rabat has also built better relationships with international aid organisations as its military and civilian administrations have noticeably improved in recent years. It has increased its legitimacy among Moroccans and therefore is better able to provide services and enforce tax collection and other activities essential to the functioning of a modern state.

Another instance in which Morocco differs from many states in North Africa and the Middle East is that, rather then driving political Islamists underground where they are sure to radicalise, it has allowed them to enter the political realm and participate in parliament. The principal Islamic political party, the PJD, has styled itself as something close to the Christian Democrats in Germany.

All of these facts have allowed Morocco to play its position at a crossroads between Europe, Africa and the Middle East into one of strength. The kingdom has been declared a “major non-NATO ally” of the US, and has won US and French support in its claims on Moroccan/Western Sahara, a large swathe of land in which rebels have been fighting the Moroccan government since 1975.

President of France Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a Mediterranean Union of 16 North African, Middle Eastern and European states, an idea Morocco fully supports as a means of increasing its business ties with Europe.

The chapter includes a viewpoint by Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, on economic and political liberalisation, while Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal and Ségolène Royal, former French presidential candidate for the Socialist Party, provide interviews.

Political parties and leaders

  • Action Party or PA [Muhammad EL IDRISSI];
  • Alliance of Liberties or ADL [Ali BELHAJ];
  • Annahj Addimocrati or Annahj [Abdellah EL HARIF];
  • Avant Garde Social Democratic Party or PADS [Ahmed BENJELLOUN];
  • Citizen Forces or FC [Abderrahman LAHJOUJI];
  • Citizen's Initiatives for Development [Mohamed BENHAMOU];
  • Constitutional Union or UC [Mohamed ABIED]; Democratic and Independence Party or PDI [Abdelwahed MAACH];
  • Democratic and Social Movement or MDS [Mahmoud ARCHANE];
  • Democratic Forces Front or FFD;
  • Democratic Socialist Party or PSD [Aissa OUARDIGHI];
  • Democratic Society Party or PSD [Zhor CHEKKAFI];
  • Democratic Union or UD [Bouazza IKKEN];
  • Environment and Development Party or PED [Ahmed EL ALAMI];
  • Front of Democratic Forces or FFD [Thami EL KHYARI];
  • Independence Party (Istiqlal) or PI [Abbas EL FASSI];
  • Justice and Development Party or PJD [Saad Eddine EL OTHMANI];
  • Labor Party [Abdelkrim BENATIK];
  • Moroccan Liberal Party or PML [Mohamed ZIANE];
  • National Democratic Party or PND [Abdallah KADIRI];
  • National Ittihadi Congress Party or CNI [Abdelmajid BOUZOUBAA];
  • National Rally of Independents or RNI [Mustapha EL MANSOURI];
  • National Union of Popular Forces or UNFP [Abdellah IBRAHIM];
  • Parti Al Ahd or Al Ahd [Najib EL OUAZZANI];
  • Party of Progress and Socialism or PPS [Ismail ALAOUI];
  • Party of Renewal and Equity or PRE [Chakir ACHABAR];
  • Party of the Unified Socialist Left or GSU [Mohamed Ben Said AIT IDDER];
  • Popular Movement or MP [Mohamed LAENSER];
  • Reform and Development Party or PRD [Abderrahmane EL KOUHEN];
  • Social Center Party or PSC [Lahcen MADIH];
  • Socialist Union of Popular Forces or USFP.

Political pressure groups and leaders

Democratic Confederation of Labor or CDT [Noubir AMAOUI]; General Union of Moroccan Workers or UGTM [Abderrazzak AFILAL]; Moroccan Employers Association or CGEM [Hassan CHAMI]; National Labor Union of Morocco or UNMT [Abdelslam MAATI]; Union of Moroccan Workers or UMT [Mahjoub BENSEDDIK].

Major Political Players

King Mohammed VI: Groomed for "kingship", as his late father King Hassan II referred to his upbringing, Mohammed VI became monarch in 1999. With Morocco's constitution giving him significant power, the king has pledged to make the political system more open, allow more freedom of expression, and support economic reform and regional decentralisation. He initiated political and economic changes and an investigation into human rights abuses during his father's rule.

The king says the fight against poverty is a priority, earning him the name "guardian of the poor". Economic liberalisation has attracted foreign investment and officials point to better basic services in shanty towns and rural areas. But some non-government groups say little has changed, with poverty still widespread and unemployment remaining high. A key reform has been the Mudawana, a law which grants more rights to women. The king has said it is in line with Koranic principles, but religious conservatives have opposed it.

Bomb attacks in Casablanca in 2003 prompted the enactment of new anti-terrorism laws and a reinvigorated campaign against extremists. But some rights groups say the measures have eroded human rights.

King Mohammed married computer engineer Salma Bennani in 2002. They have a son, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, born in 2003, and a daughter, Princess Lalla Khadija, born in 2007. Under the constitution, the king can dissolve parliament and dismiss or appoint the prime minister. A popular figure, he has also advocated giving more rights to women, which has been unpopular with Islamists.

Driss Jettou: Former prime minister; he is also a successful businessman in his own right known for his negotiating skills. He has been given a mandate for rapid economic and social change by the reform-minded king. Jettou was interior minister in the previous government. Liked by the business community, his appointment was criticised by some as he is not an elected deputy, but a royal appointee.

Mohammed Rachidi Chraibi: The king's top advisor and head of his parallel cabinet. Chraibi is also a former classmate of King Mohammed.

Last Updated on Monday 4th August 2008