Morocco sovereign stresses joint responsibility with local elected leaders in address to Parliament
Last week, King Mohammed VI of Morocco spoke to the new session of Parliament, remarking on the 50th anniversary of its founding and its role in moving the country forward. As is characteristic of the King’s public addresses, he understands the value of the “bully pulpit” in touching on issues of public service, economic challenges, and the role of politics in governance.
It was, frankly, a tough speech for some politicians to hear. As both the King’s words and subtext made clear, he feels strongly that they should more actively shoulder their responsibility for changes and reforms that have been discussed for far too long and that need to be acted on for the good of the country. For example, “The Parliamentary Mandate…is a national mission, and by no means a source of political gains.”
Harkening back to the landmark 2011 Constitution, the King reminded the members of the need to complete the implementation of its many clauses through passage of organic laws that define policies, procedures, and protocols. In this process, he noted that “you display a sense of national consensus and stick to the broad-based participatory approach that characterized the preparation of the Constitution.”
The King also made it clear that “what really matters to us, is not only the number of laws adopted, but also, and most importantly, the legislative quality of the bills enacted.” To this end, he called on the parliament to clarify the rules of procedure for the opposition in parliament, defining their rights and processes for contributing to the development of legislation.
He also commented on the exercise of separation of powers between Morocco’s executive branch of government (the Ministers) and the legislative (Parliament). “To ensure sound political practices, based on efficiency, coordination and institutional stability,” King Mohammed said, “I must insist on the need for constructive dialogue and close, balanced cooperation between Parliament and the government,” adding that “Parliament should not be turned into an arena for politicking and political wrangling,” a reference to the previous ruling coalition that was brought down by the withdrawal of the Istiqlal Party.
Partners in reform and development: Parliament and local officials
In addressing the importance of locally elected officials, the King made a clear distinction between the Parliament, which passes national policies, and local officials “who are accountable before those who voted for them.” He called for “close interaction with the citizen, and genuine readiness to heed his pressing concerns and to attend to his administrative and social needs.” The King spoke in some details about the “wide discrepancies…in the way local and regional affairs are managed”—some quite effectively, others “plagued by mismanagement on the part of their elected bodies.”
Using Casablanca as an example, King Mohammed noted that the goal of making the city an international financial hub “cannot materialize just by taking a decision to this effect, or by erecting huge, state-of-the-art buildings.” In addition to world-class infrastructure and services, “Good governance must be upgraded, together with an appropriate legal framework…highly skilled labor and modern management techniques…” He pointed out a number of deficiencies, including the great disparities in wealth and services, concluding that the problem in Casablanca, Morocco’s economic capital, “stems mainly from governance.”King Mohammed reminded Parliament that, as he said in his first speech as sovereign in 1999, “I did not have a magic wand to solve all the problems, but would tackle all the difficulties consciously, seriously and diligently,” and he looks to the country’s leadership, at all levels, to do the same. By stressing the close ties that should exist between the parliament and locally elected officials, the King emphasized the need to implement greater decentralization and regionalization, especially the need for capacity-building at the local and regional levels “for the emergence of new regional elites who are able to handle public affairs at the local level.”
Moving the agenda forward
In short order, the King moved proactively to demonstrate the need for action. Earlier this week, he met with the Council of Ministers to adopt draft laws that will go to Parliament to implement the 2011 Constitutional reforms in three key areas:
- The roles and responsibilities of members of government, their prerogatives, procedures, legal status, and clarification of the role of the Ministers.
- The mandate, operations, and procedures of the Constitutional Court.
- The scope of work, composition, and procedures for parliamentary fact-finding commissions.
The Ministers Council also approved the broad outlines of the 2014 finance bill.
While the process of evolving a parliamentary democracy comes with both obstacles and opportunities, the King’s twin roles as arbiter and visionary for the country provide a much-needed backstop and reminder that the people’s business transcends individual political parties and special interests.
By speaking candidly about the strategic partnership for governance between members of Parliament and locally elected officials, King Mohammed is encouraging politicians and officials to support, contribute to, and be part of reforms that will serve the country and secure its future.