Sets Down Markers for Responsible and Responsive Action
King Mohammed VI of Morocco addressed the opening of Parliament last week with an appeal to citizens and political parties to fully take on their responsibilities for advancing the country’s reform agenda. He focused on three items: “completing the setting up of institutions, implementing advanced regionalization, reforming the education and training system.” While much of the media coverage analyzed his emphasis on judicial reform and launching the new Constitutional Court, I found his comments on citizenship and political parties far more revealing of the King’s expectations of Parliament’s mission.
He began by reminding them that, according to the 2011 Constitution, this session has two years to complete the adoption of the implementing regulations for the organic laws adopted in that document. With less than half of the organic laws implemented, the King noted that it is the responsibility of the Parliament to consolidate the “democratic choice made by the Moroccan people.”
He spoke of the duties of citizenship that should be shared by all: “As a Moroccan, nothing is more valuable to me than the sense of belonging to this nation.” And he stressed the value of citizen participation, “especially civil society organizations. In this regard, I have been encouraging the constructive initiatives undertaken by civil society groups, given the positive role they play as a counterbalancing force and as a powerhouse of suggestions that contribute to constructive criticism and balance between the different parties.”
The King outlined clearly his expectations regarding Parliament. “You politicians are at the forefront of those who are expected to maintain and consolidate this sense of pride by enhancing the citizens’ confidence in public and elected institutions, and by increasing the credibility and efficiency of those institutions, so that the citizens feel they are actually being served by them.” The King reminded members that, while they may have their own political survival as a continuing priority, “this should not be done at the expense of the nation’s major issues or of the citizens’ real concerns. Political parties should be based on close attention to the citizens’ needs, on constant contact with the people, on compliance with laws, and on observance of ethical standards.”
His message to the political parties and the general public underscores his appeals of the last three years that there is no more important agenda for the country than achieving a broad-based commitment to building and sustaining responsive political organizations, both inside and outside of government.
Regionalization Elections Raise Concerns
Advanced regionalization, devolving a great deal of political decision-making to local authorities, is another constant feature of the King’s speeches, and this one was no exception. He noted his commitment to move forward with Morocco’s decentralization program to improve the efficiency and accountability of local governance. His hopes for the coming local election to be held under the forthcoming regionalization plan contain an implicit rejection of the past performance of political parties. “The greatest challenge facing Morocco today is not simply the distribution of powers between the central government and the regions and local governments, but more particularly how to ensure that these powers are used properly in order to serve the citizens. Accordingly, the coming elections should not be perceived as an end in themselves, so much as an opportunity for political competitions between programs and leaders, avoiding outbidding tactics and partisan bickering.”
The King wants to avoid a repeat of the reshuffling of the PJD-led government coalition in late 2013, which created a lapse of more than three months in Parliamentary activity. This break slowed the country’s momentum in adopting the constitution’s reform measures and lowered public confidence in the political parties.
Human Development – Always on the Agenda
As he has done on many occasions, the King spoke emphatically about “human capital as our foremost asset in building on the country’s economic, social, political, and human rights achievements. “
He particularly mentioned his directive to the Higher Council for Education, Training, and Scientific Research this past August to complete their overall assessment and recommendations regarding the goal of preparing market-ready and employable Moroccan youth.
The Council is holding meetings across the country with groups of stakeholders to evaluate education and training in order to develop “recommendations that can help reform Moroccan schools and enhance their performance.” Among the issues being tackled are “curricula that meet the requirements of development and the job market,” the role of foreign language acquisition in preparing graduates for “technological progress and access to the new jobs being created in Morocco,” and the overall reform of the educational sector.
This address to the opening session of Parliament was not only a listing of agenda items but a reminder that the process of evolving a parliamentary democracy is very much in the hands of the political parties. The King continues to encourage them to be conscious of their responsibility to the constituencies and their accountability to the nation. It is now their role to rise to the challenge of implementing the reforms of the 2011 Constitution. The King’s speech reminds politicians and citizens alike that this is a shared responsibility that will greatly shape the future of Morocco’s political landscape.