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Morocco: New Constitution Drafted

(June 29, 2011) On June 17, 2011, the King of Morocco outlined the changes offered in a new constitution that will be voted on in a referendum scheduled for July 1, 2011. The King identified ten areas of change touted as making the new constitution a “decisive historical turn” in the road for building a state with democratic rights and institutions and for forging a “new historical covenant” between the throne and the people. The text of the speech in Arabic is available online at Text of the Speech of King Mohammed VI to the Nation, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (June 18, 2011). The Arabic text of the proposed new constitution is available online from the SCRIBD website (last visited June 22, 2011).

While the proposed Constitution does not change the fundamentals of the existing Moroccan legal and political system, the proposed changes affect mainly two areas.

1. For the first time, the diversity in Moroccan society is recognized by providing in article 5 that the Amazigh language (spoken by the Berber population) will be an official language, in addition to Arabic, and that the state will protect the distinctive Arabic dialect (Hassania) of the inhabitants of the Saharan provinces as an integral part of the unified Moroccan cultural identity.

2. If adopted, the constitution will require the appointment of a government representing the majority of the voters. Article 47 restricts the power of the King in the selection process to appointing the head of the government from the political party that comes in first in the parliamentary election, but it is not clear whether the person to be appointed will be selected by the party itself or by the King or whether that person will be selected from members elected to parliament or from the members of the party at large. The draft constitution is silent about whether or not the King has the power to dismiss the government.