If you say your vote doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the American political system, think again. Take a look at Morocco-with an elected parliament, a human rights movement that is rapidly gaining momentum, and a liberal family code, the sociopolitical scene appears to be quite healthy. However, appearances can be deceiving. The king, Mohammed VI, still maintains nearly all the power and the major decision-making responsibilities.
While the presence of the monarchy is unquestioned today, its role was in flux after Moroccan independence. The same independence movement that had ended French colonialism was beginning to reconsider the total power of the monarchy. At the same time the movement was busy arguing about the future of the Moroccan state, the king, Mohammed V, was equally busy pitting different factions within the party against each other, allowing him to re-consolidate power. Ever since, the monarchy has played a delicate balancing game, supporting various political parties to keep the opposition from becoming too powerful and posing a threat. The monarchy even weathered the Arab Spring with almost no issue-in response to the riots, King Mohammed VI quickly responded with an announcement promising a new and more liberal constitution. The cleverly constructed language of the 2011 constitution appears to offer more political power to the people, while changing little in reality. According to Paul Silverstein, in his article Weighing Morocco’s New Constitution, “the king will continue to name the prime minister and approve the cabinet over which he presides (Articles 47 and 48); command the military (Article 53); chair the various high councils on religion, security and the judiciary (Articles 41, 54, 56); name ambassadors (Article 55); approve the nomination of judges (Article 57); pronounce all enacted laws (Article 50); and “at His initiative” dismiss ministers and dissolve the parliament (Articles 47 and 51).” While the election process is at an all-time high for transparency, the true significance of the parliament is contested when the king exercises so much power over it.
Subject or citizen? The future of political rights in Morocco is a controversial subject. Moroccans’ reverence for their king surpasses any semblance of respect Americans might have for their president. Even during the tumultuous months of the Arab Spring, the rioters demanded the end to corruption and the dismissal of the king’s close advisors, not the end of the monarchy itself. Furthermore, Mohammed VI has made important reforms in the human rights sphere, which NGOs are only furthering. Despite the small gain in rights, many are optimistic about the future of the Morocco’s political system. Change is slow, and no country achieves transparency without struggles. Still, the Moroccan government has much to do before the people truly have a say in their government.