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Vl From Hasan to Muhammad ll
(a Plus Change?
DANIEL Z ISENW IN E
The smooth accessionof Morocco's King Muhammad VI to the throne in luly 1999, following the death of his father, Hasan II, was grounded in the protocols and customs of the Moroccan monarchy. Thesetraditional rites of passagefacilitated the transition of power in the kingdom, alleviating previous concerns that it would be marked by instability and uncertainty, leading even to the monarchy's collapse.Within hours of his father's death, Muhammad somberly announced the news in a nationally televised addressand assumed his official responsibilities and duties as Morocco's new king. He later received the traditional oath of allegiance (bay'a) from the kingdom's religious leadership, which recognized his position as the "Commander of the Faithful" (amir al-mu'minin), the spiritual and political leader of Moroccan'sMuslims. The new king's first task was to meet with world leaders who traveled to Rabat in order to participate in the late King Hasan's funeral. Apart from the ceremonial aspects,the new king's discussionsfocused on issuesthal occupied a prominent place on Morocco's diplomatic agenda, such as the future of the western Sahara and its relations with neighboring Algeria. Il was evident that a new era in Morocco's history had begun. Even as the kingdom mourned King Hasan's death, the public by and large optimistically embraced the country's new leader.l King Muhammad was well aware of the high expectations that accompanied his rise to the throne both at home and abroad. Many Moroccarrs had known no other leader than the late King Hasan, whose reign extended over thirty-eight years.zThey now pinned their hopes on the new yountl monarch. His numerous statementsand interviews as crown prince seernetl on to indicate that he would promote a political agendacenterecl strengllr ening democracyand pluralism.They alsohopeclthrrlltc wottkl rtggrcssivcly
confront the country'schroniceconomicproblemsandameliorate living the conditions of millions of poverty-strickenMoroccans(seethe chapterby Paul Rivlin in this volume). Accompanyingtheir hopeswere expectations that the new king would introduce a more open styleof leadership, appropriate for the twenty-first century,and discardthe monarchy's traditional opacityand secrecy. Indeed,the new king'sinitial actionssuggested he that wasintenton pursuingsucha course, leadingsomeMoroccans proclaim to that their country wason the thresholdof sweeping changes.3 During his first months on the throne, Muhammadrepeatedly declared his intent to transformMorocco's political systemand transcend traditional and structuralbarriers that hinderedthe move toward greaterdemocracy. Over time, he eveninstigatedan unprecedented examinationof the anndes plomb (lit. "yearsof lead"),the initial decades Hasan's de of reign characterizedby the harsh repressionof political dissidents.But despitethe king's declaredintentions,and despitea number of bold initiatives,the country's historicallegacyremainslargelyat oddswith the conceptof greaterdemocracy and genuinepolitical pluralism and continuesto castits shadowover political life. The monarchy's position in societyremainsomnipotent and its control of the political systemnearly absolute. be sure,this system To hasbeen refashioned under Muhammad,but the monarchyremainsthe motor of Moroccanpolitics.Thecountry'sparliamentary system, which had begun its own reform processduring the later yearsof Hasan's rule, still lagsbehind the royal palace's authority and hasnot emerged an alternaas political activity.Moreover, tive centerof substantial variouscomponents of political and economicreformswereactuallyinitiated during Muhammad's his predecessor's reign,suggesting the new king'scoursemaybe far less that revolutionary than the perceptionsthat surrounded them. Muhammad's initiativesmay thereforebe more about continuity than changeand might be viewed more as 'bld wine in new bottles" rather than a fundamental politics. transformation Moroccan of Nevertheless, the eight yearssinceMuhammad'saccession, in Morocco political change. hasexperienced considerable Many facetsof its domestic political landscape havebeen significantly alteredand are now a far cry l'rornthe past.Politicalactsand deeds that wereonceunthinkablehavenow bccorrre standardand routine.Many taboosthat previouslyrestrictedpoliticnl nctivitylrave beenlifted.Politicalfigureshavebecome more outspoken and itr llrcir staterrrents lesstimid in their general conduct.New political frrre:cs pcrsonalities iurd havecometo the fore,and manyof the old guard wrr(' r('nlov('cl l-rorrt thc'irpowerfulpostsand receded from the publicspot-
FromHasanII to Muhammadvl /
light. Themonarchyhasadopteda more open stylein its day-to-dayactivitime, public.At the same to tiesand hasbecomemore accessible the general such as Islamist-related Morocco has had to face unexpectedchallenges, terrorism.Economicreformshavebeenintroducedand promotedat a very slow pace,and economicconditions remain difficult for millions of Muhas in Progress other areas alsobeenspotty.Moreover, subjects. hammad's a number of potentially explosivesocialand political questionsstill await personalstahighly contested althoughMorocco's resolution.For example, below),the impact of its practitus codehasbeensignificantlyrevised(see societyand the statusof women remains cal implementationon Moroccan concerningreforming the unclear.Similar uncertaintiessurround debates country'spolitical system. on first Muhammad's eightyears the throne,eluciThis essaywilladdress datethe diverseand often contradictorytrackson which he hasproceeded, the and assess impact of his policieson Moroccanpolitical life. In situatin ing recentdomesticdevelopments a broadercontext' I will alsodiscuss whether they indeed mark a departurefrom earlier political practices'or initiated by reform process are primarily a continuationof the slow-paced should help the king's father.Teasingout the answersto thesequestions current position regardingthe process clarify the Moroccangovernment's liberalization,and the courseit is likely to pursue of democratizationand during the next decade. King Muhammad'sStyleof Leadership reignwasshroudedin uncertaintyreThebeginningof King Muhammad's ability to promotea reformistpolitical agenda gardingthe young monarch's while maintaining social and political control over a complex polity. Alpolitical opinionsand inclinationswereeasthough many of Muhammad's were a it ily discernable, was unclearwhether his initial personalgestures politicalcultureor merely in harbingerof meaningfulchanges the kingdom's royal policies.In the realm of ceremocosmeticalterationsof traditional it nial pomp and circumstance, wasclear that new king recoiledfrom the for aspects Moroccancourt life, suchashis preference of more ostentatious havinghis hand kissed, ratherthan handshakes when meetinghis subjects accordingto time-honoredcustom,and the closingof the royal harem.Bethe the yond suchsymbolicgestures, king asserted needto introducea "new transparency, ideals fairness, of of concept authority"that would champion
and the rule of law in governmentaffairs.But such statements could not be translatedinto political reality if the new king lacked his own source of legitimacy.Indeed,the skepticismregardingMuhammad'saptitudeand ability to shepherd Morocco into a new era compoundedthe king'sneedto seekhis own imprint on Moroccanpolitics. Muhammadt initial activities underscoredhis intentions. Seekingto shakeoff the lethargy that had surrounded the palaceduring Hasan's final years,Muhammad soughtto project an imageof an energetic, handson leader.Accordingly,the king conducteda seriesof high-profile visits to variousparts of the country,including remoteprovincesthat his father had avoidedfor years, fearingvocalopposition.In eachvisit, the assembled crowdsenthusiastically embraced new monarch,who would often perthe sonallyapproach and speakwith them ratherthan speed in a motorcade. by The welcomingthrongsdubbedMuhammad the "king of the poor,',a king who appeared committedto his people! personalwelfare. mannerconHis trastedsharplywith that ofhis latefather,whoseauthoritarianstyleinstilled his subjects with fear and awe. It seemedthat most Moroccansfound Muhammad'simage of a con_ cerned,caring, and involved monarch appealing.The months following Muhammad'saccession were a period of widespreadferment and excitement, asMoroccans became acquainted with the new king'sstyleand noted the removalof many barriersthat in the pasthad overshadowed public life. seekingto alter the monarchy's opaqueimage,Muhammad appointedthe first-everspokesperson the royal palace,HassanAourid, who was one for of Muhammad's closeassociates wasassigned help explain the new and to king'spoliciesto both domesticand foreign audiences. wasexpected It that thesechanges would be complemented a strengthening Morocco's by of parliament.a A further indication of the king'snew approachwasthe unprecedented publicity that accompanied 20a2 marriagg Traditionally,all aspects his of the Moroccanroyalfamily'sprivateliveshavebeenkept far frorn the public! scrutiny.Indeed,when King Hasanpassedaway,his wife, who had never been seenin public and washardly everevenmentionedby name,did not publicly participatein the rites of burial and mourning. By contrast,Muhammad's bride, salmaBennani,appeared public and held several in interviews with the media, along with her husband.Theseinterviews exposed the royalcouplet personallife in a mannerthat waspreviouslyunthinkable. she hassincetaken an activepublic role and maintainsa relatively high
From HasanII to MuhammadVl
profile. Commentatorsalso noted the king's decisionto marry an urban by woman (from Fez)insteadof solidi$ing political alliances marrying the practice.s the daughterof a Berbertribal leader, traditional Solomonic-like But the king did not limit his initial actionsto highly publicized,symbolically laden public activitiesand set out to leavehis imprint on a host "sensitive" that were considered of domesticpolitical and socialquestions pothe reign. Theseincluded strengthening representative during Hasan's legal role in public life and revisitingthe litical systemand the parliament's and problematicundertaking,for statusof women.Doing so wasa delicate within Moroccan it threatenedto exposethe deep fissuresand cleavages to society.At times, thesefissureseven appeared endangerthe countryt the stability and causedthe reform-minded king to pauseand reevaluate political structures.Theseperiodic impact of his reforms on social and especially during momentsof pauses wereperplexingto many Moroccans, crisiswhen the public anxiouslywaitedto hear the king'spronouncements someof the earlydoubtsconcerning at Consequently, on the matters stake. Muhammad's ability to skillfully lead Moroccointo a new era resurfaced. for in Suchwasthe case, example, the aftermathof the Islamistterrorist on attacksin Casablanca May 16, 2003.The attacksshockedthe Moroccan populace, which quickly turned to the king, looking for guidanceand previouslyoutspokenand visible monarchwas But reassurance. Morocco's curiously absentfor weeksfrom the ensuingdebateabout the attacksand Apart from the kingt initial visit to the their impact on Moroccansociety. It concerningtheseevents. attackedsites,therewere no official statements wereuncertainabouthow to rethat Muhammadand his advisers seemed the spond.Theyalsomay havebeenwaiting to gauge public'sviewsregardAlthough to ing the appropriatemeasures be adoptedby the government. legislationaimed at combating the governmenthastily enactedemergency supporting terrorist activity,and crackeddown heavilyon the perpetrators, it sympathizers, initially refrained from further networks,and suspected reform measures. Indeed, it seemedas if the entire political systemwas by overshadowed the attacksand their aftermath.6 Eventually,however,the king gatheredhimself together and asserted anew his commitment to shepherdinghis country into a new political era. In an October 2003 speechto parliament,Muhammad announceda widespreadchangein Morocco'sfamily law, which had long been a confamily law in testedtopic. Earlier attemptsto introducechanges Morocco's had beenvehementlyopposedby Islamistand other sociallyconservative Muhammad's decisionto adopt the new law was groupsand thus shelved.
clearlypart of his overallresponse the May 16attacks, he soughtto put to as the Islamist opposition,both legal and extralegal, its place.The timing in was propitious: Most of thesegroups and their leaders,fearful of statesponsoredrepressionin the wake of the attacks,were especiallycareful to toe the line, declaringthe king's decisionto adopt a new family code a sound interpretation of religious law. other segments societywarmly of welcomedit. Emboldenedby the public response, king now appearedto be far the more determinedto confront the burning questionson Morocco's political agenda'But Muhammad'ssubsequent policies and deedsdid not always meet expectations either at home or abroad,raising anewthe question,to what degreewas the new king really departing from the practicesof his predecessors, particularlyhis father? Reformingthe political System Already in 1996,King Hasan had initiated -reformsin Morocco'sparliamentary systemas he soughtto improve Morocco'simage internationally and preparethe ground for an orderly transition of power to his son.They included the establishment a bicameralparliament,in which the lower of house (chamber of Deputies)would be electedby a direct ballot for five years'a departurefrom the previousunicameralparliamentin which only two-thirds of the memberswere electedby direct ballot. The newly establishedupperchamber(chamber of counselors)would be chosenby special bodies drawn from local and regional councils,professional associations, and trade unions.Memberswould be electedfor nine years, with one-third ofthem to be chosenevery three years.The upper house would be able to proposelegislationand also dissolvethe governmentwith a two-thirds vote. , However, thesestructuralchanges not significantlyalterthe natureof did Morocco's political system, Hasanand the monarchyremainedthe domas inant force. Moreover, the 1997parliamentaryelectionswere plaguedby doubtssurroundingthe vote's transparency fairness. and opposition parties raisednumerouscomplaintsof fraud and other abuses, demonstrating anew that achievinggenuinedemocracyin Morocco wasto be an arduousroad. The next stepin Hasan's political reformswasthe formation of an arternancegovetnment,which he had been promoting for a number of years. After a long period of negotiations, Hasanwasablein March l99g to establish a cabinet basecl veteran, on mostlyleft-of-center opposition parties, red
From HasanIl to Muhammad VI /
by Abderrahmanlbussoufi of the union Socialiste Forcespopulaires des (usFP). Greetedwith much fanfare,the new governmentwas expected to forcefully address country'sdire socioeconomic the situationwhile repositioning the cabinet's role in the governingof the country.The idea behind the formation of an alternance governmentwas to increasethe influence of political partieswithin Morocco's power structureand promotegovernrnental responsibility. such a development had the potential for a kind of power sharingbetweenthe monarchyand the governmentthat would by definition' modifr the monarchy's hegemony over political life. conversery, the new government's compositionaffected Morocco's complexpower relations betweenstateand society.The participation of oppositionpartiesin the governmentcompelledother playersin the politic;i ur"nu to redefine their own often ambivalent positionstoward officialpoliciesand the political establishment.T wasparticularly relevantto Islamistgroups,which This wereforcedto reconsider their statedpreference refrain from participato tion in public life. Although some,suchasHarakatal-Adl wal-Ihsan(Justice and spirituality movement),remainedoutsidethe formal political system, others'under the rubric of the Farty of fusticeand Development (plD), felt compelledto play accordingto the makhzen'ss rules (seeMichael l. willis's chapter this volume). in But Youssoufi's government did not live up to expectations, dashing hopes that Morocco would evolverapidly toward the establishment of a full-fledged constitutional monarchy. The government'seconomic programs were considereda far cry from the measures required to improve the livesof most Moroccans. the time of Muhammad's By accession fuly in 1999, Youssoufi's cabinethad lost much of its public luster.Moroc cdsalter_ nanceexperimenthad also affectedits political parties.Ironically,joining the governmenthad eroded the historic opposition'sability to offer a viablealternative. The USFB in particular,was now perceivedasa co*opted, weakenedmovement.The 2002parliamentaryelectionsthus seemed to comejust in time, offering an opportunity to energize political life. unlike the 1997 vote,theseelections werewidely perceived transparent as and fair bereft ofglaring incidentsofcorruption. But the successful voting process could not eclipsethe widening fissureswithin and betweenthe ranks of politicalparties, their inabilityto playan active and rolein politicallife.For example,interparty disagreements over technicarvoting procedures prior to the elections forcedthe Interior Ministry to intervene. Thepublic seemecl to be generally dissatisfied with politicalpartiesanclcliclnot view tlrcrnns importantagents potential of change. Instead, rrraryM'r'ccolrs alliliatetl
that with organizations werenot part of the officialpolitical systhemselves These forums for political involvement. tem andviewedthem asalternative includedIslamistgroupsand variousNGOs.e to Many observersnoted the need to reinvigoratewhat appeared be a political reform had stalled.The lethargicgovernment,whoseprogram for to 2002parliamentaryelectionsthus seemed comejust in time. unlike the and fair, beas werewidely perceived transparent vote,theseelections 1997 reft of glaring incidentsof corruption' However,the new governmentformed after the election was in many Insteadof appointingaparty leaderasprime minwaysa disappointment. ister, as befitting a genuineparliamentarysystem,Muhammad appointed loyalist and a skilled Driss fettou,a nonpartytechnocratknown asa palace 10 appointmentasa potential viewedfettou's administrator. Someobservers elite to becomemore involvedin policy making. opening for the business the In that sense, appointmentconstitutedanother step in incorporating into political affairs.On the other hand, one could arnew socialelements experithat the entire alternance gue that the appointmentdemonstrated aberrationin Moroccanpolitical life, which ment had beenan insignificant remainedcenteredon the king's personalpolitical calculations.llIndeed, support for affettou'ssurprising nomination signifiedthat Muhammad's parties did not translateinto a to fording greaterresponsibilities political Henceit remainedunwillingnessto loosenhis hold over the government. political partiesand parliamentwould everbe ableto clearhow Morocco's by "maturity level"if they continuedto be sidelined the obtain the necessary palace. to political partiesinitially reactedwith consternation |ettou's Morocco's did not reflect appointment.A USFPofficial noted that the new cabinet ability to confront eiectionresults,and raiseddoubtsover the new cabinet's (Parti du Progrdset du SocialThe challenges. left-leaningPPS Morocco's over the connotationsand implications its isme) alsoexpressed displeasure were raisedabout the thinking behind of |ettou'snomination. Questions Other parties,suchasthe nomination and the king'snew measures. Jettou's center-rightIstiqlal,soughtto reinforcetheir influentialposition within the aboutendorsing|ettou.It was and new government, werelessapprehensive whetherthe new cabinetwould providethesepartieswith however, unclear, politicalmuscle.12 greater alsoraisedquestions in 'lhe king'.s policiesand statements other areas socialinitiatives' role abrlutlhe lttttttnrclry',s in politicallife. Muhammad's grip on longstanding the Irovelrrsllrey were,clid nol corrrprurnisc' palace's
140 / Daniel Zisenwine political and economic affairs. Indeed, Muhammad did not significantly alter the established balance between the monarchy and the government. In fact, he established a mechanism that endowed the monarchy with even greater responsibility and power. Shortly after his ascent to the throne, for example, Muhammad announced the establishmentof the Hasan II Fund for Development, a major philanthropic organization independent of government supervision, which was given the task of alleviating the social This policy was and economic plight of Morocco'slegions of poor people.l3 reminiscent of the Moroccan state'sheavy involvement in the construction of civil society in the early 1990sand reflected the historical legacy of a coopted political system.la The Hasan II Development Fund and a number of other permanent royal commissions charged with treating "strategic" issueshave emerged as the central conduits of reform in contemporary Morocco, eclipsingparliament, political parties,and other governmentalinstitutions. The outcome hasbeen a hybrid system, in which royal commissions and governmental institutions are charged with similar tasks. There is no clear division of responsibility between thesetwo poles,but the royal commissions have become the agencies in Muhammad's Morocco that make many decisions later endorsed by the government or approved by parliament. In that sense,the essenceof Moroccan politics has not changed under Muhammad. Examplesof these new commissions include the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, established in 2001to promote Morocco'sAmazigh/Berber identity (seeMickael Bensadount chapter in this volume) and the Commission on Equity and Reconciliation, which was given the task of investigating previous human rights abuses(see below). Both were widely viewed as palace-controlled mechanisms. Their establishment was frequently accompanied by the cooption of former regime critics through their appointment to important positions. Hence, the likelihood of genuine public debate on the issuesat hand became lesslikely, leading many to speak of the emergenceof a neoThis neo-makhzen makhzen,which includes the king and his closeadvisers. monarchical dominance, suggestingagain a is in essence reproduction of that the king's underlying modus operandi is more similar to that employed by his forebears than the proponents of reform had hoped would be the case.l5
From lIasan lI to Muhammad VI / 141
Human Rights and Press Freedoms The oscillation between continuity and change has been particularlyevident in the realm of civil liberties, human rights and press freedoms, where the regime has been historically vulnerable to international criticism. Improvements in the regime'shuman rights record, which began in the last decadeof Hasan'srule and accelerated after Muhammad's accession,included greater respect for basic civil and political rights and the expansion offreedom of expression and association and were duly noted by human rights organizations. More recently, the Moroccan authorities have added an additional element to the picture. In an unprecedentedundertaking among Arab countries, the authorities opened up a public revisiting ofa dark chapter during Hasan'slong reign.l6 As in other instances, it was the monarchy, not other political or social forces, that defined the discourse and parameters of a debate concerning a sensitive and potentially explosive topic.l7 In a speech delivered shortly after his rise to power, Muhammad acknowledged the state'sresponsibility for the disappearance of dissidents, mostly during the 1970s.Muhammad initially established an %rbitration panel" charged with compensatingvictims or their surviving heirs. By the time the panel ceased to function, in fuly 2003,it had settled nearly four thousand claims. Critics argued that the panel offered compensation but did not establish a process to seek either justice or the truth. The accompanying publication of testimonies and memoirs recounting theseeventsincluding prison experiences further fueled the public's interest in the process. The task of further investigating these abuses was then assigned to a state-createdCommission on Equity and Reconciliation (Instance Equit6 et Reconciliation,or IER) in |anuary 2004.The IER was hailed by the king as "the last step in a process leading to the definitive closure of a thorny issue," and the commission's mandate was described by regime spokesmen as the most serious effort ever by Moroccan authorities to recognize and make amends for past abuses.Besides investigating and recording testimonies, it was charged with continuing the arbitration panel's work of compensating victims, as well as to produce a historical account of repressiveacts during llasan'.s rule. Mirny cloubts were raised regarding the commission's likely effectiveness, duc lo a rrurnberof restrictionsin its mandate.For starters,critics noted that tlrc llilt wns nol permitted to prosecute individuals charged with human lipilrlsviolrrtiorrs, lhis lo thc clisrnay former victims and Moroccan huof
From HasanII to MuhammadVl
man rights activists. Nor was it able to compel testimony. The commission's work was thus a far cry from similar investigations in other countries, such as South Africa. Former victims raised doubts whether the commission would end Morocco's cycle of repression, pointing to the enfeebled nature of the country's judicial system, which was unlikely to indict suspects,some of whom continued to hold public office. Indeed, Morocco had retained formal continuity between Hasan'sabusive regime and the current monarchy, with the commission itself being beholden to the state. Reports on the commission's work avoided any direct criticism of the deceasedmonarch's policies and conduct, merely acknowledging that bad advisers were responsible for previous misdeeds and misguided Hasan. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the IERs establishment was an important development, underscoring the monarchy's stated quest to initiate a "housecleaning process" by confronting earlier dark chapters in Moroccan history and thus permit Morocco to enter a new era. What remains unclear' however, is whether the commission's proceedings will exorcise the ghosts of the past and be the harbinger of a new era where human rights and civil liberties will be the cornerstone of a revised Moroccan polity. Meanwhile, the renewed repression against Islamist dissidents following the Casablanca bombings in 2003 appeared to mark another swing of the pendulum back toward the modus operandi of the past-arbitrary arrests, abuse of human rights, and torture. A hastily enacted tough antiterrorist law led to widespread arrests and harsh sentencesimposed on Islamist activists. What was saucefor the goose was not necessarily saucefor the gander.l8 A closer look at these actions revealed,however, that these heavy-handed policies were in fact already in place prior to the May attacks. Many radical Islamists had been arrested, unauthorized mosques that served as hotbeds of Islamist activities shut down, and radical Islamist publications banned. These measures did not prevent the Casablanca attacks. Nonetheless, the effect of the government's repressivemeasureson public life was not as deep as some analysts had argued. The aftermath of the attacks did not dramatically change the regime's orientation and intentions.le Another area of uncertainty regarding Morocco's future path was the degree of freedom to be accorded to the press, which had been heavily restricted during much of Hasan'sreign. On the one hand, the new atmosphere occasionedby Muhammad's rise to power was reflectedin the print media"s unprecedentedwillingness to address sensitive topics. New publications, such as the popular French-languageweekly TelQueltransformed the medirr itt landscape,treating thorny issuesthat had never before beelr atlclressccl
the Moroccanmedia,suchaspastincidentsof humanrights abuses, stathe tus of women,or historically chargedquestionsconcerningthe collaboration of influential Moroccanswith the Frenchcolonial governmentduring the nationaliststrugglefor independence.2O Although Moroccanjournalists enjoyeda higher degree freedomthan everbefore,important limitations of remained. example, authorities For the refused abolishlong-heldred lines to relatedto the king's person,the monarchy's legitimacy and opaqueinner workings,and the justnessof Morocco's claim on the territory of Western Sahara. fournalistsand editorswho soughtto testthe continuingvalidity of thesetaboosfound themselves embroiledin court proceedings and facing penalties evenimprisonment. economic and The focalpoint for the authorities' firmnessin dealingwith misbehaving journalistswasthe longtime gadflyAli Lmrabet.In April 2005,Lmrabet wasbannedfrom exercising professionfor ten years,and fined a hefty his sum to boot, following Lmrabet's seemingly sympathetic commentstoward Sahrawirefugees Algerian campsrun by the Polisariomovementstrugin gling against impositionof Moroccansovereignty the WesternSahara. the in Theban followedon the heelsof his imprisonmentin2002-3 for publishing satirical cartoonsof Moroccan officials and for the more seriousoffense of publishing data on the royal palace's annual budget.Information concerning the inner workings of the monarchy remainstightly classifiedin Moroccoand is a sensitive topic rarelyraisedin public. Another journalist, Hamid Naimi, was convictedin March 2005 in severallibel cases dating to 1998,lawsuitsthat had been reactivatedin late 2004 after Naimi back publishedan article about the embezzlement public funds by a number of of officials.Concurrently TelQuel reprimandedby the palaceafterpubwas lishinga report aboutthe daily life of Princess Lalla Salma. The magazine wasaccused "meddling in the princess's of private life" and warned not to publish any information or news about the private life of membersof the royal family. A more seriouscaseinvolving the royal family'sposition and freedomof emerged fune 2005.NadiaYassine, MoroccanIslamistactivist in the press a and daughterof |ustice and Spirituality head ShaykhAbdessalam Yassine, elenounced Moroccanmonarchialregime,noting that it did not suit the Morocco, and expressed preference a republicanform of governher for nrent.A governmentspokesperson noted that Yassine's statements violated lhc Moroccan constitution, and that the press codedefiningthe responsibiliticsof pcrsons who makesuchstatements, thosewho publishthem,and tlrose wlroelislribule llrenrwereperfectly clear. Legal proceedings werethus
FromHasanIl to MuhammadVl /
two her initiated against and against journalistsfor publishing"anti-monarcomcriticized Yassine's Although Moroccannewspapers chy statements." "deliberate closely provocation]'they were ments,noting that they were a to seeking gage behaviorin the unfolding case, following the government's "red lines" concerningfreedomof the press.zl government's the Thesecasesgeneratedcriticism from international organizationsthat Overall, the regularlymonitor the degreeof pressfreedom in Morocco.22 the difficulty of of seemingresurgence curbsplacedon pressfreedom,and journalistsin transcending taboosand barrierslimiting their work indipoliciesweremore in line with the pastthan catedagainthat Muhammad's vision for the future. his oft-espoused The FamilyCodeReformand lts lmplications policiesandhis vision of Moroccan Thevagaries surroundingMuhammad's vanishedfrom at leastone highly life in the twenty-firstcentury eventually contentiousarena-the long-running debateover the status of women. which were likely to havea Ffere,one could point to exponentialchanges, In significantlong-term impact on Moroccansociety. light of the vehement againstany changein the opposition that had emergedduring the 1990s statusquo, it had initially been far from clear that the new king would be the willing to challenge traditional normativeand legalframework underpinning Moroccanfamily life. Hencethe king'sdecisionin autumn 2003on change caughtmanyby surprise. the sideof far-reaching The statusof women has long servedas a bone of contention within in of Moroccan society.Many advocates sweepingchanges the laws that governedfamily life and definedthe legalstatusof womenbasedtheir calls for reform on Moroccobeconomicsituation, pointing to the high rate of dire economic for illiteracy amongwomen asone of the reasons Morocco's straits.At the sametime, women'slives had been substantiallyalteredin of a number of important areasduring the closing decades the twentieth decliningbirth rates,changing urbanization, century,including accelerated marriageage. socialnorms,and a rising average to manyobstacles the of Notwithstandingthe significance thesechanges, fuller integration of women in society remained.Entrenchedsocial attitudesand norms underpinnedthe legalstatusof women, as articulatedin the existingMoroccanpersonalstatuscode,the Moudawwana(completecl by and in and officiallyreleased 1959), werein turn shaped the code.Womctl the had long madethe Moudawwana pritherefore, and liberal activists,
mary targetof their agenda. Beginningin the early1990s, they campaigned in favorof a new codethat would redefine role of womenin the country. the Over time, the issuebecamea touchstoneof the broaderstrugglebetween tradition and changeacrossMoroccan society,with religious clerics ilrd other conservative factionslikening any departurefrom the religiousprinciplesthat governedthe existinglaw to apostasy. Although secularleft-ofcenterpolitical partiesin Morocco suchasthe USFPexpressed support for changing law,little actionwastakenapartfrom palace-initiated the cosmetic alterations, demonstrating anewthe impotenceof the formal parliamentary system.23 A renewedeffort to fundamentally alter the Moudawwanagot under way in 1999.This time the initiative came from reformist elementsfrom within the alternance government, plan which presented comprehensive a to advance statusof women in the legal,economic,and socialspheres. the But widespread protestsagainstthe plan gavethe authoritiespause, and the king shelved idea.A yearlater,he appointeda blue-ribbon commission the composedof both secularand religiouselementsto examinethe existing law and recommendmodifications,in the spirit of ijtihad (lit. the interpretation of the Holy Law to promotehuman welfare, qualifiedindividuals, by on the basisof reason). spring 2003,the commission By had finishedits work and tenderedtwo setsof recommendations the king, one more to narrow in scopeand one more far-reaching. The choice,asin so much else in Morocco,would be left up to the monarch. Although it was not immediately evident, the Casablanca bombings apparentlyresolvedwhateverremaining doubts Muhammad had. Clearly seekingto counteractthe radical Islamistvision with a more modern and tolerantonecombiningIslamicprecepts with modernity,the king presented his comprehensive plan to the openingof parliamenton October 10.Three months later,the new family law wasenacted. Among its far-reaching provisions,it equalized the statusof men and women asjoint headsof their of household,removed the guardianship (wali) requirement from women upon reachingthe ageof eighteen,raised the minimum marriage ageto eighteen, expanded women's rights in mattersof divorceand child custody while limiting men'sability to repudiatetheir wivesaccordinga simpledecree(talaq),and placedsevere restrictionson the ability of men to contract polygamous marriages. The king's determination to implement fundamentalreform on behalf of Morocco's women reassured country'sliberalizingforces.In addition the of lo lhe subslarrce tlre changes themselves, fact that Muhammadhad the
From HasanII to Muhammad VI /
forged ahead in the face of vocal opposition marked his boldest assertion of leaclership yet. At the same time, although civil society did contribute significantly to the process of discarding the Moudawwana, ultimately the changes came about by royal fiat, not through the actions ofrepresentative institutions. Ironically, the king's actions thus affirmed anew that the monarchy remained the country's central political force.
Conclusion An assessmentof Muhammad's policies during his first eight years on the throne reveals ongoing tension between two seemingly conflicting trends, reform and change, on the one hand, and retention ofpreponderant power by the makhzen, on the other. Muhammad often advocated the expansion of democracy and a strengthened role for political parties in public life. It should be noted, though, that these reforms and their guiding ideology were rooted already in the final decade of Hasan'sreign, making them as much about continuity as change, with only the pace of the latter being slightly accelerated.Similar examples of continuity lay in some of the king's initiatives, which strengthened the monarchy's grip over public life and often co-opted elements of Morocco's nascent civil society. As a result, Muhammad's reign, contrary to early expectations, has bolstered the monarchy's grip over Moroccan society at the expenseof political parties. Concurrently other elements of civil society while newly stirring, remained heavily dependent on makhzen policies. The monarchy has maintained its position as Morocco's preeminent proactive force because at the moment, no other political institution can match its ability to implement widespread reforms' Morocco's political parties, stifled and marginalized during Hasan's reign, lack the leadership and public standing to play a major role in political life, and await new younger members. Whether a new generation of Moroccans will choose to join and transform these parties into powerful political forces, with the monarchy's support, remains an open question' In the eight years since Muhammad's rise, Morocco's political landscape has experienced substantial changes toward greater openness. Morocco'.s foreign friends, namely the United Statesand the countries of the EU, have continuously voiced their support for reform measures already taken ancl have urged the Moroccan government to continue with other planned reforms. At the same time they, like the authorities themselves, are keetr l<r short-livecl preservesocial stability,in order to avoid a repetition of Algeria'.s
experimentwith democracyand swift implosion. They thereforeremain carefulto sidewith the authoritiesin their policiesof controlled,measured liberalization.As for conservative and Islamistfactions,the economic,social, and cultural impact of accelerated globalizationand the regime's own stepstoward liberalization pose both threats and opportunities to their world viewsand political and socialprograms. In spiteof the uncertainties concerningMuhammad's reign andhis longgoals,one should alsobe cognizantof his country'srich history, and term its ability to maintain a senseof cohesiveness notwithstandingits myriad cleavages. history is any guide, the kingdom is more likely to continue If to evolveincrementally,avoiding suddenand far-reachingruptureswhile inching its way toward an alteredpolitical, social,and economicreality. Notes
l. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, "Moroccoi in Middle East ContemporarySurvey(MECS) 23 (1999),edited by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, 424-28 (Boulder, Colo.: Westvieq 2001). 2. R6my Leveau, "The Moroccan Monarchy: A Political Systemin Quest of a New Equilibriuml' in Middle East Monarchies:The Challengeof Modernity, edited by foseph Kostiner 117-30(Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner,2000). 3. Maddy-Weitzman, "Morocco" (1999), 429-30. 4. Ibid., 430-3l' Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, "Moroccoj' MECS 24 (2000), edited by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, 415-16(Tel Aviv: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Easternand African Studies,2002). 5. For two classicstudies of the Moroccan monarchy's political and social role, see fohn Waterbury, The Commander of the Faithful: The Moroccan Political EIite-A Study Politics (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1970);R€my Leveau,Le felof Segmented Iah marocain: Ddfenseurdu trbne (Paris: Pressesde fondation nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1985).On King Muhammad's family life, seeCaroline Pigozzi, "Mohammed VI en famille (une interview)i Paris-Match, May 13,2O04. 6. Frangois Soudan, "bmbre du 16 maii' leune Afrique/tlntelligent, September 21, 2003. 7. |ames Sater, "The Dynamics of State and Civil Society in Moroccoj' lournal of North African StudiesT,no. 3 (Autumn 2002): 101-18; Marguerite Rollinde, "Ualternance au clCmocratique maroc: Une porte entrouvertej' ConJluences Mdditerande5l (Autumn 2004):57-67: Hamid Barrada, "Comment Youssoufia form6 son gouvernement?"leune Afrique, March 17,1998;Hamid Barrada,"Le printemps marocain-faut-il y croire!' leune Al'rique, March 31,1998. tl. l,itcrally "strongbox" or "treasuryi' the word is the traditional name for the Moroceurrrulirrg rrrorrarchical-military-bureaucratic apparatus. 9. f irrrnqrris Soudan,"llanndccletous les espoirsj'/eune Afrique/Llntelligent, Decem-
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