Morocco: Constitution

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a series of constitutions, drafted in 1962, 1970, 1972, 1992, and 1996, that preserve the monarchical nature of the moroccan regime.

The constitutional history of independent Morocco originated in a tug-of-war between the increasingly strong monarch and a heterogeneous group of nationalists. From 1956 onward, the once-united nationalists began to voice divergent views regarding the expected nature of the independent Moroccan polity. Amid their rivalries, King Muhammad V consolidated the monarchy and gradually reduced the hopes for parliamentary democracy. In return, he promised a written constitution and in 1960 appointed a constituent council to carry out this task. The first Moroccan constitution, however, did not originate from this body. King Hassan II, who succeeded his father in 1961, bypassed the council and asked French constitutional jurists to draft the constitution. Boycotted by the Union Nationale des Forces Populaires (UNFP), the first constitution was adopted by a majority of 97.86 percent in a national referendum in 1962. The secretive and uni-lateral origins of this document still constitute a thorny issue in Moroccan politics. The core of the 1962 constitution has remained unadulterated. The provisions concerning the monarchical nature of the regime and the basic prerogatives of the king have been carried over to the constitutions of 1970, 1972, 1992, and 1996. Therefore, legal analysts refer to these dates interchangeably as either the promulgation of new constitutions or mere constitutional revisions.

The constitution of 1962 was modeled after the French constitution of 1958 but granted even greater powers to the head of state. The document instituted hereditary monarchy (art. 20) and specified that the nature of the state could not be subject to constitutional revision (art. 108). The king was acknowledged as "commander of the faithful" (amir al-muʾminin) while his person was declared sacred and inviolable (art. 23). Among other prerogatives, the monarch gained the power to nominate and dismiss the prime minister and the ministers. The king also obtained the right to declare a state of emergency through the famous article 35, which he used in 1965 to dismiss representative institutions. Indeed, the constitution had created a bicameral parliament consisting of a chamber of representatives (two-thirds of which were directly elected) and a senatelike chamber of councillors nominated through electoral colleges. Theoretically, this parliament was relatively strong insofar as both chambers were to be consulted prior to the implementation of any royal legislative decree (art. 72). Yet the king had the capacity to dissolve the chamber of representatives (art. 27) and thus to paralyze the parliament. Hassan II held the upper hand at all levels.

The second constitution of 1970 was promulgated after a long hiatus of five years during which the king enforced a state of emergency. Repeatedly confronted by student strikes and protests, Hassan II attempted to solve the crisis by reviving the constitutional legitimacy of the kingdom. The new constitution was an authoritarian compromise. The bicameral system was abandoned and replaced by the creation of a single chamber of representatives whose composition was left unspecified (art. 43). In reality, only one-third of this new chamber would be directly elected by universal suffrage. Because the new constitution no longer specified a deadline for the establishment of the chamber, the elections could be postponed indefinitely. The reduced parliament was less powerful. Hassan II no longer needed to obtain the approbation of the chamber before issuing royal legislative decrees. He also became the sole person (art. 97) capable of initiating constitutional revisionsa privilege he had previously shared with the prime minister and the parliament.

After the attempted coup of 1971, however, it seemed unwise for the regime to base its legitimacy on constitutional monarchism while significantly undermining the role of the government and the chamber. To correct this flaw, a third constitution was submitted in 1972. It was less authoritarian than the second one, though less generous than the first one. The 1972 constitution granted more legislative powers to the chamber and the prime minister in the economic, social, and cultural realms. Also, the council of ministers was to be consulted on key issues such as a declaration of war, a declaration of the state of emergency, or a project of constitutional revision (art. 65). In principle, the new constitution allowed for more participatory democracy. Two-thirds of the chamber would be elected by universal suffrage (art. 43), as it was in 1962. Yet the elections expected for 1972 were delayed until 1976.

Besides two amendments voted in 1980 with respect to the regency council and the postponement of the elections, there was no major constitutional change until the early 1990s. Subject to increasing criticism from both Moroccan politicians and European human-rights activists, the king undertook a process of political liberalization. The fourth constitution of 1992 acquiesced to some of the opposition's demands. The preamble, for instance, addressed the kingdom's commitment to human rights. A constitutional council was created (title VI) to supervise the constitutionality of Moroccan politics and elections. In addition, both the king and the chamber were allowed to create temporary courts of inquiry (art. 40). The new constitution balanced the relationship between the government and the assembly. The prime minister obtained the right to nominate ministers, and the chamber gained the power to debate and vote the government's platform.

Morocco's last constitution was adopted by referendum in 1996. Hassan II, whose health was declining, wished to hasten the process of political reform. New compromises were intended to convince the opposition parties (mainly the USFP and the Istiqlal) to participate in government. Thus the 1996 constitution reinstated the bicameral system of 1962 but changed the system of representation. All of the members of the chamber of representatives must now be elected by direct universal suffrage. The revived chamber of councillors is modeled after the German system of länders ; its members, who are still indirectly elected, are supposed to represent the various regions of Morocco and the most important socioeconomic groups. Even though the king did not relinquish his key prerogatives (he can still dissolve both chambers separately), some new constitutional clauses are meant to reinvigorate parliamentary democracy. An important one states, for the first time, that sovereignty belongs to the nation (art. 2).

see also hassan ii; istiqlal party: morocco; muhammad v; union nationale des forces populaires (unfp).


Leveau, Rémy. "The Moroccan Monarchy: A Political System in Quest of a New Equilibrium." In Middle East Monarchies: The Challenge of Modernity, edited by Joseph Kostiner. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2000.

henri lauziÈre