Moroccan king vows to press ahead with reforms
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI vowed on Monday to press ahead with reforms, including strengthening the independence of the judiciary and battling corruption, in a speech to mark 13 years on the throne.
“Justice, regionalisation and territorial governance are among our top priorities,” he said in the speech broadcast live on state television.
But equally important are the provisions “of the new constitution, relating to good governance, the fight against corruption and social and economic development,” he added.
As Arab Spring uprisings toppled autocratic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya last year and pro-democracy protests brewed at home, the king announced political concessions.
A new constitution, approved by referendum last July, transferred some of his near-absolute powers to parliament and the prime minister, and paved the way for November elections that propelled a moderate Islamist party to power.
In his speech, the king stressed the moderate nature of Islam practised in the North African country, while underlining efforts to boost economic development, with unemployment and high prices behind much of Morocco’s popular discontent.
“Morocco remains a model of commitment to Sunni Islam advocating a balanced middle ground and tolerance, and proscribing extremism, fanaticism and ostracism,” he said.
The king said the “major transformations” that had swept North Africa offered a “historic opportunity” to revive the dormant Arab Maghreb Union.
The five-country bloc was formed in 1989 as a trade agreement meant to eventually achieve deeper political integration between Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
But it has been inactive since 1994, mainly because of the dispute over the Western Sahara between Morocco and Algeria, which hosts the Polisario Front that has been campaigning for the independence of the territory since before its annexation by Morocco nearly four decades ago.
“Morocco will pursue its efforts to reinforce its bilateral relations with all its Maghreb partners, including its neighbour Algeria, while also responding to the pressing and legitimate aspirations of the people of the region,” the king said.
But he added that the kingdom would continue to push for a solution to the Western Sahara dispute based on Rabat’s proposal for autonomy “within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a proposal rejected by the Polisario, which insists on a referendum on independence.