This article, originally delivered in the Fall of 2011 at a seminar held in Beirut at the Centre for Arab Unity Studies, examines the 2011 amendments to the Moroccan Constitution in light of the historical background. The tumultuous events of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ brought new urgency to the issue of constitutional reforms that had been broached initially on the accession of Muhammad VI to the throne in 1999. Since independence, Moroccan political society has typically been vibrant, democratic and home to numerous political parties of various orientations and, since the 1970s, has witnessed calls by various sides for constitutional reforms as well as for the institution of a constitutional or parliamentary monarchy. On 9 March 2011 Muhammad VI gave a momentous address subjecting the issue of royal authority to public deliberations. This topic had previously ranked as one of the few unapproachable taboos of the political scene. A vital driving force in the process of constitutional reform has been the youthful February 20 Movement that was instrumental in the mobilization of millions of Moroccans and led to submitting the new draft Constitution to popular referendum and its ratification on 1 July 2011. Unlike other Arab countries, Morocco's functioning democracy, its well-established political parties and the fact that the issue of constitutional reforms had already been on the table meant that when Moroccans descended into the streets they had a set of clearly defined demands – demands that were also less drastic than those being made in other countries. Yet while Moroccan politics have been highly developed and articulate since the 1940s, the events of the Arab Spring provided the necessary shock and catalyst to transform relative complacency into action. The dense topography of mature political parties and organizations in Morocco factored in two ways: first, it permitted a stable environment for democratic transition, which was not new as a concept; and in a somewhat less positive regard, the compromises and concessions to numerous sides dictated by Moroccan political pluralism led – in the drafting of the amended Constitution – to a document of somewhat indistinct character. The King's authority, in particular, is not so limited as a contemporary parliamentary monarchy and he retains a distinct set of powers, particularly under the aegis of his role as ‘Commander of the Faithful’ (Amir al-Mu'minin). Nevertheless, there have been significant changes and this article examines the nature of these, their genesis and links to various political trends and parties. The uniqueness of the Moroccan model is demonstrated, though other Arab countries, notably Jordan, may follow a similar path.

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