Royal Speech: Two Birds with One Stone

Morocco’s King Mohammad 6th gave a speech to the nation today, giving a twofold news with domestic and regional repercussions: regionalizing the kingdom and establishing the autonomy in the southern provinces, internationally known as the Western Sahara.


Finally, the king ordered an advisory committee to brainstorm and come up with a formula for enhancing a regional administrative system in Morocco while bearing in mind that the monarch rightfully does not want “xerox copies” of other existing systems. Moroccans must have immediately thought of Spain when they heard the king say that.
While this looks promising as an idea, many questions will emerge as to what extent citizens are asked or allowed to be active in this new governance scheme? Will all the regional entities be under the mercy of the powerful Interior Ministry? Will these entities be financially independent? How will citizens familiarize themselves with their rights and duties in the new system? So many questions that will often play on the political and social scene in Morocco in the next few months. The political parties, too, will have to adjust their game to gain some advances in this new electoral territory. Whatever happens, the new setup will shift the weight of responsibility to the citizenry and their representatives and will certainly rev up the dormant political life in the Cherifian kingdom. This is by all measures a very positive step towards entrenching the democratic experience in Morocco.

The Autonomy:

As far as the autonomy of the Saharan provinces is concerned, the speech today will definitely send a ripple effect through the region and across the Mediterranean to Spain. The Algerian leaders, the Spaniards, the Polisario in Tindouf , and the Sahrawis were all watching and listening to what King Mohammad 6 ould say about the subject. It took only few minutes and a couple of paragraphs before he mentioned “our regained Saharawi provinces.” Six months to June seems to be an unspoken deadline given by the monarch to the separatists to figure out ways to join the caravan of the autonomy. It will be interesting to see how the Polisario will react. They have always rejected the autonomy plan, but everyone knows their rejection is nothing but a bargaining chip to ask for more concessions from the Moroccans. Yet, it will not prevent some schism inside the Polisario regarding the issue. Many of the founders of Polisario are in their 60s and 70s and are tired of living in the camps, despite all the perks that come with it. Some of them are very likely to be more flexible than others to take the Moroccan king up on his offer. In addition to that, there is the Shahid movement that embraces new perspective and are more willing to negotiate the authonomy plan. What makes the Moroccans’ position strong at this stage is that they argue that “we will go ahead with the autonomy plan. You are more than welcome to get on board with us and life is beautiful.” Saaddin Othmani, former head of the Islamist party PJD, had said something along that line when he came to Washington, D.C and met with American officials and a group of Moroccan Americans. The same words were repeated today by his successor Abdelilah Benkiran during an interview with the State-owned Al-Oula TV network.

Which is the speech’s most important subject, autonomy or regionalization? It’s hard to tell. They sounded too similar, intertwined, and separate, all at the same time. Regardless, this comes as the first official mention of the autonomy.



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