Archive for June, 2011
Ahmed Herzenni discusses Morocco’s upcoming national referendum with top US government officials, experts, and media
Washington, D.C. – Ahmed Herzenni, who served as President of the Moroccan Advisory Council on Human Rights from 2007 through 2010, former political prisoner under the Hassan II regime, and one of the architects of Morocco’s historic constitutional reforms, was in Washington this week to meet with officials, academics, media, and Moroccan-American youth to discuss Morocco’s path towards reform.
On Monday, Mr. Herzenni first met with Zeinab Elnour Abdelkarim, Regional Director of the Middle East & North Africa Division of The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), an international non-profit that provides electoral support to countries around the world in efforts to increase citizen participation and promote democracy. Herzenni then headlined a discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan institution engaged in the study of domestic and international affairs, where he was introduced by Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Center’s Middle East Program. He spoke to a full room of attendees which included Executive Vice President and COO Michael Van Dusen as well as human rights experts and democratic reform scholars.
Monday afternoon, Herzenni met with foreign policy and Islamic studies experts at the Brookings Institution, one of the nation’s most influential and well-respected nonprofit think tanks. Herzenni then went to the U.S. Department of State, where he continued to discuss foreign affairs and the role of the Moroccan democratic process with Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick. In the evening, he attended a dinner with former Senator Robert Kasten, Jr. and Amal Mudullali, Advisor to former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri.
Tuesday, Mr. Herzenni held a press conference to leading American media at the National Press Club with MoroccoTomorrow, a new youth-based organization of Moroccans living overseas and committed to reform in their mother country. Following the press conference, Herzenni had a sit-down with Congressional staffers, including members of the offices of Congressmen Aaron Schock (R-IL), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Dan Burton (R-IN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL), as well as staffers from the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (or U.S. Helsinki Commission). Herzenni then participated in a roundtable discussion at the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan policy research organization. The roundtable was hosted by Dr. Hillel Fradkin, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World.
In the afternoon, Herzenni met with Robert Malley, former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, and Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, an international NGO dedicated to resolving conflicts around the world. He ended his evening at dinner with Theodore Kattouf, former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and later Syria, and currently President of AMIDEAST, the leading American non-profit organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa.
Wednesday morning, Mr. Herzenni met with Jared Genser, President of Freedom Now, an international non-profit that works to free prisoners of conscience, before meeting with Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Herzenni’s morning ended with sitting down with members of the American Foreign Policy Council, a non-profit whose mission is to provide assistance and guidance on foreign policy issues to lawmakers. The meeting was hosted by Ilan Berman, Vice President, and an expert on foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia.
In the afternoon, Herzenni first met with staffers from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Then, he made his way to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a public educational foundation dedicated to scholarly research and informed debate on U.S. interests in the Middle East, where he met with David Schenker, Aufzien Fellow and Director of the Program on Arab Politics. Before catching a flight to New York, Herzenni had one final meeting with Michael McVicker, Lead Democratic Staffer at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Herzenni’s visit to the US comes in advance of a historic referendum in Morocco, which the people will be voting on this Friday, July 1. As demonstrators took to the streets of various Arab countries this spring, demanding the removal of their heads of state, Moroccans similarly gathered – but chanting for greater socio-political reform, not the abdication of their king Mohammed VI. Understanding the need for greater transparency, openness, and regionalization on the political level, a newly-formed constitutional committee drafted significant changes to the existing constitution. These include the recognition of the Amazigh language and heritage as essential to the Moroccan identity, the guarantee of an independent judiciary, and the election of the Prime Minister by majority rule in Parliament instead of by appointment by the King as has been the custom.
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About Ahmed Herzenni
Mr. Herzenni, a political prisoner for 12 years under King Hassan II, Mohammed VI’s father, is now playing an active role in shaping Morocco’s transition to a more democratic future. He was appointed to the post of President of Morocco’s Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) in May 2007 by King Mohammed VI before stepping down recently to become a member of the commission that drafted the constitutional reforms.
Mr. Herzenni has a long and distinguished career as a professional dedicated to education and the improvement of conditions in Morocco. Holding a Ph.D. in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Kentucky and a Diploma of Higher Studies in Sociology from the Rabat Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Herzenni first worked as a teacher, and later become a sociologist specializing in rural and environmental affairs. Throughout his illustrious career, he has held a number of posts relating to resource management, sustainable environmental and agricultural development, social sciences, human development, and participatory and democratic methods.
PR Newswire (06/29) – Youth Organization Hosts Top Moroccan Reformer in Washington in Advance of Historic National Referendum
Moroccan American Policy (06/29) – Moroccans to Cast Ballots in July 1 Referendum on Constitutional Reforms, Making Historic Choice for Change with Votes, not Violence
PR Newswire (06/29) – In Advance of Historic National Referendum, Leading Moroccan Reformer Holds High-Level US Meetings
Myfoxal (06/29) – In Advance of Historic National Referendum, Leading Moroccan Reformer Holds High-Level US Meetings
MAP (06/29) – La présidente de la Commission des AE à la Chambre basse du Congrès US salue le projet de nouvelle constitution (in French)
MAP (06/28/2011) – M. Herzenni: la révision de la constitution est le couronnement des réformes entreprises au Maroc (in French)
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars(06/27) – Morocco in Transition: The Arab Spring Lives On
All Africa (06/28) – Morocco: Constitutional Reform – Civilians to decide July 1
The National (06/30) – Historic vote for Moroccans
The National (06/30) – A reader comments that Morocco would benefit from a literacy project
Google (06/30) – Morocco heads to vote on curbing king’s powers
Guardian (06/30) – Morocco’s king is destroying hope for democracy
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Washington, DC (June 29, 2011) — Morocco is “still far from a democracy,” according to Younes Abouyoub, lead organizer of MoroccoTomorrow and political analyst at Columbia University, but it will face a “democratic moment” on July 1 when Moroccans head to the polls to vote on a crucial constitutional referendum. MoroccoTomorrow is a new, independent group of young Moroccan professionals committed to socio-political reform in their country.
Speaking to reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Abouyoub hailed the growing peaceful political activism of the Moroccan people in the midst of the Arab Spring, and noted that the world will be watching as Morocco ushers in a new era of democratic reform in the Arab world.
“These are historic times in Morocco, where the government is allowing the people to speak more loudly and voice their grievances,” said Abouyoub. “The referendum will shape a new Morocco.”
MoroccoTomorrow’sleadership was joined at the press conference by Ahmed Herzenni, a former political prisoner who until recently served as President of the Moroccan Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH). He left this position to join the commission that drafted the constitutional reforms that will face a popular vote on Friday.
In his remarks, Herzenni laid out the manner in which the reforms will solidify rights across cultures and genders in Morocco, limit the absolute powers of the king, and promote stronger and more distinct political parties to accurately represent the will of the Moroccan people.
“The demonstrations this year helped speed up the process of reform in Morocco and revived the public’s political interest and activism,” said Herzenni.
International lawyer with the World Justice Project and expert on North African jurisprudence Leila Hanafi, another MoroccoTomorrow leader, called in from Morocco to discuss the importance of enhancing the rule of law in the country.
“Morocco has the potential to be a guide for other countries in the region,” Hafani said, “but we must improve in areas like due process and actually enforcing the laws that we enact.”
“Taboos have been broken,” added Abouyoub. “Politics are no longer something to be feared.”
On Friday July 1st, the Kingdom of Morocco will hold a national referendum on constitutional reforms that will mark a new era in Morocco’s political development, including instituting stronger limitations on the power of the Monarchy and guaranteeing that members of Parliament be democratically elected and its Prime Minister chosen from the party with a majority of seats. If passed, this October Moroccans for the first time will vote for a truly representative government, making the reforms some of the first concrete steps towards democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.
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MoroccoTomorrow is a new, independent group of young Moroccan professionals committed to socio-political reform in their country. MoroccoTomorrow, a 501(c)3 organization, provides a forum for all those who believe in the future of Morocco. It provides a source of clear and unbiased information about Morocco, and seeks to act as a bridge between Moroccans at home and abroad, between friends of the country and all those eager to learn more.
MoroccoTomorrow was created by a group of young Moroccan professionals in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Europe — participants in a robust and global social network. They are just a few of the 4.5 million Moroccans who live outside of their homeland, and who want to share their love and knowledge of Morocco with the world, and help shape its future.
MoroccoTomorrow wishes to give a voice to all those who care about Morocco and want it to succeed. MoroccoTomorrow belongs to no party or movement, and welcomes the participation and contributions of all who want to help Morocco to become a more transparent place for its citizens and its partners.
Analysts are saying that voter turnout will be instrumental in determining the passage of the new Moroccan Constitution presented earlier in the month by Moroccan King Mohammed VI. A low turnout could be a sign of dissatisfaction with the scope of the proposed reforms. Some elements of the pro-reformist February 20th Movement have been pressing for a boycott of the referendum.
By Michael Mainville (AFP) – 10 hours ago
RABAT — Morocco entered the final day of campaigning Thursday for a referendum on curbing the near absolute powers of King Mohammed VI, who has offered reforms in the wake of pro-democracy uprisings in the Arab world.
Faced with protests modelled on the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, Mohammed VI announced the referendum this month to devolve some of his wide-ranging powers to the prime minister and parliament.
Under a new draft constitution to be voted on Friday, the king would remain head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco, but the prime minister, chosen from the largest party elected to parliament, would take over as head of the government.
Mohammed VI, who in 1999 took over the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty, offered the reforms after the youth-based February 20 Movement organised weeks of pro-reform protests that brought thousands to the streets.
The reforms fall short of the full constitutional monarchy many protesters were demanding and the movement has urged its supporters to boycott Friday’s vote.
The reform plan has been hailed abroad, however, with the European Union saying it “signals a clear commitment to democracy”.
The country’s three biggest political parties — the Justice and Development Party, an Islamist formation; the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP); and the conservative Istiqlal party — have also urged their supporters to vote “yes”.
The February 20 movement has continued to hold protests, organised through websites such as Facebook and YouTube, since the reforms were announced and maintains they do not go far enough.
The movement has already called another demonstration for Sunday.
Analysts say there is little doubt the new constitution will be approved and the brief referendum campaign has been dominated by the “yes” side, with few signs of an organised “no” vote movement.
Thousands of supporters also took to the streets in major cities including Rabat and Casablanca on Sunday to back the reforms.
Along with changes granting the prime minister more executive authority, the new constitution would reinforce the independence of the judiciary and enlarge parliament’s role.
It would also remove a reference to the king as “sacred”, though he would remain “Commander of the Faithful” and it would say that “the integrity of the person of the king should not be violated.”
The new constitution would also make Berber an official language along with Arabic — the first time a North African country has granted official status to the region’s indigenous language. According to the 2004 census, 8.4 million of Morocco’s 31.5 million people speak one of the three main Berber dialects.
- Comment: Doubts remain over Morocco
Financial Times – 2 days ago
- Constitutional reforms spark debate in Morocco
GlobalPost – 1 day ago
- Moroccans protest for and against new constitution
San Francisco Chronicle – 3 days ago
- More coverage (1) »
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Q&A: Morocco’s referendum on reform
After pro-reform protests broke out across Morocco on 20 February – echoing those in Tunisia and Egypt, the country’s monarch went on TV in March to announce “comprehensive constitutional reform”.
But his proposals have been rejected by the youth-based February 20 Movement, which says that the king’s reforms do not go far enough.
How did popular demand for reform arise?
Inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, on 20 February, tens of thousands of Moroccans took part in protests in Casablanca, Rabat and other towns calling for political and social reform.
As protests continued, King Mohammed VI addressed the nation by TV on 9 March and announced “comprehensive constitutional reform”, which would provide “expanded individual and collective liberties and the reinforcement of human rights”. He set up a commission to advise on constitutional changes.
Despite that, nationwide protests on 20 March were even larger and were followed by clashes between police and protesters.
On 9 June, the commission announced that it would recommend a shift of powers from the king to the prime minister, the creation of an independent judiciary and the recognition of Berber as an official language, alongside Arabic.
King Mohammed, a few days later, said he would curb his powers and work to establish a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The public, he said, would get to vote on these proposals in a referendum on 1 July.
Where does King Mohammed stand on political reform?
When he became king in 1999, Mohammed VI, then 35, pledged a more open politics than had been the case under his father. Fighting poverty has been an expressed priority, and on social issues he has been seen as a reformer.
For example, in 2004, Morocco adopted a new family code granting women greater rights despite opposition from Islamist conservatives. And during his reign Morocco has invested heavily in infrastructure.
But pro-reform protesters, as well as human rights groups, argue that his changes have not gone far enough. Newspapers are not allowed to criticise the monarchy. The justice system, tainted by allegations of torture, is not seen as independent.
What reforms has the king proposed now?
The key reforms are:
- The king will select a prime minister from the party that wins the most seats in parliament. At present, the king can make anyone prime minister.
- A reference to the king as “sacred” in the constitution will be removed, though he will remain “inviolable”.
- The prime minister will be the head of government, not the king, and will gain the power to dissolve the lower house of parliament.
- The prime minister will preside over the Government Council, which will prepare policy before presenting it to the cabinet.
- Parliament will have more oversight of civil rights, electoral and nationality issues.
- Women will be guaranteed “civic and social” equality with men. Previously, only “political” equality was guaranteed.
- The Berber language will become an official state language along with Arabic.
But King Mohammed also said he would keep total control of Morocco’s security and foreign policy, as well as matters of religion.
How have the public and political parties responded?
Morocco has seen weekly demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people both for and against the reforms. In Casablanca and Rabat there have been violent clashes between pro-government and pro-reform activists.
The latter protest that the draft reforms leave the king’s absolute powers intact and he would continue as the top religious figure and head of the army. They complain that Morocco’s 400-year-old dynasty has a long history of enacting superficial reforms.
The king’s plan, the February 20 Movement says, “does not respond to our demands for a true separation of powers”. They are calling for constitutional changes drawn up by a democratically elected committee instead.
The Islamist Justice and Charity group has also rejected the proposals.
Official political parties have, however, backed the reforms and the government has launched a media campaign in support of the new constitution.
Morocco’s official news agency reported that demonstrations supporting the new constitution had taken place “everywhere” around the country. Like other official media bodies, the agency did not cover demonstrations against the proposals.
Meanwhile, the opposition Unified Socialist Party has accused the authorities of misusing mosques in an “unethical” way through Friday sermons calling on people to vote in favour of the reforms. The party urged the authorities to keep religion and mosques out of politics.
What has the international community said about the referendum?
Welcoming King Mohammed’s reforms, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he hopes all sides of the debate will participate peacefully in the process.
The Arab League’s outgoing secretary general, Amr Moussa, praised the measures as “an important step for securing the pillars of democracy”.
The European Union’s executive also had positive words for King Mohammed’s proposals.
“It is a significant step and signals a clear commitment to democracy and respect for human rights,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a joint statement.
In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton termed King Mohammed’s reform proposals a “model for others in the region” and said they held great promise for Moroccans.
L’exception marocaine procède de la “la légitimité séculaire de la monarchie” (Rencontre à Washington)0
Washington, 28/06/11- L’exception marocaine procède de “la légitimité séculaire de la monarchie”, ainsi que du pluralisme qui a, de tout temps, caractérisé la société marocaine, ont souligné, mardi, les participants à une rencontre à Washington sur le “Printemps arabe”.
“L’exception marocaine réside dans une monarchie qui a une légitimité historique”, a affirmé Younes Abouyoub, un analyste politique et chercheur à la Colombia University, lors de cette rencontre qui a eu lieu au National Press Club (NPC) de la capitale fédérale américaine.
Même si le Maroc connait, à l’instar d’autres pays arabes des problèmes socio-économiques, il reste aussi une exception dans sa façon de traiter les aspirations aux réformes, a dit M. Abouyoub, également membre leader du groupe Morocco Tomorrow.
Par rapport à ce qui “s’est passé en Egypte ou en Tunisie ou pire encore en Libye, les autorités marocaines étaient beaucoup plus sages et beaucoup plus intelligentes dans la façon de traiter les choses”, a dit l’intervenant , citant notamment le discours de SM le Roi Mohammed VI sur les réformes constitutionnelles. “On a pas eu à tomber dans le piège de confrontations violentes qui pourraient créer de nombreux problèmes dont on peut se passer”, a-t-il relevé.
Pour ce jeune chercheur, le Maroc connait une dynamique démocratique, dans la mesure où les citoyens “peuvent discuter et exprimer leur opinions”.
“Toutes ces différentes opinions formeront le nouveau Maroc”, estime-t-il, rappelant que le Royaume connait depuis plusieurs années des réformes “lancées” par feu SM Hassan II et “renforcées et approfondies” par SM le Roi Mohammed VI .
Ahmed Herzenni, membre de la Commission consultative de révision de la Constitution, a souligné également que le Maroc est une exception dans sa manière de consolider son processus de réformes démocratiques.
Réitérant que le projet de nouvelle Constitution qui sera soumis à référendum le 1er juillet est le couronnement des réformes engagées au Maroc depuis plusieurs années, M. Herzenni a soutenu que le Royaume ” n’a pas attendu le printemps arabe pour lancer, par exemple, l’Initiative nationale pour le développement humain” (INDH).
“Le Maroc est une exception dans le sens où l’on est à l’écoute des aspirations des citoyens”, fait-il valoir également.
La rencontre a été organisée à l’initiative de Morocco Tomorrow, une organisation à but non lucratif créée récemment pour “être la voix de tous ceux qui croient en l’avenir du Maroc”. Elle réunit de jeunes professionnels marocains établis aux Etats-Unis, au Canada et en Europe.
Immigrants gather at a Starbucks in Northern Virginia for a taste of home – The Washington Post. A Starbucks in a Washington, DC suburb has become a political and social gathering place for Moroccan immigrants living in the nation’s capital.