Table of Contents

Introduction

The Kingdom of Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. King Mohammad VI ascended the throne in July 1999 and currently shares the executive branch with Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, who was appointed in September 2007.

History of the Constitution

  • The first Moroccan constitution was drafted in 1962 by French constitutional jurists at the request of King Hassan II. It established a constitutional monarchy in which the king shared power with a bicameral parliament. Since 1962, the constitution has been revised four times–in 1970, 1972, 1992, and 1996–but the powerful and hereditary nature of the monarchy has remained unchanged.

  • The current constitution was adopted by referendum in September 1996 (English text, Arabic text). It restored the bicameral system, replacing the unicameral parliament enacted by the 1971 constitution. The parliament consists of a House of Representatives (or lower house) and a House of Counselors (or upper house).

  • The king and the parliament have the right to propose amendments to the constitution. An amendment proposed by the parliament must achieve a two-thirds majority in both houses. The king has the authority to send amendments directly to a national referendum, or to bypass this step altogether. Amendments cannot abrogate constitutional statements regarding Islam or the monarchical nature of the state, and the king must approve all constitutional changes.

State Institutions

The Moroccan constitution of 1996 (English text, Arabic text) vests supreme executive power in the king, who is the head of state and whose person is sacred and inviolable.

Executive Branch

The King

The king is the head of state and:

  • Appoints the prime minister following legislative elections.
  • Appoints and presides over the cabinet (the Council of Ministers) in consultation with the prime minister.
  • Appoints the governors of Morocco’s sixteen provinces.
  • May terminate the tenure of any minister and dismiss the prime minister (Article 60 of the constitution).
  • May dissolve the parliament after consulting with the presidents of both houses of parliament and the chairman of the Constitutional Council.
  • May call for new elections.
  • May rule by decree.
  • May directly amend bills with the approval of the Constitutional Council.
  • May declare a state of emergency without explanation.
  • May revise the constitution by directly submitting proposed amendments to a national referendum, and may also bypass this referendum.
  • Serves as the military and religious leader of the country. Article 19 of the constitution designates the king as "Commander of the Faithful."

King Muhammad VI assumed the throne on July 23, 1999, following the death of his father, King Hassan II, who ruled Morocco for 38 years (1961-1999).

The Prime Minister

The prime minister:

  • Does not have authority without the king’s approval.
  • May initiate legislation and exercise statutory powers.
  • Presents the government’s program to both houses of parliament.
  • Is responsible for supervising and coordinating ministerial activities.

Abbas al-Fassi became prime minister on September 18, 2007.

The Cabinet

The cabinet:

  • Is known as the Council of Ministers.
  • Is appointed by the king upon proposal of the prime minister.
  • Is responsible to the king and the House of Representatives.

In October 2007, a new 33 member cabinet was announced, led by Prime Minister Abbas al-Fassi. Al-Fassi, previously minister of state without portfolio, is the leader of the nationalist Istiqlal (Independence Party or PI) party, which lost the popular vote to the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), but won a plurality in the September 2007 elections for the lower house of parliament. Al-Fassi formed the government from a coalition of Istiqlal, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), the National Rally of Independents (RNI), and the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), plus independents. Al-Fassi did not invite the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), which won the second highest number of seats in the elections, to join the government.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI appointed five new ministers on January 4, 2010. Taib Cherkaoui, a former prosecutor, replaced Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa. The Interior Ministry portfolio includes internal security and anti-terrorism efforts, international security issues, the Western Sahara conflict, elections, and local politics. Other new appointments include Justice Minister Mohamed Naciri, Minister of Parliamentary Relations Driss Lachguer, Deputy Minister for Modernization of the Public Sector Mohammed Saad Alami, and Minister of Tourism Yassir Znagui. The king also launched a 22-member advisory committee on regional development projects on January 6, 2010. Click here for more information.

Legislative Branch

The 1996 constitution introduced a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Representatives (official website in Arabic) and the House of Counselors (official website in Arabic). Both Houses enjoy legislative and oversight functions. Legislation may be initiated by either one of the parliamentary houses, the prime minister, or the king.

The House of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwab)

The House of Representatives:

  • Is elected by universal suffrage and its members serve five-year terms. Two hundred ninety five members are elected by proportional representation in 92 electoral districts, and 30 female members are elected by proportional representation on a national basis (In 2001, the government established a minimum 10 percent quota for women in the parliament).
  • Is elected on the basis of universal suffrage for individuals 18 years and older.
  • May dissolve the government (the prime minister and the cabinet) through a majority vote of no confidence.
  • May question the actions of the executive by producing a censure motion approved by a majority of the House.

Click here for current information about the House of Representatives.

The House of Counselors (Majlis al-Mustasharin)

The House of Counselors:

  • Is based on the German länders system, and its 270 members are indirectly elected by electoral colleges for nine-year terms. Members of local and regional councils elect 162 of the 270 members. Representatives from industry, agriculture, and trade unions elect the remaining 108 members. The House of Counselors holds elections every three years, replacing one-third of its members in each cycle.
  • May question the actions of the executive by adopting a cautioning motion, which must be approved by an absolute majority. If the motion is passed, the prime minister has six days to present the government’s case to the House. If a censure motion is then proposed and passed by a two-thirds majority, the government must resign.

Half of the members of the National Council are renewed every three years. Elections were last held in 2009.

Parliamentary Powers
  • Legislation may be initiated either by the prime minister or by one of the houses of parliament. The king, with the consent of the Constitutional Council, can by decree amend laws passed by the parliament.

  • A law passed by the parliament becomes effective only after it has been promulgated by royal decree. If the king disagrees with a law, he may return it to the parliament for re-examination or settle the issue through popular referendum.

  • The two houses of parliament may indict members of the government and refer them to the High Court of Justice for trial. Any proposed indictment must be signed by at least one-quarter of the members of the house in which it was initiated.

  • Parliamentary debates are open to the public and their proceedings are published in the Official Gazette (Bulletin Officiel), found online in Arabic and French.

  • Members of the parliament enjoy immunity, except in cases of “injurious remarks to the monarchy and Islam.” Members of parliament can lose their parliamentary immunity for expressing opinions that may be considered disrespectful to the king.

  • The parliament’s powers were expanded under the 1992 and 1996 constitutional revisions to include addressing budgetary matters, approving bills, questioning ministers, and establishing ad hoc commissions of inquiry to investigate the government’s actions.

  • Constitutional provisions allow non-elected entities to enact laws and veto texts from the parliament (Articles 45, 46, 55, and 58). Officials appointed by the king to high administrative positions exercise de facto legislative authority over various administrative texts.

Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

Elections for the House of Counselors were last held in October 2009, and for the House of Representatives in September 2007. Both houses will hold the next round of elections in 2012.

Judiciary

Article 82 of the constitution states that the judiciary should be independent from the legislative and executive branches. However, the executive still has considerable influence on the judiciary. The Ministry of Justice plays a significant role in judicial affairs and the king heads the Supreme Judicial Council.

The Ministry of Justice supervises judges and oversees administrative matters connected with the courts, including budgetary issues. Analysts suggest that low salaries within Morocco’s judicial branch promote corruption, such that the ministry has worked to increase the salaries of these officials in recent years.

Judicial reform has been identified as a high priority by the government, and some judges have been referred to disciplinary panels for punishment as a result of investigations into alleged corruption and misconduct. However, progress on these reforms has been slow.

The Moroccan judicial system is based on a civil law system with codes adapted from French, Spanish, and Islamic law (Shari’a). Personal status cases are heard in Sadad courts, which have divisions based on Islamic, Jewish, civil, commercial and administrative, and criminal law.

Judges are appointed by royal decree.

Judiciary Councils
  • The Supreme Council of the Judiciary, headed by the king, has administrative authority over the judiciary. The Supreme Council consists of the minister of justice as vice-president, the first president of the Supreme Court, the district attorney of the Supreme Court, and the president of the Civil House of the Supreme Court. The appeals courts, regional courts, and Sadad Courts also elect two representatives each to this council.

  • The Constitutional Council judges the validity of legislative elections, referenda, and the rules of procedure of both houses of parliament. It has twelve council members. The king appoints six members for a non-renewable period of nine years. After consulting with parliamentary groups, the president of the House of Representatives and the president of the House of Counselors each appoint three members.

  • The king, the prime minister, and the presidents of the two houses of the parliament may refer any law to the Constitutional Council before it is promulgated.

  • The decisions of the Constitutional Council are final and binding on all.
Courts

Lower Courts

  • First degree courts adjudicate crimes punishable by up to five years imprisonment, and civil, personal status, or commercial cases. They include the First Instance courts, the Communal and District courts, and the Sadad courts.

  • Communal and District courts hear cases regarding minor civil and penal offenses from their jurisdiction. Click here for more information.

  • First Instance courts hear civil, penal, and personal status cases regarding inheritance, commercial or personal laws. They include the Sadad courts, which have general jurisdiction and are organized into separate Sharia, Rabbinical, Civil, Commercial, Administrative, and Penal sections. The Sharia and Rabbinical courts hear personal status cases for members of their respective communities. Click here for more information.

  • The majority of legal matters fall within the jurisdiction of Regional Tribunals, which decide cases of personal property damages. Such judgments, excluding minor offences punishable by a small fine, may be appealed to the Court of Appeal.

  • Most judicial irregularities in non-political cases take place in the First Instance courts. Several factors facilitate corruption in these courts, including legal ambiguities, defendants’ unfamiliarity with the legal system, a lack of disciplinary measures, inadequate representation, and resource constraints.

Courts of Appeal

  • Courts of Appeal try criminal cases involving crimes punishable by five years in prison or more. These courts also hear cases which have been appealed after a decision from a first degree court. Due to the weight of the judgments rendered by these courts, a three-magistrate panel is required to hear each case. Click here for more.

The Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court is divided into six sections that handle civil, personal status and inheritance, commercial, administrative, social, and penal cases, respectively. This court may also review decisions from any courts or tribunals in the country. Due to the weight of their verdicts, Supreme Court cases are heard by a panel of five judges. Click here for more information.

  • The Supreme Court handles jurisdictional disputes among courts. It also hears cases filed against judges or courts, with the exception of those filed against the Supreme Court itself or those associated with it.

  • In exceptional cases, the Supreme Court can examine the judicial procedure applied to a given case if the defendant has been found guilty and the facts of the case are called into question. However, in practice the Supreme Court only reviews cases that either have already reached the Courts of Appeal or which relate to life sentences and the death penalty. Consequently, the vast majority of defendants cannot appeal their cases to the Supreme Court.

Other Courts

  • The High Court of Justice: Has jurisdiction over criminal and felonious cases against government officials. Members are elected in equal number from the House of Representatives and the House of Counselors, and its president is appointed by royal decree.

  • Administrative Courts: Hear disputes related to administrative contracts. They also adjudicate claims for compensation of prejudice caused by the actions of public entities. Click here for more information.

  • Standing Tribunal for the Royal Armed Forces: Tries members of the military and hears cases of unauthorized carrying of firearms.

  • Audit Courts: Supervises how the government implements the budget.
Reforms Under Discussion
  • On August 27, 2009, in the midst of continuing accusations of arbitrary arrests and the close relationship between the executive and the judiciary, King Mohammad VI gave a speech citing judicial reform as among the top priorities of the current government. He called for greater transparency in legal proceedings, improvements in ethics training, an increase in the efficiency of the judicial system, and a strengthening of the independence of the judiciary. The king asked the Ministry of Justice to propose such changes in collaboration with a new judicial advisory committee. Recent improvements have included the promotion of a judicial ethics charter and the development of a new legal aid model to provide quality legal representation to those who cannot afford private attorneys.

Military

The Moroccan military consists of the Royal Moroccan Army, the Royal Moroccan Navy, and the Royal Moroccan Air Force. Under the supervision of the Air Force, 50,000 paramilitary personnel serve as the Royal Gendarmerie, a civilian police force which operates mainly in rural areas.

Political Environment

Political Parties

Approximately 40 political parties currently operate in Morocco, and are permitted to do so by Article 3 of the 1996 Constitution.

  • The ruling alliance includes the Istiqlal Party (PI), the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the Popular Movement (MP), the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), and the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS).

  • The main opposition parties are the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the centrist Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM).

  • Istiqlal is the largest party in the Moroccan House of Representatives with 52 of 325 seats, followed by the Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the relatively new Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) with 46 seats each. The Popular Movement holds 41 seats, and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) holds 38 seats.

  • A new party calling itself the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) was established in August 2008 by Ali al-Himma, the former interior minister and top advisor to the king. The party is led by Hassan Benaddi and was formed by merging several political groups, including the National Rally of Independents (RNI), Al Ahd, the Environment and Development Party (PED), the Constitutional Union (UC), and the Alliance of Liberties (AL). PAM claims to support the modernization of the political system while still maintaining conventional practices such as royal arbitration. However, according to some analysts, PAM’s clientelism makes it less modern than its Islamist rival PJD.

  • In May 2009, the PAM withdrew its earlier support from the coalition government and joined the opposition, thus forcing the government to operate as a minority in the House of Representatives. Due to its mergers with several political parties, the PAM currently controls the largest bloc in the House of Representatives with 46 seats of its own and several other alliances with key political parties. This is true despite the fact that the party did not even exist during the House’s elections in 2007. In the October 2009 elections for one-third of the House of Counselors, the PAM was the biggest winner, taking 22 of the 90 seats up for re-election. Istiqlal came in second with seventeen seats. Click here for more information.

  • Click here for a detailed analysis of the parties.

  • Historically, Morocco’s populist political parties have been characterized by individual rivalries that often create internal paralysis, fragmentation, and disintegration. This has prevented them from mobilizing individuals in public life (rendering them, in the eyes of their constituents, vehicles for the personal ambitions of their leaders).

Islamist Parties

  • Until the 1996 elections, no Islamist party was allowed to participate in elections. Nineteen ninety-six saw the participation of candidates from a newly created Islamic party called al-Islah wal Tajdid. Al-Islah wal Tajdid has since transformed into Hizb al-Adala wal Tanmiya (Party of Justice and Development), and now plays a significant role in Moroccan politics. The PJD advocates the establishment of an Islamic state through non-violent means.

  • The Interior Ministry must approve all political parties. On July 6, 2005 the Council of Ministers approved a political parties law which forbids the formation of political parties on the basis of religion, tribe, or race. This politically motivated move has made it difficult for some Islamist movements to be recognized by the government.

  • The main Islamist party that is not recognized by the state is the al-Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Benevolence) group. Unlike the PJD, al-Adl wal Ihsan rejects the Moroccan political system entirely and is very critical of the monarchy. Click here for the official Justice and Benevolence website in Arabic and French.

  • Two other Islamist parties have formed recently, and have been accepted by the Interior Ministry: the Civilized Alternative Party and the New Leftist Islamic Party (whose founding members are from the leftist USFP and PPS).

  • Since the May 16, 2003 bombings, Moroccan government officials and some civil society groups have expressed concern that the PJD and other Islamist organizations have taken advantage of loose financial controls to receive funds from both local and foreign sources that could be used to support violence and propagate extremist interpretations of Islam. The government has used this concern to sideline Islamist groups, including the PJD. As a result of this marginalization, on June 30, 2010, PJD leader Mustapha Ramid resigned as leader of his party.

Election Results

Results for the House of Representatives elections held on September 7, 2007

The nationalist Istiqlal party won the majority of seats in the 2007 parliamentary elections, in the midst of the lowest turnout ever recorded in Morocco.

Abdelwahed Radi of the Socialist Union for Popular Forces party (USFP) was elected to the presidency of the House of Representatives, the number three position in the country after the king and the prime minister. He prevailed over Saad Eddine Othmani of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). The new speaker is 75 years old and has previously served twice as the House’s leader.

Party Seats won
Istiqlal (Independence Party or PI) 52
Justice and Development Party (PJD) 46
Popular Movement (MP) 41
National Rally of Independents (RNI) 39
Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) 38
Constitutional Union (UC) 27
Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) 17
PND-Al Ahd Union (PND-Ahd) 14
Front of Democratic Forces (FFD) 9
Democratic and Social Movement (MDS) 9
PADS-CNI-PSU Union 6
Labour Party (PT) 5
Environment and Development Party (PED) 5
Party of Renewal and Equity (PRE) 4
Socialist Party (PS) 2
Moroccan Union for Democracy (UMD) 2
Civic Forces Party (PFC) 1
Alliance of Liberties (AL) 1
Citizenship and Development Initiative (ICD) 1
Party of Renaissance and Virtue (PRV) 1
Independents 5
  • The Istiqlal Party, an element of the previous ruling coalition, won 52 seats (compared to 48 in 2002), ahead of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) with 46 seats (compared to 42 in 2002).

  • The Popular Movement (MP) and the National Rally of Independents (RNI) won 41 seats and 39 seats respectively. The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), the dominant party in the previous ruling coalition, won only 38 seats (compared to 50 in 2002).

  • The Islamist PJD cried foul after failing to win its projected 70 seats and accused opponents of buying votes.

  • Observers from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), however, said the vote took place in an orderly and professional fashion with “isolated irregularities.” NDI judged that only “significant change”—enhancing the power of elected representatives, increasing transparency of the electoral system, and improving accountability to the electorate—would persuade more Moroccans to participate in the political process.

  • Turnout was estimated at 37 percent of registered voters, down from 52 percent in 2002, and included many invalid ballots.

  • Click here for a detailed analysis of the parliamentary elections.

Results for House of Councilors elections held in October 2009:

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Party Seats won
Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) 22
Istiqlal (Independence Party or PI) 17
Popular Movement (MP) 11
Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) 10
National Rally of Independents (RNI) 9
Environment and Development Party (PED) 4
Constitutional Union (UC) 3
Moroccan Workers’ Union (UMT) 2
General Union of Moroccan Workers (UGTM) 2
Democratic Federation of Labour (FDT) 2
National Labour Union of Morocco (UNMT) 2
Party of Progress and Socialism Party (PPS) 2
Moroccan Liberal Party 1
Front of Democratic Forces (FFD) 1
Civic Forces Party (PFC) 1
Democratic Union of Workers (UGDT) 1
  • During the election of a third of the upper house members, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) was the biggest winner, taking 22 of the 90 seats turned over in this cycle.

  • PAM’s Mohammad Cheikh Biadillah was elected president of the House of Councilors. This was an unwelcome surprise for members of the ruling coalition, who were convinced they had more supporters than the opposition in the upper house.

Results for Local Elections held in June 2009 (27,795 councilor positions available in 1,503 municipalities. 12 percent must be women):
Party Seats Won % of Total Seats
Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) 6,015 21.7
Istiqlal (Independence Party or PI) 5,292 19
National Rally of Independents (RNI) 4,112 14.8
Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) 3,226 11.6
Popular Movement (MP) 2,213 8
Justice and Development Party (PJD) 1,513 7.4
Constitutional Union (UC) 1,303 4.7
Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) 1,102 4
  • Morocco’s new Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) won the greatest number of seats in the local elections, amid accusations of fraud and vote buying. The “palace party,” was formed a mere five months before the election by Fouad El Himma, the former interior minister and top advisor to the king.

  • The new party left the ruling coalition to join the opposition on May 29, 2009. The party took 6,015 of the contested 27,795 local council seats, exceeding all expectations.

  • Istiqlal, the ruling party, came in second with 5,292 seats, followed by the National Rally of Independents (RNI) with 4,112 seats. The opposition Party of Justice and Development won only 1,513 seats.

  • Voter turnout was reported at 52.4 percent (down from 54 percent in 2003 elections and 75 percent in the 1997 elections).

Civil Society and Nongovernmental Actors

There are about 2,500 registered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Morocco.

Unions and Professional Syndicates:
  • Moroccan Labor Union (UMT): no political affiliation
  • Confederation of Democratic Labor (CDT): affiliated with the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP)
  • General Union of Working Moroccans (UGMT): affiliated with the Istiqlal Party
  • General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM): a group of entrepreneurs who have come to dominate Morocco’s business syndicate
  • National Union of Moroccan Workers (UNTM)
  • Popular Syndicates Union (USP)
  • Union of Free Workers (USTL)
  • Popular National Syndicate (SNP)
  • Democratic Syndicates Union (USD)
  • Union of Moroccan Workers (UTM)
  • National Syndicate of Higher Education
  • National Students Union
  • General Students Union
  • Moroccan Association of Attorneys
  • Moroccan Professional Association of Lawyers

Less than 10 percent of Morocco’s nine million workers are actually unionized.

The Ministry of Interior often infiltrates unions to monitor activities. While the constitution provides for the right to strike, the law requires compulsory arbitration of disputes, the government uses force to break up strikes, and employers can initiate criminal prosecutions against striking workers.

Political parties affiliated with certain unions intervene to manipulate the election of union leaders. As a result, labor unions are increasingly seen as political tools in the hands of the authorities and political parties.

Human Rights Organizations:

Civil and Political Rights

Personal Liberties

  • The constitution guarantees all citizens freedom of worship, movement, opinion and expression in all its forms, freedom of association, public gathering, and the freedom to belong to any union or political group of their choice “within the limits of the law” (Articles 6, 8, and 9).

  • Although the Moroccan constitution proclaims adherence to international principles, it does not stipulate that Moroccan citizens are entitled to inalienable human rights. The granting and enforcement of rights depends on the king’s discretion (Article 19).

  • Freedom of assembly is limited. The Interior Ministry requires permits for public gatherings and has forcibly dispersed demonstrations in the past, but peaceful protests are now generally tolerated. Freedom to form associations is supposedly ensured by a 2002 law (Arabic text) permitting groups to take form after merely registering with local officials. However, a recent Human Rights Watch report states that officials sometimes refuse to register these groups if they are oppositional or displeasing to the authorities.

  • Civil and political rights deteriorated after the terrorist attacks in Casablanca on May 16, 2003. Ten days after the attacks, the parliament passed an antiterrorist law that gives security forces the right to hold suspects without access to a lawyer, to intercept telephone calls, mail, and Internet communication, and to search homes and businesses without a warrant. As recently as 2009, Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses resulting from this law.

  • In 1996, the penal code was revised to proscribe torture, establish legal provisions for arrest and due process, and set limits on preventive detention. The code specifies up to life imprisonment for state officials who use torture. The Moroccan cabinet endorsed a bill on December 28, 2004 that amends the existing penal code to prohibit torture as defined by the International Convention against Torture.

  • Human Rights Watch released a 2010 report documenting a recent deterioration of human rights in Morocco. It states that the regime “relies on laws providing prison terms for ‘defamatory’ or ‘false’ speech to prosecute critical reporting and commentary.” The regime has been known to violate the personal liberties of journalists and activists who criticize the king, the government, or the government’s policies in the disputed Western Sahara region. For more specific reports on the restriction and imprisonment of journalists and activists, click here and here.

Legislation Regulating the Exercise of Rights

Political Party Laws
  • Article 3 of the 1996 Moroccan constitution stipulates that “[p]olitical parties, unions, district councils and trade Houses shall participate in the organization and representation of the citizens. There shall be no one-party system.”

  • A political party law (Arabic text) was approved by parliament on October 21, 2005 after extensive debate between the Ministry of Interior and political parties. The law was proposed by the Ministry of Interior in October 2004 and prohibits the establishment of political groups based on religion, race, ethnicity, and tribal origin.

  • The new law also stipulates that the government must cover the operating costs of parties that have secured at least 5 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections. This provision produced a heated debate among Morocco’s political parties. The two largest parties in parliament– the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) and Istiqlal–asked that the figure be raised to 10 percent, inciting opposition from the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the Popular Movement (MP). The Justice and Development Party (PJD) suggested that 10 percent of the funds be distributed among all parties and 90 percent distributed among parties that received 7 percent or more of the vote. Ultimately, the parliamentary committee maintained the 5% stipulation.

  • The 2005 law also establishes quotas for women and youth, and requires parties to convene a congress every four years or lose their government subsidy.
Electoral Law
  • After months of debate between the Ministry of Interior and political parties, the Moroccan government approved a new electoral law (Arabic text) on June 26, 2006. The new law barred parties that failed to win at least 3 percent of the vote in the 2002 elections to field candidates in the 2007 legislative elections–a stipulation strongly criticized by small parties. The bill maintains the current proportional representation system and the size of the electoral districts, but increases the percentage of votes a party must obtain to enter parliament from 3 percent to 7 percent. Moroccan expatriates will not be allowed to vote in legislative elections.

  • In December 2008 electoral reforms were announced by the Interior Ministry. The reforms introduced national lists of women to help voters elect the increased number of local and national parliamentary seats reserved for women. The reforms also made a technical change that decreased the number of registered voters by 3 million people. They did so by eliminating those who registered twice or who failed to confirm their registration with the authorities. This change was politically motivated and allowed the government to automatically increase its voter turnout statistics to improve upon the dismal 37 percent voter participation rate of the 2007 elections. Since the number of registered voters was reduced from 17 million to 14 million people, the percentage of registered voters who participated in the elections would have automatically increased (by 8 percent, according to the Interior Ministry) even if the number of voters stayed the same. (Voter turnout was reported at 52.4 percent for this election.)

  • Click here for more information on the recent electoral reforms.
Law on Associations
  • The Code of Public Liberties, adopted in 1958 and amended in 1973, regulates the creation and operation of associations. The law states that civil society organizations may not engage in political activities.

  • This 1958 law was again amended in 2002 and 2006 by the Law on Associations (Arabic text, French text), which allowed groups to form without needing permission from the Interior Ministry. Instead, new groups are merely required to register with local officials. However, a recent Human Rights Watch report asserts that officials can refuse to register a group if it is thought to be undermining Islam, the monarchy, or Morocco’s “territorial integrity” – i.e. its claim to the Western Sahara. This vaguely worded provision allows officials to legally disallow associations that pose a political threat to the current government.

  • Despite the general easing of restrictions on the formation of political parties and associations, Berber activists, Islamic associations and parties, and leftist human rights and political groups still encounter these limitations.
Media Laws
  • Morocco’s Press Code of 2002 gives the Ministry of Interior and the prime minister the power to register and license publications. According to Article 29 of the law, the prime minister may order the suspension of a publication if it undermines Islam, the monarchy, or the country’s “territorial integrity.” While critical reporting on most topics is tolerated, journalists risk imprisonment for violating taboos on issues such as the structure of the government and Moroccan claims to the Western Sahara. The government periodically confiscates copies of publications that cross these lines.

  • The Ministry of the Interior provides informal regulations or “guidance” to journalists for self-censorship on sensitive topics. Foreign publications are also examined before distribution and can be banned if they contain articles that are too critical of the regime.

  • Broadcast media are mostly government-controlled and reflect official views, though foreign broadcasting is available via satellite, and a large independent print media flourishes. The government owns the official press agency Maghreb Arab Presse, the National Society of Radio and Television (SNRT), and the Arabic daily Al-Anbaa.

  • The 2002 Press Code transfers from the executive to the courts the authority to try journalists accused of insulting the royal family. However, judges appointed by the king preside over cases involving the king’s defamation. Under the new code, those found guilty of defaming a member of the royal family receive sentences ranging from five to twenty years (shorter than under the 1973 Press Code). The new code also makes it easier to launch a publication, and requires the government to give reasons for the confiscation of media. The Moroccan Press Union, however, condemned the measure for not eliminating penal sanctions entirely. Authorities retain the power to revoke publication licenses or to confiscate and suspend publications deemed threatening to the public order.

  • The passage of a controversial new antiterrorism law in May reversed many of the press freedoms only recently enforced by the revised 2002 Press Code. In May 2003, the government invoked Article 41 of the anti-terror legislation to set stricter limits on and penalties for speech offenses (under the pretext of protecting Moroccan territorial integrity). Through subsidies, advertising allocation, and onerous regulation and licensing procedures, the government closely monitors and controls media content.

  • On November 25, 2004, the Moroccan parliament unanimously passed a law to liberalize the country’s audio-visual sector. The legislation opens up the government’s radio channel and two television stations to investors, although no investor is permitted to own more than 51 percent of the capital of any audiovisual company.

  • According to the 2009 Worldwide Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders, Morocco ranks 127 of 175 countries. The index runs from 1 (most press freedom) to 175 (least press freedom). Click here for a detailed report on the state of the media in Morocco.

Recent Government Initiatives Affecting Rights

  • King Muhammad VI established the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) on January 7, 2004, to investigate cases of disappearances and detention that occurred between 1956 and 1999. The commission organized a series of hearings broadcast on national television and radio in 2005 in which victims and relatives of the victims of these crimes were allowed to present testimonies before the Moroccan public. The commission’s report released on January 2006 stated that 743 Moroccans were killed by the government during the period of study and that 65 others remained missing as a result of forced disappearances. The government agreed to provide financial compensation to almost 9,000 victims and their families.

  • The Ministry of Human Rights was created in 1993 and then abolished in a cabinet reshuffle in June 2004. The government folded human rights responsibilities into the Ministry of Justice.

  • In 1990, King Hassan II established the Royal Consultative Council on Human Rights (Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l'Homme, CCDH), headed by the president of the Supreme Court and composed of representatives of government and opposition political parties, labor unions, human rights organizations, and religious groups. The Council was created to advise the king on human rights and prison reforms. Initially, the CCDH was set up to resolve cases of forcible disappearances and compensate victims of human rights violations, thereby officially recognizing state responsibility for these. King Muhammad VI expanded the council’s mandate and autonomy in July 2002, tasking it with implementing the recommendations of the 2006 Equity and Reconciliation Commission report. Click here for a 2009 update on its implementation.

Ratification of International Conventions

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) on May 3, 1979.
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on May 3, 1979.
  • The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) on June 21, 1993.
  • The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on December 18, 1970.
  • The Convention of on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on June 21, 1993.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on June 21, 1993.