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A shadow government in Morocco? The reach and sway of the King's advisors

A shadow government in Morocco? The reach and sway of the King's advisors

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Politics

Thursday 4 May 202304:40 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

نفوذ وصلاحيات واسعة لمستشاري الملك المغربي... هل هم "حكومة الظلّ"؟


At the height of its rise, first in the legislative elections following the February 20th Movement, and the formation of a new constitution in 2011, the Moroccan Justice and Development Party entered into a conflict with King Mohammed VI's advisers. This forced former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, and Secretary-General of the party to apologize to the king's advisors.

The apology, which caused widespread controversy at the time in political and media circles, came after Benkirane hinted at times, and made statements at other times, about the difficulty of communicating with the king's advisors, especially after an article was published by the Moroccan Assabah newspaper on Thursday, August 9th, 2012, under the title "Benkirane: no communication between me and the king's circle".

In a press statement, the then Prime Minister said: "I can only apologize to His Majesty the King for any unintentional offense I may have caused, to him and to his esteemed advisors"; a statement that was circulated by the official Moroccan News Agency on August 10th, 2012.

The King's advisors: A growing influence

According to the book "The King's Advisors: from the shadow of power to the shadow of government" by author Mohammed Choucair, "Despite the dynamism witnessed by Morocco, resulting in the vote on the July 2011 constitution, which granted powers to the Prime Minister, including expanding the scope of appointment in some public institutions, and appointing the government of Abdelilah Benkirane, this did not prevent observers from recording an increasing influence of the king's advisors in managing public affairs and influencing its directions and features."

Thus, a royal advisor, according to Choucair, is one of "the figures close to the king's inner circle or environment, whether through the nature of the relationship that connects the king with some of his advisors (that is, the advisor is a friend of the king), through being considered as a channel of communication with the king, or through his proximity to the royal decision making process."

In his book about the Moroccan King's advisors, author Mohammed Choucair follows the political behavior of the advisors and their roles in organizing the political arena

The book provides, within the context of discussing the proximity of the advisors to the king, the model of the late advisor Ahmed Reda Kadiri, who was very close to the late King Hassan II, and how their relationship went beyond that of a king with a minister, or a royal advisor, but rather it was a special relationship whose strength lay in secrets known only to them.

Today, under the reign of King Mohammed VI, the name of advisor Fouad Ali el-Himma stands out. This senior advisor has received attention from political actors and the press, due to his proximity to the king, more than any other friends of the king.

Choucair adds in his book, "The king's relationship with his advisors takes on special dimensions stemming from the king's personal selection of his advisors, as well as their work within the inner circle of the king, in addition to the nature and different personalities of the advisors... This relationship is determined by the king's mood and the personal dimensions that connect the king to his various advisors. Thus, the relationship between the king and his advisors is characterized by a personal rather than an organizational nature."

The advisor and the King's powers

The motivation behind the king surrounding himself with a group of advisors is linked to his leadership of the regime with its broad, almost absolute, powers, making him the central figure in making important strategic decisions, whether on the political, economic, or social levels. This requires the presence of advisors to the king who are tasked with preparing a group of sensitive files to be presented to the country's ruler for consideration, according to the book.

In the same book, Choucair identifies "experience and loyalty as the most important conditions for integrating these personalities into the king's inner circle," noting that "the Moroccan Makhzen system is distinguished by a great skill in seizing competencies that can be relied upon to manage the country; as usually, a group of political and technocratic figures are recruited to be appointed as the king's advisors."

Today, under the reign of King Mohammed VI, the name of advisor Fouad Ali el-Himma stands out. This senior advisor has received attention from political actors and the press alike, due to his proximity to the king, more than any other 'friend' of the king

However, according to the same author, "it is very difficult to determine the political role played by the king's advisors in a political system like the Moroccan one. The main characteristic of this system is based primarily on consultation due to the religious and Makhzen considerations that it is based on, as well as the bureaucratic reference on which it is based, and also the personal nature that distinguishes it."

Consultation and the King's exercise of power

Choucair explains that "if we look back at the conception that governs the exercise of power in Morocco, we find that the monarchy is the one that controls political decision-making, and even its implementation. Without the royal character, all political decisions remain without implementation. Therefore, the monopolization of political decision-making remains the predominant characteristic that shapes the internal dynamics of the Moroccan regime."

The book "The King's Advisors" points out that the late King Hassan II defined "this dynamic through several speeches and signals in which he expressed his vision of exercising power, which he believed should be done through consultation of advisors… So that democracy, in the view of the Moroccan monarch, is a type of consultation and deliberation."

Therefore, Choucair argues in his book that "consultation is what governs the king's exercise of power. All parliamentarians, ministers, senior officials, as well as party and union leaders, and the heads of other political leaders are, before anything else, consultants and advisors who the king can consult with on every decision he makes."

This perception is confirmed by "the institutional system surrounding the king, where all the councils that are created have this advisory nature, especially those that have a specific political character… Therefore, appointing a group of figures as advisors to the king does not deviate from the general framework in which the royal exercise of power operates," the author adds.

"To ensure a continued monopoly over all powers and authorities, the King has to surround himself with a group of close individuals who embody his power, execute his instructions, and reflect his will, thus turning these advisors into a shadow government"

The constitution and the powers of advisors

If that is the case, can the powers of the king's advisors be defined in the absence of constitutional or regulatory texts that define their functions and powers?

According to Choucair in his book, it is possible to distribute their tasks and determine their nature by tracking the official activity of these advisors, adding that "the nature of the files they work on and their updating circumstances plays a major role in determining the nature of the tasks assigned to these advisors."

On this basis, "members of the royal court, including advisors, usually express their opinions on all technical issues and give their impressions on government proposals, armed with the royal confidence they enjoy and the competencies they possess, whether at the technical or legal level," according to the same book.

The author was keen to clarify the role of the royal court, which he considers "one of the most sensitive institutions within the Moroccan political regime. It is like a shadow government that draws the outlines of the country's public policy and oversees the functioning of the state's government and administrative departments. Usually, all ministerial decisions requiring a royal decision are sent to the royal court."

"Armed with a royal confidence that no one else enjoys, these advisors give their opinions on all issues and their impressions on government proposals.. This has led to some conflicts between the King's advisors and some components of the political scene"

Morocco's advisors.. A "shadow government"

It appears that, through it all, the "sacred aura" surrounding the king's person in Morocco "necessitates that the king have a group of individuals around him who are considered to be political protective 'springs' that mitigate any direct confrontation or exposure to the king's policies or his person... They serve as a political shield that takes in all the criticism and condemnation that is essentially directed at the king's policies or the king himself," as the author notes in his book.

Mohammed Choucair concludes in his book "The King's advisors: from the shadow of rule to the shadow government" that "in a system that still maintains the continuity of the king's monopoly over all powers and authorities, all in a defined monarchy system, it is necessary for the king to surround himself with a group of close individuals who embody his power, execute his instructions, and reflect his will... which has led to a series of conflicts between the king's advisors and some components of the political scene, thus turning these advisors into a shadow government."



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