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Decentralisation in Morocco : The Current Reform and Its Possible Contribution to Political Liberalisation

Auteur : Houdret Annabelle, Harnisch Astrid
Année de Publication : 2017
Type : Etude
Thème : Etat – Politique
Couverture : Maroc

Résumé/Sommaire :

In reaction to the political unrest of 2011, the government and King of Morocco promised comprehensive political change; in particular, the decentralisation reform was intended to enhance the political participation of the population and make the work of state institutions more efficient and transparent. Six years later, it is evident that these promises have not been sufficiently implemented. New laws for decentralisation reform and the first regional elections in 2015 laid key foundations for change. However, since then, the process of implementation has been delayed significantly and a transformation of the power structures in parallel with the strengthening of democratic institutions and processes currently appears unlikely.
The analysis of international experience with decentralisation processes reveals on the one hand that they do not necessarily pursue or promote the goal of democratisation and that they can even be implemented efficiently in authoritarian regimes. On the other hand, these experiences show that three bundles of factors have a significant effect on the chances for success of such a reform: the political economy of the process, which determines the distribution of social resources such as power, money and legitimacy; the autonomy, competencies and resources of the relevant institutions; and the information and participation of the population. All three factors - but participation in particular - are also key in determining whether decentralisation can support political liberalisation.
The current decentralisation reform in Morocco is embedded in a historical context. For example, the dual structure of the political system dating from the French colonial era determines that, although elected institutions exist at all decision-making levels, they are de facto dominated by representatives of the Ministry of Interior, which itself is under the auspices of the King. This fundamental limitation of the autonomy and scope of action of the elected institutions also failed to be addressed in any of the various decentralisation reforms that have occurred since the 1970s. The most recent reform phase formally established key foundations for the realisation of the task with administrative (reorganisation of the regions with greater competencies), fiscal (primarily the funding of the regions) and political decentralisation (regional elections and authority of the regions, participation processes).
However, against the background of international experience, an analysis of the reform in Morocco shows that the opportunities for successful implementation are significantly influenced by the three bundles of factors mentioned above: firstly, the current political economy of the process is clearly hindering the process of implementing the decentralisation reform; key laws and regulations have yet to be passed, for example to regulate the distribution of power and participation processes in detail. The closely associated distribution of social resources such as influence, money and legitimacy is still negotiated between the royal house, the government and the various elites. Secondly, the relevant institutions cannot fulfil the tasks assigned within the scope of the reform, due to a lack of autonomy, competencies and resources. And thirdly, the information and participation of the population remain inadequate, in spite of the statements regarding this in the scope of the reform and the constitution of 2011.
The hopes of the population that decentralisation – accompanied by the new constitution – would lead to increased political participation and political liberalisation have thus far failed to be met. However, the democratic principles articulated in the reform and constitution, the drafting of the organic laws and the social expectations and associated pressure are factors that can positively influence the further realisation of the reform in the sense of political liberalisation. Factors contrary to political liberalisation in the context of the reform include the continued power of the authorities reporting to the Ministry of Interior; the to date insufficient implementation of accountability, transparency and participation; and the increase in political repression since 2013. In view of the deep-rooted legitimacy of King Mohammed VI and the fears of the population that the country, like many states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, could slide into instability, a coup such as that in Tunisia is not to be expected in Morocco. However, the legitimacy of the monarchy will increasingly be called into question if the heralded reforms offer no tangible improvement to the hardships articulated by the population in 2011 and continuously since then. In contrast, a successful decentralisation reform could establish more efficient institutions and new scope for political participation, thereby helping to further strengthen the legitimacy of the government and of King Mohammed VI himself.

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