Romain Berthon and Lina Fassi-Fihri, Partners, Lefèvre Pelletier & associés, on participatory democracy in action: Viewpoint

Romain Berthon and Lina Fassi-Fihri, Partners, Lefèvre Pelletier & associés

The implementation of the various constitutional reforms of 2011 continues, including many significant changes related to civil society’s participation in political debates. In this regard 2016 constituted an important milestone. At the local level, Organic Law No. 111-14, relating to the regions, which entered into force on February 18th, 2016, provides that citizens and associations residing and domiciled in the region may lodge a petition with the president of the region, provided certain criteria are met. At the national level, two organic laws implementing articles 14 and 15 of the constitution, which entered into force in August 2016, set out detailed provisions regarding the implementation of citizens’ rights to bring forward motions on legislative matters, and to lodge petitions before the public authorities.

Regarding the motions on legislative matters, Organic Law No. 64-14 first defines this term as being any proposal taken up by citizens with a view to contributing to the legislative initiative. For a motion to be deemed admissible, it must be approved by 25,000 citizens who are registered voters for general elections and who enjoy their civil and political rights. Those who submit a legislative motion must be represented by a committee of nine citizens, from at least one third of the kingdom’s regions. A motion should serve the public interest, and cannot challenge the steadfast principles of the nation, in particular the monarchical institution, Islam and territorial integrity, nor the fundamental rights of citizens.

The motion should be sent to the speaker of the House of Representatives or the president of the House of Councillors. The relevant house has a period of 15 days to submit its response on the admissibility of the motion and a period of 60 days to submit a response on its substance.

Concerning petitions, Organic Law No. 44-14 lays down the conditions and modalities for exercising the right to lodge petitions before the public authorities.

On the basis of this text, a petition is any written request containing claims, proposals or recommendations addressed by citizens to the public authorities in order for them to take the measures that the citizens deem appropriate in accordance with the constitution and the law. A petition requires 5000 signatures and is subject to the same conditions as a motion, but cannot actually concern a case that is currently under investigation or that has already been heard by a court of law. The text provides for a commission composed of nine members mandated to lodge the petition. It is provided that a petitions commission will be created with the head of government and each of the chambers of the parliament under the terms of their rules of procedure, in order to address said petitions.

Some actors in civil society and in political parties have deemed that the conditions, particularly the thresholds, limited the rights granted. However, the legislator established that these thresholds were set to hold the authors of these initiatives accountable and to avoid discrediting these means of action.

In practice, implementation texts must clearly detail the functioning of these mechanisms, particularly that of the commissions. Indeed, the institutions are not yet equipped to receive and handle such requests. However, it is not a question of reducing the authority of parliamentarians or the government, but rather of issuing decisions that may be prepared and developed in collaboration with citizens, both at the local and national levels. Admittedly, this will force the public authorities to have a more pedagogical approach to explain the implications of the draft laws and of their implementation texts, as well as to having more transparency in political debates. On the other hand, civil society needs to take ownership of these mechanisms and mobilise to advance the democratic process, particularly by registering to vote, which is the prerequisite to using these new measures.

Anchor text: 
Romain Berthon, Lina Fassi-Fihri

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The Report: Morocco 2016

Legal Framework chapter from The Report: Morocco 2016

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