Entourage: A Royal Edition

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King Mohammed VI and Fouad Ali El Himma, one of the king’s royal advisers, taking a drive around in the Benz.

One of the many ways King Mohammed VI has maneuvered his way through the demands for reform has been his process of appointing royal advisers. Legally speaking, if we look at the constitution, there exist no articles that directly address the position of royal adviser (length of term, duties/responsibilities, etc). My reading of the constitution is that of a citizen, not of a legal expert, so I invite any corrections of my interpretations. But I have read the constitution in both Arabic and French versions, as well as English translations, and nothing on royal advisers.

Because there are no legal terms terms that address this position of royal adviser, there is a huge gray area that leaves many questions open. Does having a position with no legal terms mean a blank check on power and privilege? Is it a position that is used as a symbolic award for loyal officials? Is it a position that blurs the king’s powers and interests? Is it a position that further extends the king’s reach beyond the jurisdiction of law and government? I’m sort of thinking out loud here, but these are legitimate questions, in my opinion.

Look at Andre Azoulay, for example. This man is one of the only figures who maintained his position through and after the death of King Hassan II, into the reign of Mohammed VI. His title? Simply a “royal adviser.” Immediately after the November 2011 elections, Moroccan state media announced a flurry of royal advising appointments. Among them were Taib Fassi-Fihri and Yassir Zenagui, who just happened to be two ministers from the previous government. Fassi-Fihri was the foreign minister and Zenagui was the minister of tourism. Their positions now? “Royal advisers.” Another one of the recently-appointed royal advisers was Fouad Ali El Himma, who can be best described as the personification of haute nepotism and corruption in Morocco (also a former classmate of the king).

The recent round of appointments is what really raises the above questions. What purpose do elections serve if those in ministerial positions are simply moved from one gated building to another? It becomes a great issue especially since one of the figures, El Himma, is a figure who has been strongly opposed to the Party of Justice and Development, the party that ended up leading the current coalition after winning the most votes. We saw questionable gestures, such as Fassi-Fihri being the first official to publicly meet with Secretary Clinton on her first official visit to Morocco after the November 2011 elections, instead of foreign minister, Saad Othmani. Zenagui too, has maintained his activity in the tourism sector, participating in a recent conference held in Morocco that discussed strategies and goals for tourism. These officials seem to continue their activities as if they were still ministers, yet they are not bound to the limitations that they previously were bound to as dictated by the constitution.

The biggest point of the Mohammed VI’s decision to appoint these figures as royal advisers is that these appointments were announced well before Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, could even release the list for his cabinet. Royal trumps civil in the most explicit way possible. The king, in a sense, set up his own shadow cabinet before the elected figure could set his up. And let’s not forget that the king has the final say in Benkirane’s cabinet anyway. I keep reading many analyses that highlight the ways in which Mohammed VI took various steps and measures to implement these bogus reforms, but rarely is there any discussion of these royal advising appointments.

I invite any thoughts and comments below!

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