Throne Day Speech: Morocco’s King Mohammed VI Concedes, Exhorts, Promises


Rabat – King Mohammed VI‘s yesterday’s Throne Day is perhaps the clearest indication in recent months of how drawn he is to questions of social inclusiveness, civic responsibility, and effective government. 

It was an occasion to celebrate, to dwell on what has been great in his two decades of leadership, and perhaps mention—just fleetingly, though—that some challenges are yet to be met. But the King begged to differ. 

He nuanced, assessed, and ruthlessly evaluated what has gone wrong. “The past years have revealed the inability of our development model to meet the urgent needs of some of our fellow citizens, to reduce social inequalities and spatial disparities.”

Deviating from the usual, expected bravado of most political speeches, the King highlighted the multiple, yet to be addressed challenges ahead. The language was analytic, nuanced, and matter-of-fact. 

Its driving spirit seemed to be: We know what we have done so far, and we are proud for doing it, for making it possible. But we shouldn’t get too ecstatic, too ahead of ourselves. If only because there is still too much to do. 

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Seldom does a commemorative speech sound this burdened,  exclusively focusing on what could have been, what can still be done to right the wrongs, and only intermittently mentioning what has actually been achieved.

Both in its overt pronouncements and its unarticulated, murmured suggestions, King Mohammed VI’s twentieth Throne Day speech consistently played down most of the much-lauded progress made Morocco has made in recent years. It zoomed in on “completing the ongoing reforms” and “correcting the shortcomings.”

At some point, though, the monarch did succumb to the need, or necessity of speaking of what has actually been done. But, quickly putting that in perspective, he went back to his initial message, repeatedly hammering home the point that no material progress is enough as long as it does not trickle down to as many Moroccans as possible, especially those from low-income backgrounds in dire need of “working,” “harmonious” policies from the governing class.

“We have taken a qualitative leap in terms of infrastructure: highways, high speed train, big ports, renewable energy, and urban rehabilitation. We have also made significant progress in reinforcing and consolidating rights and freedoms, in giving a healthy and solid footing to our practice of democracy,” he said.

But this was also quickly followed by a longer litany of we-still-have-so-much-work-to-do remarks. By all evidence, forcefully hammered or thinly suggested throughout the speech, the talking points pointed to a King who seemed intent on using the loaded symbolism of two decades of reign to tell Moroccans that he has listened to their complaints, that he understands why some of them are still frustrated, unconvinced by a string of development projects and impressive investments that do not seem to benefit them. 

“We know that developing infrastructure is not enough, no matter how important that may be.” As he acknowledged the structural shortcomings in policy choices and the glaring social disparities that have not been adequately dealt with in 20 years, the King insisted on “clarity” and “objectivity” as “civic duties” for the country’s ruling class.

It is his and the government’s “duty,” he offered, to be clear about the direction in which they want the country to sail, but also “objective” in assessing their own actions and policies as leaders entrusted with the “sacred responsibility” to “serve Moroccans.”

For the Moroccan King, the persistence of challenges such as youth unemployment, social disparities, corruption, and inefficient public administration, among others, is fundamentally due to what he sees as an outdated development model. 

As such, new “harmonious and effective” plans are urgently needed to put the country back on track. But the point of such actions should not be radical rupture from the past. Instead, according to the King, the goal is to “pump fresh blood” in the development model by stressing “audacity” “entrepreneurial spirit,” and a “heightened sense of responsibility” as the pillars of the new plan. 

But this constructive criticism of Morocco’s two-decade-long journey would have been incomplete without the mention of the recurring theme among Morocco specialists: self-entitled politicians.

“Our ultimate goal is to propel Morocco among advanced nations,” the King said, allusively disapproving of those in power or politics “who serve their own interests rather than those of the Moroccan people.”

Overall, the speech was a working combination of concession, exhortation, and promise. 

The King conceded that his twenty years of reign have not been all roses, that many Moroccans have been left behind, or let down; he exhorted the government to “prepare a new generation of coherent… harmonious plans;” he promised to inject “fresh blood” into public service as well as a new specialized committee to supervise and evaluate the implementation of the new development model.

“Over the years, we have not always done as we wished. But today we are determined to stay on course, capitalize on our achievements, complete the ongoing dynamics of reforms, and address the shortcomings,” he said.