15 February 2013

Morocco: Parliament Wraps Up Session

Casablanca — The just-concluded parliamentary session saw some highly charged debates but it lacked lustre in the end, opposition MPs say.

Parliament ended its 2012 autumnal session this week with opposition MPs saying that the Moroccan legislature had accomplished little since October.

The speakers of both parliamentary houses on Tuesday (February 12th) reeled off a list of accomplishments and gave a largely favourable review of those deliberations.

Yet the opposition saw the session differently. The deliberations were ineffective and did not live up to expectations, at least one opposition MP said.

"We presented proposals to the government, but were disappointed by its non-responsiveness," Rachid Talbi Alami, who leads the Rally of Independents group, told Magharebia.

The opposition also criticised the ruling coalition for poorly co-ordinating parliamentary proceedings, failing to involve all parties in participating in the making of laws, as well as not upholding what the session's agenda set out to do.

Among other questions, the agenda sought to deal with the issues of reassessing laws dealing with regionalisation and the constitutionalisation of the Tamazight language.

When the session was still on in January, opposition MPs criticised the government for being slow to respond to their motions and questions on the floor.

"Ministers do not reply in due time to questions from MPs, especially those relating to current affairs," Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) deputy Rachida Benmasoud told Magharebia on January 22nd.

Nonetheless, as they presided over Tuesday's final plenaries for their respective chambers, the speakers of the upper and lower houses presented a positive assessment of how the legislature had performed.

House of Representatives Speaker Karim Ghellab and House of Councillors Speaker Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah each gave an inventory of the number of bills voted or deliberated on since October.

During the session, the House of Representatives adopted 52 texts, including 48 draft laws and four legislative proposals, Ghellab said.

"Several draft laws were adopted as part of efforts to support Morocco's development in terms of governance and competitiveness reinforcement, and the financial system was updated," Ghellab said.

In addition, the lower house considered another 62 texts, including 21 submitted by members of the opposition. Of the 2,250 questions asked by MPs during the session, the government responded to 677 written and 886 oral questions, Ghellab said in tallying numbers.

Meanwhile, the House of Councillors voted on 45 texts, Biadillah said.

These all had to do with areas of public life, Biadillah said. A big accomplishment for the House of Councillors was its passage of the 2013 Finance Law, which underwent unprecedented scrutiny before MPs voted to adopt it, he said.

"Although scrutiny and drafting took time, they were of high quality and effective," said Rachid Roukban, an MP who heads the Democratic Progress group.

Mohamed El Meniani, a journalist who specialises in parliamentary affairs, told Magharebia that "while it is true that productivity was unimpressive, it is important to remember that in terms of oversight of the government's activity, MPs were uncompromising".

"The parliament should also focus on MP absenteeism and introduce a proper code of ethics, but this issue has not yet been fully addressed," Mohamed added.

In terms of governmental oversight, this past year's sessions saw the introduction of new constitutional provisions for parliamentary debates. Article 100 of the Constitution, for example, provides for monthly opportunities in which MPs can debate public policy with the prime minister.

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