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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Moroccan king: despot or benevolent autocrat?
Member of fundamentalist Justice and Development Party (PJD) hands out leaflets
The king has said he will not interfere in the outcome

Whatever the results of the parliamentary elections taking place on Friday in Morocco, most of the formal political powers will remain - as always - in the hands of the country's monarch, King Mohammed VI.

The state-run and political party-run media in Morocco have been abuzz for weeks about what they describe as this vital parliamentary election.

It is the first one to be held since the succession of King Mohammed VI to the throne three years ago.

King Mohammed VI married Salma Bennani on March 21 2002
The king enjoys an affluent lifestyle
The election, they say, must be a showcase to measure the North African kingdom's democratic progress.

King Mohammed has said that he will not interfere in the outcome.

He does not need to, of course. Anything threatening the system in place, such as hard-line Islamists, are banned.

In any case, most powers remain in the hands of the monarchy and his club of appointed advisers known as the Makhzen.

This makes Morocco an easy target for its detractors who say the system is not democratic but despotic.

But is de facto rule by one man - or at least one man and his advisers - by definition a bad thing?

In the case of Saddam Hussein for instance, the case is strong that it is.

On the other hand, it can be argued, a forward-thinking leader with the interests of his or her people at heart can be in the best position to implement social improvements.

As far as King Mohammed is concerned, he began his monarchy with promises to listen to his people.

But his people are, for the most part, struggling in abject poverty while he continues to live the traditional affluent lifestyle.

If the monarchy is to survive in Morocco, the king still has a lot of convincing to do to show why rule by one rather than the many is not necessarily a bad thing.

See also:

25 Sep 02 | Media reports
14 Sep 02 | Africa
27 Sep 02 | Africa
17 Jul 02 | Country profiles
24 Jul 99 | Africa
22 Oct 99 | Africa
25 Jul 01 | Africa
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