The 1996 Moroccan constitution replaced the unicameral parliament with a bicameral one. It established a 325-member House of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwwab), elected by direct public vote for a five-year term of office, and a 270-member House of Counselors (Majlis al-Mustasharin) having nine-year terms of office. 295 of the members of the House of Representatives are elected in electoral districts that are improvised for the occasion, and 30 members are elected at the national level for seats that the political parties participating in elections agreed to allocate to women. Members of the House of Counselors are indirectly elected by local and national electoral colleges consisting of local councils, professional associations, and trade unions. One-third of the House of Counselors is renewed every three years.
The prime minister and his cabinet are responsible to the House of Representatives as well as to the king. Confidence may be withdrawn by an absolute majority vote of the House members. The House of Representative may also question the executive’s performance by adopting a censure motion. A censure motion is accepted by the signatures of one-fourth of the members and is approved by an absolute majority of the House. If the motion is passed, no other such motion is accepted within a year.
The House of Counselors may also vote for a cautioning or censure notion against the government. A cautioning motion must be signed by at least one-third of the members and must be approved by an absolute majority. In the case of the motion’s approval, the prime minister, within six days, presents the government’s position before the House of Counselors. A censure motion must be brought by the signatures of one-third of the Counselors and must be approved by a two-third majority. In the case of the passage of the motion, the government must resign.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The parliament holds its meetings during two sessions a year (beginning in October and in April, respectively). It may be convened in special session either at the request of the absolute majority of the members of one of the two houses or by decree. The leadership of each house prepares the agenda for that house.
The king may, after consulting with the presidents of both chambers of the parliament as well as with the chairman of the Constitutional Council, and addressing the nation, declare a state of emergency by royal decree. The state of emergency does not entail the dissolution of the parliament, but the king also has the right to dissolve the parliament or one of its chambers after consulting these authorities. New parliamentary elections must take place within three months. When a chamber is dissolved, the new one may not be dissolved for a full year following the elections.
Each house elects its president. The speaker of the House of Representatives is Mustafa Al-Mansouri. The speaker of the House of Counselors is Mustapha Okasha. The secretary general of the parliament is Abd Al Jaleel Al-Zarhouni.
Each house establishes its own Rules of Procedure. Before going into effect, these rules need to be declared constitutional by the Constitutional Council.
Committee Structures and Membership
There are six permanent committees in the House of Representatives. The committees cover the following areas: Justice, Legislation and Human Rights; Foreign Affairs and National Defense; the Interior, Decentralization and Infrastructure; Finance and Economic Development; Production Affairs; and Social Affairs. The House of Counselors has similar committees. In addition to the standing committees, temporary fact-finding committees may be established on the king's initiative or upon the request of the majority of the members of one of the two chambers and within each chamber. Members of the parliament enjoy immunity, except in cases of injurious remarks about the monarchy and Islam.
Legislative Drafting Processes
The constitution gives precedence to the discussion of draft bills referred by the government to the parliament. A draft bill is considered by the relevant committees in both chambers in order to reach a joint decision within a period of six days. If such a decision is not reached, steps are taken upon the government request to set up a joint committee with equal representation to reach such a decision in three days. If the two chambers do not adopt a final draft this way, the government may submit the draft to the House of Representatives where it can be definitively adopted by an absolute majority of its membership.
Legislation may be initiated either by the prime minister or one of the houses of parliament. Legislated bills may be amended by decree and with the consent of the Constitutional Council. Parliamentary debates are open to public and the proceedings of public sessions are published in the Official Gazette.
According to the constitution, the government may by law issue decrees for a limited period of time, and for a defined purpose. Such decrees, however, must be submitted for ratification to the parliament within the time limits set by the empowering law. Should either chamber be dissolved, such a law becomes void.
The ministry of parliamentary affairs coordinates the activities between the executive and legislative branches and oversees the parliament.
The Moroccan legislature is a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU), and the Union of Councils of Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.