18 June 2011

The King's Speech - Moroccan style


Over the last few months, I've found Al Jazeera to be a great resource for keeping up with what's going on in the Middle East.

And here, thanks to them, is a version of the King's Speech you may not have heard - by King Mohammed VI of Morocco. Interestingly, when it comes to delivery, he seems to have learnt a thing or two from King George VI's daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

As regular readers will know, I've long been fascinated by the way she delivers the annual Queen's Speech, in which she sets out her government's legislative plans for the forthcoming parliamentary year (for more on which, see The Queen's Speech: an exception that proves the ruler).

In discussing the importance for a constitutional monarch to display political neutrality, I noted:

'When it comes to sounding unenthusiastic and uninterested in inspiring an audience, the Queen’s Speech is an example with few serious competitors. She has no qualms about being seen to be wearing spectacles, which underline the fact that she is reading carefully from the script she holds so obviously in front of her. Nor is she in the least bit inhibited about fixing her eyes on the text rather than the audience. Then, as she enunciates the sentences, her tone is so disinterested as to make it abundantly clear that she is merely reciting words written by someone else and about which she has no personal feelings or opinions whatsoever.'

As you'll see from the above, King Mohammed VI doesn't have any qualms about wearing his specs or about keeping his eyes glued to the text either. But having to rely on his translator makes it difficult for a non-speaker of Arabic like me to assess the tone of his speech.

But the context is, of course very different, because here is a king announcing some important-sounding steps along the road towards the establishment of a more constitutional monarchy - which is something about which he should presumably sound much more enthusiastic than the Queen ever does when she reads out words written by her government - providing, that is, that he really believes in the reforms he is proposing.

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Compared with certain other speeches in Arabic during the past six months, this is rather an impressive effort. Nor, interestingly, did any of the entrants in the doomed dictator speechwriting competition select the King of Morocco as someone in need of help - perhaps because they didn't consider him dictatorial or doomed enough.

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