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News, June 2011
Moroccans Continue Protests Against King's Reform Proposal
Moroccans demonstrate over king's proposed reforms
BBC, 19 June 2011 Last updated at 20:14 ET
Activists say Morocco has a long history of enacting superficial reforms
About 10,000 protesters have rallied in Casablanca against King Mohammed's proposed constitutional changes, which they say do not go far enough.
The February 20 reform movement also rallied in other Moroccan cities. In the capital Rabat, several hundred marched in support of the reforms.
On Friday, the king proposed slightly loosening his current absolute power.
But he said he would keep total control of Morocco's security and foreign policy, as well as matters of religion.
King Mohammed VI's proposals will be put to a referendum on 1 July, but critics say this leaves little time for a real debate.
They want constitutional changes drawn up by a democratically elected committee instead.
Activists say Morocco's 400-year-old dynasty has a long history of enacting superficial reforms.
Like many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco has seen a growing call for major reforms to its political system in the past year.The country has also been facing severe economic challenges with high unemployment and rising levels of poverty.
Parties urge Moroccans to vote 'yes' on curbing king's powers
Morocco’s main political parties urged Moroccans to vote "yes" as campaigning began Tuesday ahead of a July 1 referendum on limiting King Mohammed VI’s powers. The proposals were introduced last week in a bid to appease anti-regime protesters.
By News Wires (text)
Campaigning for a referendum on constitutional curbs to King Mohammed VI's powers opened in Morocco on Tuesday with the main parties urging a "yes" vote in the wake of uprisings elsewhere in north Africa.
As the government announced the start of the campaign and urged citizens to collect their new voters' cards, a senior minister predicted the envisioned changes would help the country back on the road to stability.
"This constitution is going to bring a lot of positive things to Morocco," Industry Minister Ahmed Reda Chami told AFP.
In a speech to parliament last Friday, King Mohammed VI proposed to devolve some of his wide-ranging political powers to the prime minister and parliament, among other changes.
The reforms are aimed at transforming the kingdom's political system into a constitutional monarchy, a key demand of the youth-based February 20 Movement named after the date of Morocco's first nationwide pro-reform protests.
"This new constitution is going to give more power to the prime minister. The king has given some of his powers to the prime minister, to the parliament. I believe that this is important. I think this is going to help us build a stronger democracy in the future," Chami said.
"We need to go back to normal as soon as possible, then we'll pick up those investments."
Campaigning for the referendum will end on June 30, and the communications minister said Tuesday that all political formations would be able to speak freely to state-owned media.
"I confirm that all those participating in the referendum, including those who are hostile (towards it), will be able to express themselves freely," said the minister, Khalid Naciri.
The country's three biggest political parties -- the Justice and Development Party, an Islamist formation; the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP); and the conservative Istiqlal party -- have urged their supporters to vote "yes" to the proposed changes.
Smaller opposition parties called for a boycott, while the February 20 Movement, which was inspired by other popular uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, initially rejected the draft but has since said it would announce its position later.
Chami said the new constitution would keep Morocco "first in class".
"I was worried, because we were first in class before the Arab revolutions -- I was worried that because Tunisia and Egypt would have more advanced constitutions -- we would be left behind.
"I believe that the king has reacted swiftly. Now, with this constitution we will still be first or among the first in the class, which will give more stability to Morocco."
He added that the pending changes would remove the impetus for protest, which most recently saw the February 20 Movement draw some 10,000 to a rally in Casablanca on Sunday.
"You can't keep on going and protesting against something that's really positive," Chami said.
The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, meanwhile, granted Morocco "Partner for Democracy" status in Strasbourg on Tuesday -- a title meant to boost cooperation with parliaments of non-member states in neighbouring regions.
Abdelouahed Radi, the head of Morocco's parliament and secretary-general of the USFP, thanked the council for this "encouragement and confidence."
Protest against Moroccan king's reform proposals
The News Today, RABAT, June 18, 2011
Morocco's youth-based February 20 Movement called Saturday for nationwide protests against constitutional reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI, reports AFP.
"The national coordinators (of the movement) have called for a demonstration Sunday for a truly democratic constitution and a parliamentary monarchy," a member of the movement's Rabat section told AFP.
"The plan as proposed by the king yesterday (Friday) does not respond to our demands for a true separation of powers. We will protest peacefully on Sunday against this plan," he said.
The king outlined curbs to his wide political powers in an address to the nation on Friday and pledged to build a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliament.
The proposals, to be put to a referendum on July 1, devolve many of the king's powers to the prime minister and parliament.
They come in the wake of nationwide pro-reform demonstrations that started on February 20 -- hence the name of the movement-inspired by other popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world. The 47-year-old monarch, who in 1999 took over the Arab world's longest- serving dynasty, currently holds virtually all power in the Muslim north African country, and he is also its top religious authority as the Commander of the Faithful.
Meanwhile, Moroccan King Mohammed VI outlined curbs to his wide political powers in proposed constitutional reforms Friday and pledged to build a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliament.
The proposals will be put to a referendum on July 1, the king said. They devolve many of the king's powers to the prime minister and parliament.
The proposals come in the wake of nationwide pro-reform demonstrations that started in February, inspired by other popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world.
The 47-year-old monarch, who in 1999 took over the Arab world's longest- serving dynasty, holds virtually all power in the Muslim north African country, and he is also its top religious authority as the Commander of the Faithful.
In future the head of government should come "from the ranks of the
political party which comes out top in parliamentary elections," the king
said in a keenly-awaited televised address. It would mean a "government
emerging through direct universal suffrage," he said.
Under the proposals, drawn up by a reform panel appointed by Mohammed VI in March, the prime minister will be able to appoint government officials, including in the public administration and state enterprises, taking over an authority previously held only by the king.
The prime minister will also be able to debate general state policy with a government council at weekly meetings to be held in the absence of the king, according to the draft proposals seen earlier by AFP.
Under the current constitution, only the cabinet chaired by the monarch can decide on state policy.
Among the new competencies of the parliament would be declaring a general amnesty, also currently only the king's domain.
The reference to the king in the constitution as "sacred" would be replaced by the expression: "The integrity of the person of the king should not be violated."
This is an important change because the word "sacred" has a strong religious connotation, especially in Arabic, analyst Mohamed Darif said.
"The new formula does not try to put a religious dimension to the person of the king but rather highlights political responsibilities," he said.
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