Moroccan King fails to win over protest movement
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Last Updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011, 00:39
  
Rabat: Morocco's youth-based February 20 Movement on Saturday rejected constitutional reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI, calling for nationwide protests.

"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," a member of the movement's Rabat section said to a news agency.

The king outlined curbs to his wide political powers in an address to the nation, pledging 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.

Under the new draft constitution, the king will retain this religious role and remain as head of state.

His person would be "inviolable", while the "free exercise of religion" will be guaranteed by the monarch, he said in his speech.

The king would also remain head of the army and still appoint ambassadors and diplomats. He will also retain the right to name top officials of unspecified "strategic" administrations.

Many political players welcomed Mohammed VI's proposals.

"Compared to the current constitution, this plan is an important advance," Saad Eddine Othmani, an opposition lawmaker, said to a news agency. "Everything the king promised in his speech of March 9 has been retained."

That speech was the king's first since the uprisings that toppled the autocratic rulers of Tunisia and Egypt and came less than a month after the protests erupted in Morocco for more social justice and limits on royal powers.

"But is this advance enough? That is what we will discuss today" within the Justice and Development Party, an Islamist opposition party, Othmani said.

The head of the government coalition partner Party of Progress and Socialism, Nabil Benabdallah, also praised the speech.

"Morocco is entering a new constitutional phase. This plan will allow the construction of a modern democratic state," he said.

But the February 20 Movement, demanding deep political reforms, called for a peaceful protest on Sunday in cities including Rabat, Casablanca, Tangiers, Marrakesh and Fez, according to the movement's Facebook page, which has more than 60,000 adherents.

The youth-led group has brought thousands of people on to the streets in unprecedented calls for change and an end to corruption.

Bureau Report


First Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011, 00:39


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