Thousands demand change in Morocco

People rallied demanding political reform and limits on King`s powers.

Updated: Feb 21, 2011, 00:28 AM IST

Rabat: Several thousand people rallied in
Moroccan cities on Sunday demanding political reform and limits on
the powers of the king, the latest protests demanding change
to have rocked the region.

Over 2,000 people took to the streets of the capital
Rabat, 4,000 according to the organisers, shouting: "The
people want change."

In Casablanca, the North African nation`s biggest
city, over 1,000 people came out demanding: "Freedom, dignity,
justice," a correspondent reported.

The demonstrations were peaceful as of midday.

"I want a Morocco that`s more fair and with less
corruption," said a student demonstrator in Casablanca who
asked not to be named.

"We`ve got nothing against the king, but we want more
justice and work," said another student who gave his name as
Brahim.

Thousands of young Moroccans have joined the
"February 20" movement on the social networking site Facebook,
calling for peaceful demonstrations demanding a new
constitution limiting the king`s powers and more social
justice.

The call has similar origins to the so-called
"Facebook revolutions" that toppled decades-old regimes in
Tunisia and Egypt and sparked deadly protests in Bahrain,
Yemen, Algeria and Morocco.

Ahead of the protest, Morocco promised to inject
1.4 billion euros in subsidies to soften price hikes for
staples -- a key factor among others including rampant
unemployment behind the spreading unrest in the Arab world.

That came despite an earlier reassurance that
Morocco was unlikely to see Tunisia or Egypt-style unrest due
to ongoing reforms by King Mohammed VI who has ruled the
country for over a decade.

Human rights and civil groups as well as
independent journalists joined the movement, calling for the
adoption of a democratic constitution.

However on Saturday one of the protests`
organisers, Rachid Antid, said he was pulling out of
Sunday`s rally due to the inclusion of Islamist and far-left
groups with which they share "ideological differences."

The youth wing of banned Islamist group Justice and
Charity, believed to be Morocco`s biggest opposition force
called for a peaceful rally.

Others, including the pro-regime Istiqlal and the
Islamist opposition Justice and Development, openly rejected
the demonstration.

PTI