Moroccans overwhelmingly approved constitutional reforms aimed at addressing demands for greater democracy. Members of the "February 20" protest movement, however, say the king still retains too much power.
The referendum was a political victory for King Mohammed VI
Moroccans turned out in large numbers on Friday to overwhelmingly approve constitutional reforms, proposed by King Mohammed VI, aimed at satisfying popular demands for a more democratic system.
Preliminary results showed that around 98 percent of voters approved the reforms with 94 percent of polling stations closed and a 72 percent turnout, according to Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui.
Under the reformed constitution, the prime minister is to be chosen from the largest party elected to parliament and would serve as the head of government with expanded executive authority. The new constitution would also reinforce judicial independence and give parliament a larger role.
The king, however, would remain the head of state, the military and would continue to serve as Morocco's religious leader. He also retains the power to dissolve the parliament, although no longer unilaterally.
Reforms fall short
While Moroccan voters overwhelmingly approved the king's reforms, members of the so-called "February 20" street protest movement opposed the text as not going far enough to establish a parliamentary monarchy.
Many street protesters say the reforms do not go far enough
"We knew right from the start that the referendum will be in favor of reform, but not necessarily for good reasons," said Ouidad Melhaf, a member of the "February 20" movement.
"Widespread poverty, illiteracy and fear of the state played a key role in the vote's outcome," she said, adding that the movement would continue regular street protests on Sunday.
Step in the right direction
Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, however, said the new constitution would "propel Morocco into the ranks of democratic countries."
The United States has praised the referendum as an "important step in Morocco's democratic development."
"In this period of profound change, we think it's important and we congratulate the people of Morocco and their leadership for the peaceful referendum," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
Author: Spencer Kimball (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: John Kluempers