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Too little, too late

June 20, 2011

Thousands of protesters have rejected the Moroccan King's planned constitutional reforms, arguing that the proposal fails to establish a true parliamentary monarchy. The king had offered to limit some of his powers.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI
The king will retain his grip on the military and religionImage: AP

Several thousand demonstrators took to the streets in Morocco's largest city, Casablanca, on Sunday to reject constitutional reforms that they believe leave too much power in the hands of the monarchy.

Around 10,000 protesters gathered in Casablanca's Derb Soltaine neighborhood. The participants included Islamists, leftist parties and young internet activists.

"We are not giving up," Ahmed Mediany told the news agency AFP. "This project of reform is insufficient and will not allow Morocco to transition from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary monarchy."

The February 20 Movement, an organization of young pro-democracy activists, had called for nationwide demonstrations. But the organization's call went largely unheeded outside of Casablanca with only hundreds turning out in other cities.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI had pledged Friday to build a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliament. In a televised address, the king detailed a new constitution that would devolve some of his power to the prime minister and parliament.

He said voters would be able to vote for the changes in a July referendum.

"We are here to reject the proposed constitution," Aziz Yaakoubi, one of the organizers of Sunday's protests, told the news agency Reuters.

"It keeps all the powers in the hands of the king. He refused to listen to the street."

The proposals come on the heels of nationwide demonstrations that started in February, inspired by popular uprisings that toppled the autocratic rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.

The 47-year-old monarch, who took the reins of the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty in 1999, holds essentially all power in the north African country, where he also serves as the top religious authority - a position he won't relinquish.

New rules

The final draft of the reformed constitution would mean a "government emerging through direct universal suffrage," King Mohammed said Friday.

Anti- government protesters hold a poster of Kamal Al-Amri, a member of Morocco's main opposition Islamist group who died from wounds sustained during a demonstration several days earlier
Demonstrators have denounced corruption, demanded better civil rights and a new constitutionImage: dapd

The draft explicitly grants the government executive powers, although the king would retain control over the military and select the prime minister from the party that wins the polls.

The prime minister would be rechristened "president of the government" and given the "power to dissolve parliament," which was previously the king's prerogative.

The prime minister would also be allowed to fire ministers and nominate ambassadors or directors of public companies for the king's approval.

King Mohammed VI also pledged an independent judiciary and said the proposals would "consolidate the pillars of a constitutional monarchy."

Is it enough?

Many hailed the promised reforms as ushering in democratic change.

"Compared to the current constitution, this plan is an important advance," Saad Eddine Othmani, an opposition lawmaker, told the news agency AFP. "Everything the king promised in his speech on March 9 has been kept."

Driss Lachgar, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, called the draft "a real revolution and laid the foundations for a parliamentary monarchy."

However, many members of the February 20 Movement argue that the reforms do not go deep enough.

Activist Najib Chawki said the reform "does not respond to the essence of our demands which is establishing a parliamentary monarchy. We are basically moving from a de facto absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy."

The February 20 Movement, has called for the creation in Morocco of a parliamentary monarchy, an end to the influence of the king's inner circle, the dismissal of the government, and for trials of officials and businessmen it has accused of corruption.

Author: Spencer Kimball, Sarah Harman (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Mark Rossman