1 July 2011

Morocco: Mohammed VI Votes for New Constitution As Dissidents Call for Referendum Boycott

Photo: Euronews
Tens of thousands of people marched in Morocco on Sunday both for and against a proposed new constitution.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI has voted in the constitutional referendum he initiated after months of protests inspired by the Arab Spring. The youth-based 20 February Movement, which organised the demonstrations, has called for a boycott.

Turnout was reported to be low on Friday morning but expected to pick up after prayers.

Morocco's main political parties, trade unions, civic groups and religious leaders have called for a "yes" vote to changes that will devolve some of the king's powers but leave him head of state and chairing the cabinet.

Pro-government media have campaigned hard for citizens to vote.

But the 20 February Movement has called for a boycott, believing that the proposals do not go far enough.

The key reforms proposed are:

  • The prime minister will be named by the king from within the majority party in parliament - at the moment the king names any prime minister he wants;
  • Court rulings will still be made in the name of the king and he will name judges and keep his right to grant amnesties;
  • The king remains the Commander of the Faithful, the top religious authority in the kingdom but a reference to him as "sacred" is dropped;
  • The prime minister will preside over the Government Council, which will present policy proposals to cabinet, still presided over by the king;
  • The head of the government will be head of government and have the power to dissolve the lower house of parliament;
  • The king remains head of state and the military;
  • Parliament's role will be expanded to give it more oversight of such matters as civil rights and freedoms, amnesty, electoral districts and nationality issues;
  • The indigenous Berber language will become an official state language along with Arabic - a first in north Africa;
  • Women will be guaranteed "civic and social" equality with men - previously they were only guaranteed "political" equality.

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