Friday, July 1, 2011

Morocco votes on King Mohammed's reforms

King Mohammed VI of MoroccoKing Mohammed VI has promised greater democracy for the people of Morocco

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Moroccans are going to the polls to vote on a series of constitutional amendments and reforms.
The proposals, put forward by King Mohammed VI, would give the prime minister and parliament more power.
Analysts say that he is widely expected to win the vote, though low turnout could spark demands for bolder changes.
His reforms come in response to protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, which ousted leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.
Morocco's own youth-based February 20 movement organised weeks of pro-reform demonstrations and brought thousands on to the streets. They have urged their supporters to boycott the vote.
'Date with history'
The vote represents the first constitutional referendum under the king's 12-year rule and has been described by one Moroccan newspaper as "a date with history".
The king himself has described the reforms as: "a decisive historic transition".
Under the draft constitution, the king remains as the head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco, but the prime minister - to be chosen from the largest party elected to parliament - would take over as head of the government.
The reforms, the king has pledged, would reinforce the independence of the judiciary, boost efforts to tackle corruption, guarantee freedom of expression and gender rights and make Berber an official language.
The new constitution has been backed by the country's main political parties, unions, civic groups, religious leaders and media throughout the campaign.
"The majority will approve the reform. What's really at stake is voter turnout," said Lahcen Daodi of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development opposition party (PJD), which supports the reform.
The turnout at the last parliamentary polls in 2007 stood at just 37%, the lowest recorded.
The reform plan has been welcomed abroad, with the European Union saying it "signals a clear commitment to democracy".
But it fails to meet the demands of a full constitutional monarchy sought by many protesters. Many activists have been sceptical about the king's promises of change, saying Morocco's 400-year-old monarchy has a long history of enacting superficial reforms.
Morocco has been facing severe economic challenges with high unemployment and rising levels of poverty.
King Mohammed, 47, acceded to the throne in 1999 following the death of his father, Hassan II, and now heads the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty.

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