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Moroccans vote in referendum on curbing king's powers

Arab World Materials 1 July 2011 12:59
Moroccans began voting Friday in a referendum on constitutional curbs to the powers of King Mohammed VI, a vote that follows months of pro-democracy rallies.
Moroccans vote in referendum on curbing king's powers

Moroccans began voting Friday in a referendum on constitutional curbs to the powers of King Mohammed VI, a vote that follows months of pro-democracy rallies, DPA reported.

More than 13 million people were eligible to vote for or against a new constitution to replace the current 1996 version.

About 40,000 polling stations opened around the country. Moroccans living abroad could also vote at embassies or consulates, a possibility they do not have in legislative elections.

Nearly all the parliamentary parties have campaigned for a "yes" vote, presenting the reform as a big step that will make Morocco considerably more democratic.

But a large part of the February 20 protest movement, which regards the reform as merely cosmetic, called on citizens to boycott the referendum.

The wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world spilled over to Morocco in February, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand democratic reforms and better living conditions.

Smaller protests rallies have been held constantly since then.

Mohammed VI announced a constitutional reform in March, and presented it on June 17.

If the constitution is approved in the referendum, it will remove the sacred status of the king. He will no longer choose the prime minister, but must appoint that person from the party with the most seats. He will also lose the powers to choose four key ministers; to fire ministers; and to enact legislation without the consent of parliament.

The constitution also contains other changes, such as placing Amazigh (Berber) on an equal footing with Arabic as an official language.

Opponents of the reform say it does not go far enough and that it was drafted by a handpicked commission not representing the people.

However, it was widely expected that a large majority of voters would back the new constitution.

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