Morocco: Protesters say king's reforms 'not enough'

Moroccan King Mohammed VI (June 2010) King Mohammed VI will retain a number of key posts under the proposed reforms

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Pro-democracy activists in Morocco have said constitutional reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI do not go far enough.

Members of the February 20 said they would still hold a planned protest on Sunday calling for greater changes to the country's political system.

The proposed reforms include giving the prime minister and parliament more executive authority and recognising the minority Berber language.

But King Mohammed will retain key powers and remains head of the army.

A new article within the constitution also formalised his role as the highest religious authority in the country.

In a television address on Friday, the king said the measures would entrench democratic institutions and protect rights.

The proposals will be put to a referendum on 1 July, but many activists have reacted with scepticism, saying Morocco's 400-year-old dynasty has a long history of enacting superficial reforms.

'All celebrating'

The youth-based February 20 movement, which has carried out weekly pro-democracy marches around the country, said it would continue to call for "a truly democratic constitution and a parliamentary monarchy".

Analysis

The proposals will be put to a referendum on 1 July.

That is a very swift timetable, which is bound to make the opposition think the king is trying to push through the reforms without proper discussion.

Initial response has been mixed - some welcoming the ideas, others suggesting they are purely cosmetic.

"The plan as proposed by the king yesterday does not respond to our demands for a true separation of powers," said a spokesman in Rabat.

"We will protest peacefully on Sunday against this plan."

Others in Morocco welcomed the king's speech, saying it represented a major advance for the country.

"The kingdom of Morocco has joined the list of democratic countries," said one man out celebrating in Rabat.

"Today as Moroccan youths, we're all celebrating our new constitution from the city of Tangier to the city of Lagouira."

The proposal to officially recognise Berber - or Amazig - as an official language, alongside Arabic, has also been welcomed. The Berbers were Morocco's first inhabitants and make up some 60% of the population, but have complained of widespread discrimination.

Like many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco has seen a growing call for major reforms to its political system in the past year.

The country has also 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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