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Morocco protesters seek radical constitutional reform

Thousands of Moroccans engaged in peaceful demonstrations Sunday demanding greater reform in the new constitution expected to be unveiled in June by King Mohammed VI. The protesters, led by the Facebook youth movement Fevrier 20 rejected [CNN report] the king's draft of the new constitution because it was written by his own people. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Moroccan cities of Casablanca, Tangiers, Marrakesh and the capital of Rabat. Mohammed has made some concessions since the outbreak of protests last February including the release of political prisoners [AFP report] and the development of a new constitution [JURIST report] with greater civil liberties and an independent judiciary. Still, the protesteors Sunday criticized the king's decision to appoint a council to write the new constitution. They also demanded an end to corruption, which they claim has deterred vital foreign investment in the country.

Mohammed said that the new constitution would result in more power being given to elected officials, as well as an independent judiciary. Under the plan, the prime minister would be chosen based on the political party elected to a majority of seats in parliament and more power would be granted to the parliament. Also, local officials would be granted more power through a "regionalization program" where officials would be elected to regional councils through a direct vote. The councils would be responsible for governing the affairs of the region. The announcement of the constitutional reforms came less than a month after thousands of Moroccans demonstrated [AFP report] across the country, demanding limits on the power of the monarch, as well as more sweeping political reform. Similar protests have occurred recently throughout the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder], and have resulted in the resignations of Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [JURIST reports], and an ongoing conflict between protesters and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive].

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