RABAT, June 25, 2011 (AFP)
RABAT, June 25, 2011 (AFP)
Moroccan officials are organising local inhabitants to confront pro-democracy demonstrators planning a peaceful protest on Sunday, rights activists said.
“Violence targeting the youth of the February 20 movement backed by local authorities is dangerous and is worrying,” the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) wrote in a letter to the interior ministry.
“Authorities are taking advantage of the inhabitants’ socio-economic hardships to set them up against the young people who demonstrate peacefully,” it added.
Journalist Khalid Jamai working for the news website mamfakinch.com (“We will not give up”) linked to the movement wrote: “Thanks to this strategy, the central power intends to sub-contract its repression.”
Communication Minister Khalid Naciri rejected the activists’ claims, writing to AFP of “spontaneous gatherings of people who support the government’s project for constitutional reform.”
And most political parties have called for “massive” counter-rallies every day across Morocco until June 30 to support the king’s proposals, which are to be put to a referendum on July 1.
Pro-democracy demonstrators have rejected constitutional reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI earlier this month to curb his power.
They involve boosting the authority of the prime minister, who would become the “president of the government”.
But the February 20 Movement says the reforms do not go far enough, and last week around 10,000 people turned out at a peaceful rally in Casablanca.
The movement, named for the day of its first protest, was inspired by the pro-democracy groups that have sprung up across the Arab world.
For the government, Naciri said of the statement protesting against the counter-demonstrators: “It is unfair to describe them in such a negative way.”
“We are so confident about the support we have from the majority of the population that these are just some dissonant voices trying to shake us.”
The 47-year-old monarch, who took over the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty in 1999, currently holds virtually all power in the Muslim country. And as the Commander of the Faithful, he is also its top religious authority.
Under the new draft constitution to be put to the referendum, the king would remain head of state and the military, and would still appoint ambassadors and diplomats.
He would also retain the right to name top officials of unspecified “strategic” administrations.
The French-language weekly Tel Quel responded sceptically to the proposed reforms in its Saturday publication.
“King more than ever,” it wrote. “Mohammed VI gives a bigger leeway to the prime minister… but he cedes nothing on his prerogatives.”
The Islamist Justice and Charity group, a important social group in the country, has also rejected the proposals and said it would participate in Sunday’s rally.