RABAT, June 30, 2011 (AFP) -
RABAT, June 30, 2011 (AFP) –
Moroccan authorities Thursday urged voters to back reforms curbing the vast powers of King Mohammed VI, on the eve of a referendum on a new constitution offered in the wake of uprisings in the Arab world.
“Moroccans tomorrow have a date with history,” L’Opinion, the newspaper of Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi’s conservative Istiqlal party, wrote in a front-page editorial.
“Participate and vote tomorrow for the new constitution,” it wrote.
Faced with protests modelled on the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, Mohammed VI announced the referendum this month to devolve some of his wide-ranging powers to the prime minister and parliament of the north African country.
Under the draft constitution to be voted on Friday, the king would remain head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco, but the prime minister, chosen from the largest party elected to parliament, would take over as head of the government.
Throughout a brief campaign, the new constitution has been fiercely backed by the country’s main political parties, unions, civic groups, religious leaders and media.
Leading newspapers on Thursday exhorted voters to head to the polls and vote “yes”.
“On Friday, July 1, citizens will go to the polls to participate in a referendum on adopting a new constitution that was made by the people and for the people, in the framework of the quiet revolution in our country and the democratic spring we are experiencing under the leadership of His Majesty the King,” L’Opinion wrote.
The pro-government Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) party’s newspaper Liberation urged voters to say “Yes to the Constitution. Yes to the Construction of a Parliamentary Monarchy”.
Palace-linked newspaper Le Matin also urged voters to “contribute to fashioning the future of your country by participating” and reported that an opinion poll conducted for the interior ministry indicated that more than 80 percent of Moroccans planned to vote “yes”.
Mohammed VI, who in 1999 took over the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty, offered the reforms after the youth-based February 20 movement organised weeks of pro-reform protests that brought thousands on to the streets.
The reform plan has been hailed abroad, with the European Union saying it “signals a clear commitment to democracy”.
But the reforms fall short of the full constitutional monarchy many protesters were demanding and the February 20 movement has urged its supporters to boycott Friday’s vote.
The movement has continued to hold protests, organised through websites such as Facebook and YouTube, since the reforms were announced.
On its Facebook page, which counts more than 62,000 supporters, the movement was Thursday urging its backers to boycott, with a video showing five youths saying they would stay away from the polls.
“I will not go to the polls because this constitutional project is a serious step backward and a lie,” a young woman said in the video.
Analysts say there is little doubt the new constitution will be approved and the brief referendum campaign has been dominated by the “yes” side, with few signs of an organised “no” vote movement.
Thousands of supporters also took to the streets in major cities including Rabat and Casablanca on Sunday to back the reforms.
Along with changes granting the prime minister more executive authority, the new constitution would reinforce the independence of the judiciary and enlarge parliament’s role.
It would also remove a reference to the king as “sacred”, though he would remain “Commander of the Faithful” and it would say that “the integrity of the person of the king should not be violated”.
The new constitution would also make Berber an official language along with Arabic — the first time a North African country has granted official status to the region’s indigenous language.