Morocco votes on curbing king’s powers and increasing women’s rights
Moroccans voted today on whether to accept a new draft constitution which will limit the powers of the king and recognise women’s equality with men.
The referendum was instigated by King Mohammed VI of Morocco after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Casablanca, Rabat and other towns in the North African country in February this year.
Inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the protesters were calling for political and social reform.
If the new constitution is accepted, the prime minister will be chosen from within the party voted into power, instead of the king choosing who will fill the role.
This limiting of the powers of the monarch is the most significant change recommended by a commission set up by King Mohammed VI after his March 9 announcement of “comprehensive constitutional reform”.
Further recommendations include a guarantee of “civic and social” equality for women in addition to the “political” equality already guaranteed, an independent judiciary and the recognition of Berber as an official language, alongside Arabic.
Morocco’s pro-democracy movement has rejected the constitution, saying it fails to meet their demands. It has urged its supporters to boycott the referendum, saying that the constitution should be drawn up democratically.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page the 20 February movement called on its supporters to stay away from the polls, according to a report by AFP.
“We are calling for a boycott of this referendum because the constitution it proposes consecrates absolutism and will not make corruption disappear,” it said.
It is expected that the Constitution will be approved, however, the BBC reports.
Morocco has seen weekly demonstrations involving those both for and against the reforms, with clashes between pro-government and pro-reform activists in Casablanca and Rabat.
King Mohamed VI, who has introduced a number of significant reforms since he came to the throne in 1999, has many supporters still.
In 2004 he introduced some of the most far-reaching reforms to the family code, including making polygamy unacceptable, raising the age of marriage for girls from to 18 and giving wives “joint responsibility” with their husbands in family matters.