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Protests set after Moroccan king wins vote landslide
RABAT, Jul 2 (Agencies):
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Published on 2 Jul. 2011 9:38 PM IST
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Morocco’s “Arab Spring” protesters vowed on Saturday to pursue demonstrations after King Mohammed scored an avalanche referendum victory on constitutional changes they say do nothing to ease his tight grip on power.
Preliminary results of Friday’s poll showed 98.5 percent of voters approved the text on turnout official estimated at 73 percent. Opposition said the turnout figure looked inflated and alleged irregularities in voting procedures.
The charter explicitly grants executive powers to the government but retains the king at the helm of the cabinet, army, religious authorities and the judiciary.
The result followed a state media campaign in favor of the ‘yes’ vote that appealed to a widespread sense of loyalty to the head of the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty. It will be studied by Gulf monarchies who have so far dodged reform calls.
“We shall continue to be the only real opposition in this country, the opposition in the street,” Najib Chawki, one of the coordinators of the leaderless “February 20” street movement.
“Tomorrow we will see how people react,” he said of nationwide rallies called by the group for Sunday. Protests staged last Sunday drew tens of thousands to the streets of the capital Rabat, economic hub Casablanca and the port Tangiers.
Ali Bouabid, of the executive committee of the main Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) party, queried voting procedures at his local polling station on his Facebook page.
“I handed in my voter’s card and asked if they should verify my identity. I was told ‘we don’t do this’,” he wrote.
Others questioned why only 13 million voters were registered from a total of nearly 20 million Moroccans of voting age. The street movement has failed to attract the mass support of popular uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, and the vote result could be a further blow to its credibility.
France, which maintains close links with the North African state which was once its protectorate, said the results appeared to show Moroccans had taken a “clear and historic decision.”
“In the restive regional context, where the democratic process has been forced to impose itself by sometimes violent confrontation ... Morocco has managed in four months to take a decisive step forward peacefully and through dialogue,” Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement.
A staunch Western ally, Morocco has stepped up cooperation against terrorism and illegal migration, notably with the European Union which is keen to avoid the spread of Islamic militancy along its southern shores.
The 47-year-old king has had some success in repairing the legacy of human right abuses, high illiteracy and poverty he inherited after his late father’s 38-year rule ended in 1999. Yet critics say there remains a wide disparity between rich and poor, and complain of human rights and rule of law failings.

 
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