Morocco Votes To Curb The King

Jul 2, 2011
Originally published on July 2, 2011 1:41 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Moroccans have voted in favor of a series of constitutional reforms that will curb the powers held by their king. Under the new Constitution, a prime minister will by head of government, women's rights are more clearly enshrined and Berber will become a recognized language along with Arabic. But the same activists who prompted the push for a democratic change in Morocco are criticizing the new Constitution. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us from Casablanca. Thanks very much for being with us.

LOURDES GARCIA: You're welcome.

SIMON: The Moroccan government says that there was a significant turnout and the vote was overwhelming in favor of their reforms. That jive with what you've seen?

GARCIA: I was at a polling station yesterday and there was pretty light traffic. That said, all the ballot casters I interviewed are very supportive of the new constitutional changes. They see it as a positive development. They see the king is devolving some of his powers; a prime minister will now be the head of government, that prime minister will be taken in from the largest party elected to the parliament. The government here has pretty much blanketed the airwaves and the mosques, getting out the yes vote, and people seemed to have agreed with that and come out and vote in large numbers.

SIMON: What are some of the problems that pro-democracy activists have with either the constitutional changes or their suspicions about this vote?

GARCIA: The king still ratifies international treaties, he can disband the parliament, he can dismiss the government, he's the head of the army, etcetera.

SIMON: Yeah. Any chance of pro-democracy activists, do they talk about organizing and trying to press for something greater now or is the matter decided for the moment?

GARCIA: The February 20th Movement, which is the main youth group that began the protest for democratic change in Morocco, say they will continue to demonstrate and push for reforms. They're organizing a big protest on Sunday. How much resonance that will have among the wider population here really remains to be seen. The king has a lot of support we've seen. The protest movement has really never gained a lot of traction here in the way it has in other places in the Arab world.

SIMON: Lourdes, thanks so much.

GARCIA: You're welcome.

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