Morocco's King Mohammed Pledges Constitutional Reform

by
Mikki
Morocco's King Mohammed VI has promised "comprehensive constitutional reform" in the north African country.

In this photo released by the Royal Palace, Morocco's King Mohammed VI flanked by his son Moulay El Hassan, left ,and his Brother Prince Moulay Rachid, right , listen to the national anthem after he delivered a speech to the nation, Wednesday, March, 9, 2011 at the king's Palace in Rabat. Morocco's king announced constitutional changes in a rare speech, aimed at consolidating democracy.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI has promised "comprehensive constitutional reform" in the north African country.

In his first speech since last month's protests across the nation, the king said that "individual and collective liberties will be expanded".

Despite the street rallies - in the wake of those in Tunisia and Egypt - the king has refused to give up power.

Protesters want some of the king's powers to be handed over to a newly elected government.
'Our model'

"We have decided to undertake a comprehensive constitutional reform," King Mohammed said in the televised speech to the nation.

He said that a committee had already been set up to work on the revisions, with proposals to be submitted to him by June.

The monarch added that more powers would be given to Morocco's regions, saying it would help consolidate "our model of democracy and development".

It was his first public speech since thousands of people rallied in several cities on 20 February.

Some rioting did take place, especially in the north, where five people died at a bank that was set on fire, but there were otherwise few clashes between protesters and the police, who had been ordered to avoid confrontation.

Since then, young activists have been using social networking websites to call for major rallies on 20 March "for dignity and large-scale political reforms", including a constitutional monarchy.

Morocco has also been facing severe economic problems.

King Mohammed has said the fight against poverty and high unemployment is his priority, but some non-government groups say little has changed.

Morocco - like Egypt and Algeria - does allow limited freedom of expression and has so far been able to contain protests.

Like Jordan it is a monarchy with strong support among sections of the public.

BBC