Mohammed VI votes for new constitution as dissidents call for referendum boycott
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Morocco's King Mohammed VI has voted in the constitutional referendum he initiated after months of protests inspired by the Arab Spring. The youth-based 20 February Movement, which organised the demonstrations, has called for a boycott.
Turnout was reported to be low on Friday morning but expected to pick up after prayers.
Morocco's main political parties, trade unions, civic groups and religious leaders have called for a "yes" vote to changes that will devolve some of the king's powers but leave him head of state and chairing the cabinet.
Pro-government media have campaigned hard for citizens to vote.
But the 20 February Movement has called for a boycott, believing that the proposals do not go far enough.
The key reforms proposed are:
- The prime minister will be named by the king from within the majority party in parliament – at the moment the king names any prime minister he wants;
- Court rulings will still be made in the name of the king and he will name judges and keep his right to grant amnesties;
- The king remains the Commander of the Faithful, the top religious authority in the kingdom but a reference to him as "sacred" is dropped;
- The prime minister will preside over the Government Council, which will present policy proposals to cabinet, still presided over by the king;
- The head of the government will be head of government and have the power to dissolve the lower house of parliament;
- The king remains head of state and the military;
- Parliament's role will be expanded to give it more oversight of such matters as civil rights and freedoms, amnesty, electoral districts and nationality issues;
- The indigenous Berber language will become an official state language along with Arabic – a first in north Africa;
- Women will be guaranteed "civic and social" equality with men - previously they were only guaranteed "political" equality.
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