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Amid Arab turmoil, Morocco charts quiet path to reform

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Macao/Reuters

(Read caption) People attend a peaceful protest calling for more 'democracy and social justice' in Casablanca on April 3. King Mohammed VI's move to overhaul Morocco's constitution has ensured he remains in control of the reform process, but even deeper change may be needed if he is to satisfy those inspired by revolts sweeping the Arab world.

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As crises in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain grab world headlines, Morocco is quietly undergoing what its prime minister has called “a peaceful revolution.”

Leaders around the region should take note.

After a wave of largely nonviolent protests swept the country in February, Morocco’s monarch, King Mohammed VI, made a rare appearance on state television to announce that he was ready to give up considerable powers, including the right to appoint the country’s prime minister and dissolve its parliament.

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Since then, the king has established a panel to propose changes to the country’s constitution and he’s even invited the leaders of the Feb. 20th Movement – the youth-led group named after the seminal day of protests – to join the process.

“Our goal is a new constitution that serves the people, not the elite,” Montasser Drissi, one of the youth leaders, told The New York Times last month.

Another young protester called for “an end to the hegemony of the palace flunkies,” according to The Irish Times. “We want a democratically elected government with real power,” he added.

Morocco has had a monarchy since long before the country gained independence from France in 1956. Today, the royal family costs Moroccan taxpayers $140 million a year – that’s more than twice the cost of the British monarchy.

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