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Can fresh Morocco protests build momentum for reform?

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In Friday's speech, he announced the constitutional reforms he had promised in March after the first bout of protests.

The most significant proposed change is the boost in the executive powers of the prime minister and the parliament. For instance, the prime minister would appoint and remove ministers as well as dissolve the lower house of parliament in consultation with the king.

The king, however, is not divorced from executive power. The king would choose the prime minister from the party that wins the elections and he could also dissolve the parliament in consultations with the prime minister and members of the new constitutional court, half of whom he would appoint.

The continued presence of the king in the executive branch ignores the key protester demand of separation of powers. He also remains the military and religious head of the country.

While the king is offering a constitutional monarchy, the demand is for a parliamentary monarchy like the United Kingdom. For the activists, the king’s reforms are piecemeal and if they compromise now then the momentum they have generated for comprehensive change will be lost.

They also suspect that the king is trying to rush a referendum on proposed reforms – he set the vote for July 1 – before mass resistance can be mobilized.

The activists push back

The pro-democracy movement – called February 20 (after the first day of widespread protests in Morocco) – is made up of the web-savvy youth, left-leaning parties, and Islamists.

Peaceful rallies have attracted tens of thousands of people. A few of these demonstrations have been violently dispersed by government forces but not as brutally as protests in much of the Arab world.

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