Thousands of people rallied in Casablanca over proposed constitutional changes that would curb the power of Morocco's 400-year-old monarchy, with demonstrators arguing that the reforms don’t go far enough.
King Mohammed VI promised greater political reform in a televised speech to the nation Friday. He announced that he would devolve some of his powers to parliament and the government and put the reforms to a referendum on July 1.
(From GlobalPost in Morocco: The King's Speech)
While Moroccans celebrated in the streets after the king’s speech, pro-reformers say the king is only making “cosmetic” changes to the constitution. King Mohammed would retain his control of Morocco’s armed forces and its religious authority — disappointing to opposition activists who had wanted to see the monarch hand over all his executive powers to elected officials.
About 10,000 protesters marched Sunday through Casablanca's working class Derb Sultan district, Reuters reports. Protests were also held in the Moroccan cities of Rabat and Tangier.
The rallies were organized by the February 20 opposition movement, named after the date when Morocco's “Arab Spring” demonstrations kicked off earlier this year.
According to Reuters, protesters in Casablanca carried placards that read: "No to a constitution made for slaves!" and "No to a constitution of dictatorship!"
About 500 pro-monarchy activists gathered nearby for a counter-demonstration.
Protests in Morocco, which has been facing economic challenges including high unemployment and rising levels of poverty, have been inspired by uprisings in other North African and Middle Eastern countries.
But many Moroccans revere King Mohammed and the demonstrations have failed to gain the momentum that they did in Tunisia and Egypt, the BBC says.