Moroccan king urges prompt elections
Rabat - Morocco's King Mohammed called on Saturday for prompt parliamentary polls to expedite a new constitution that reduces his powers, after months of protests inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.
At the helm of the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty, King Mohammed acted swiftly to contain any spill over from the Arab Spring, promising constitutional changes on March 9, two weeks after protests spread to Morocco.
A new constitution was endorsed in a referendum on July 1 but has failed to end peaceful protests by the youth-led February 20 movement, which is pushing for a constitutional monarchy in which the king remains purely as a figurehead.
Its implementation hinges on the election of a new parliament and the appointment of a government to draft laws enshrining the new constitution.
The interior ministry has been holding meetings with dozens of political parties this month to push for parliamentary polls to take place in October this year rather than September 2012.
In a television address to mark the 12th anniversary of his reign, the 47-year old monarch said constitutional changes should be implemented to a "rigorous schedule".
"Any delay may jeopardise this dynamic of trust and squander opportunities offered by the new reform in development and providing conditions to ensure decent living standards," King Mohammed said in his first address since the July 1 referendum.
"It's important to start with the election of a new parliament so that we can proceed and based on the poll results... with the appointment of a head of the government."
King still in charge
The next polls, he said, should be "honest and transparent".
Despite winning almost 100% support from voters, the constitutional changes have failed to end peaceful protests by critics who say that, even after the changes, the king will retain most of his powers.
The king chairs cabinet meetings, and controls the judiciary, religious affairs and the army. He can dissolve parliament if it proposes laws that do not please him.
Critics also say that more than half of Moroccans eligible to vote did not take part in the referendum, either out of lack of interest or because they did not register to vote.
Inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, the February 20 movement, a loose and leaderless alliance of Islamist, left-wing and secular independent activists, plans new protests on Sunday, one day after the anniversary of the king's enthronement.
In an apparent reference to the protests, King Mohammed said commitment to the new charter should "outweigh demobilising, demoralising and nihilistic temptations".