King promises reform as thousands demonstrate in Morocco

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 20, 2011 18:10 hrs

Rabat, Feb 20 (DPA) Morocco's King Mohammed VI would make a speech promising a clutch of reforms, the country's interior ministry announced Sunday, after thousands of demonstrators protested in 20 towns and cities across the country.

No significant clashes were reported, although turnout in the 'Day of Pride' was lower than expected - possibly due to heavy rain in the capital Rabat and elsewhere.

A statement from the interior ministry said the monarch would soon make a speech, outlining intended political reforms.

However, no further details were immediately available.

Following upheavals across North Africa and the Arab world, the protesters were calling for the resignation of the government, dissolution of parliament, and constitutional reforms to limit the powers of King Mohammed.

Reports about the turnout varied.

Witnesses said around 4,000 people protested outside the parliament in the capital. A significant number of these were from the moderate Islamic Justice and Charity movement.

A large police presence monitored the demonstration, but kept largely in the background.

Casablanca saw a demonstration of around 2,000 people whilst in the port city of Tangier around 1,500 protesters staged a demonstration, witnesses said.

The state-run MAP news agency put the figures at 2,000 in Rabat and 1,000 in Casablanca.

Morocco till now has been scarcely affected by the wave of political protests which have swept the Arab region in recent weeks.

The country has a variety of political parties and a freely-elected parliament, although governmental powers are restricted in key areas where the monarch has the final word. The king also appoints the key cabinet ministers.

Morocco's king is not as unpopular as some monarchs in the region, and the demonstrations were largely focussed on the government, parliament and perceived corruption.

Most political parties have come out against the demonstrations.

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