Moroccans welcome king’s reform vow, expect results


RABAT – Moroccans largely welcomed on Thursday King Mohammed VI’s promise of sweeping reforms, announced as uprisings rock the Arab world, but said they wanted to see if concrete changes would result.
France and Spain, former colonisers which have become key trade partners, also praised the monarch’s announcement in a rare national speech late Wednesday, calling it courageous and historic.
The king unveiled plans for constitutional reforms including a popularly elected prime minister with real powers, instead of a royal appointee, addressing the nation for the first time since pro-reform protests last month.
The country’s two television channels rebroadcast large extracts of the address throughout the morning Thursday, accompanied by mostly positive commentary.
“It is a very good speech which responded to the demands of many Moroccans, especially the ‘February 20’ youths… it is a positive step,” civil servant Mohammed Oussedri told AFP.
The youths rallied thousands of people to pro-democracy protests in several cities on February 20, with six people killed in unrest that erupted afterwards. They have called, via Facebook, for more protests on March 20.
The king said a commission would work on constitutional revisions, with proposals to be made to him by June. A referendum would then be held, he said, without giving a date.
France hailed the address as “responsible and brave”. “We are convinced that is a major speech for Morocco and for all the region, particularly in the current context,” foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
“The announcements concerning justice, women’s rights, pluralism, Moroccan identity and terms for regionalisation are all significant and exemplary,” he said. Spanish foreign affairs secretary of state Juan Antonio Yanez-Barnuevo called it an historic speech that appeared to have “significant scope”.