Morocco to hold ‘early vote’ in mid-November


Morocco is to hold early parliamentary elections in mid-November after constitutional reforms passed in response to protests inspired by the Arab Spring, officials and party sources said Sunday.

Some 20 political parties agreed in principle during overnight talks with Interior Minister Taieb Cherkaoui for the election to be held a year early in November, after voters overwhelmingly approved a package of reforms limiting the powers of King Mohammed VI in a July 1 referendum.

“The parties and the interior ministry have agreed for the election to be held in mid-November,” Prime Minister Abbas al Fassi, secretary general of the nationalist Istiqlal party, told AFP.

He did not provide an exact date but other party officials said the vote would be held on or around November 11.

“The date of November 11 was agreed but the election could be shifted by a few days because of its proximity to the Eid al-Adha religious holiday,” Lahcen Daoudi, the deputy secretary general of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, told AFP.

Officials in two leftwing parties, the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) and the Labour Party, confirmed the date had been set for November 11.

Interior ministry officials could not be reached for confirmation.

Mohammed VI called for speedy elections in a speech late last month. The king offered the reforms last spring following weeks of protests modelled on the demonstrations that ousted long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and have shaken much of the region.

Under the new constitution, the king will remain head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco: but the prime minister, chosen from the largest party elected to parliament, will take over as the head of government.

Other changes would grant more power to parliament, introduce an independent judiciary and provide new guarantees of civil liberties.

Critics have denounced the reforms as window-dressing and called for further limits on the powers of the king and his entourage.

The main group behind the protests, the February 20 Movement, has continued to hold regular demonstrations to call for further reforms.