Moroccan protesters call for boycott of ‘undemocratic’ poll

Thousands of Moroccans protested in cities across the country yesterday, calling for a boycott of a parliamentary election later this week which they say will not be truly democratic.

Friday’s poll will be a test of reforms made by Morocco’s ruler, King Mohammed, to try to defuse pressure for change in the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty in the wake of uprisings this year across the Middle East.

In Tangier, about 10,000 protesters gathered in a square in the working-class Beni Mkada district.

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In Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial hub, at least 6,000 people were said to have turned up for a rally, despite heavy rain. Western diplomats estimated the turnout in the capital, Rabat, at about 3,000.

Demonstrators chanted “We are not voting”, “Long live the people” and “We are not voting because we are not cattle”.

Faced earlier this year with protests inspired by the “Arab Spring” uprising, King Mohammed backed constitutional reforms which handed over some of his powers to elected officials.

He has kept the final say on issues of defence, national security and religion.

The palace wants the election to clear out a government associated in the minds of many Moroccans with corruption and replace it with new faces who will implement the king’s reforms.

The election has pitted a party of moderate Islamists, who swear loyalty to the king, against a coalition of mainly liberal parties with close ties to the palace.