Moroccan king scores landslide win in reform vote

RABAT,  (Reuters) – Morocco’s King Mohammed scored a  landslide victory in a referendum on a reformed constitution he  proposed to placate “Arab Spring” protests as voters defied  critics who said it did little to curb his powers.

Preliminary results of Friday’s poll showed 98.5 percent of  voters approved the text, Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui  declared on state media, citing returns from 94 percent of  polling booths. Final results could take several days.

The charter explicitly grants executive powers to the  government but retains the king at the helm of the cabinet,  army, religious authorities and the judiciary.

With a turnout put at nearly 73 percent, the result will be  seen as a vote of confidence in the leader of the Arab world’s  longest-serving dynasty. It will be closely scrutinised by Gulf  Arab monarchies who have so far dodged domestic reform calls.

“We knew right from the start that the referendum will be in  favour of the reform, but not necessarily for good reasons,”  said Ouidad Melhaf, an activist within the so-called “February  20” street protest movement.

“Widespread poverty, illiteracy and fear of the state played  a key role in the vote’s outcome,” she said, saying that the  movement would relaunch its regular protests tomorrow.

Others cried foul, questioning why only 13 million voters  were registered to vote from a total of nearly 20 million  Moroccans of voting age, and disputing the high turnout.

“The turnout figures were rigged,” said Fathallah Arsalane  of the Justice and Spirituality Islamist group, banned by the  authorities but the largest organised opposition to the king.

“Our activists monitored polling stations throughout the  country and what they have seen is far below the figure of the

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