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