Morocco has been beset by protests in the latest turn of events in the demonstrations that have erupted across the Middle East and North Africa.
Thousands in Morocco took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier and Marrakech in peaceful protests demanding a new constitution, a change in government and an end to corruption.
Protesters are calling for a reduction in King Mohammed VI’s powers, better health services and reduced living costs.
Sunday’s protests in Morocco were a test for the King’s regime, which boasts that it is more liberal and tolerant than other countries in the region that have seen violence and revolution
In Morocco’s capital, Rabat, up to 5000 campaigners gathered, some waving the flags of Tunisia and Egypt where popular movements have forced out leaders in recent weeks.
‘This is a peaceful protest to push for constitutional reform, restore dignity and end graft and the plundering of public funds,’ said Mustapha Muchtati of the Baraka (Enough) group, which helped organise the march.
Despite a heavy secret police presence, uniformed police stayed in the background as demonstrators carefully avoided overt criticism of the king or Islamist chanting. “Where has the money gone?”, “The people of Morocco want change” and “We need a new constitution” were among the cries.
They stopped short of calling for the removal of the king who is seen as a reformist leader. As demonstrations continued yesterday in Bahrain, Libya, Iran and Yemen, there were even suggestions the wave of unrest had reached China.
Officials detained known activists, put more police on the streets, interfered with phone services and censored internet postings after an online campaign emerged calling for a Jasmine Revolution.
The movement called for rallies in the capital Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other major cities.
Meanwhile, protesters in Bahrain swept back into Pearl Square over the weekend after troops, blamed for seven deaths, were withdrawn.
Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa has offered to “join hands” and work with his opponents but the protesters refuse to talk until the government resigns.
Protests in Yemen, where eight people have died in violence, continued for the 11th day.
And in Iran the daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was arrested for taking part in a banned opposition rally in Tehran before being released a short time later.