Opposition challenges Moroccan poll result

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The Independent Online
RABAT - Moroccans voted by an official 99.96 per cent for a new constitution which increases the powers of parliament and the prime minister. But an opposition leader challenged the interior ministry figures.

According to the ministry, only 4,844 of the 11,466,314 people who voted on Friday said 'no' to the changes. The official turn-out was also high, at 97.25 per cent, despite an opposition call for a boycott. The two main opposition parties, the nationalist Istiqlal and the left-wing Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), called for a boycott of the referendum, saying the constitutional changes did not go far enough.

They wanted parliament to have more powers and for all MPs to be elected by popular suffrage, rather than a system by which one- third are appointed.

Opposition politicians said there were irregularities in compiling electoral registers and complained that they were given no access to the public media.

The USFP's leader, Abderrahmane Youssoufi, cast doubt on the official voting figures and said he feared they would stretch the credulity of international opinion, which would be surprised by the results. Mr Youssoufi regretted there had been a 'return to past practices'.

Under the old constitution, King Hassan was empowered to appoint the entire government. In future, portfolios will be assigned on the prime minister's recommendation. The new constitution modifies parliamentary procedure and, for the first time, enshrines the principle of human rights. A special council will rule on whether legislation is in line with the constitution, and an economic and social council will be set up.

The referendum included the disputed Western Sahara territory, where in some towns, according to the Interior Ministry, the 'yes' vote reached 100 per cent.

The Interior Minister, Driss Basri, said that the results reflected the Moroccan people's 'attachment to the institutions of constitutional democracy', and denied there had been any electoral fraud. 'Dispel your doubts; the result is an act of modern allegiance in favour of a Hassan democracy,' Mr Basri said.