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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
King launches charm offensive
Pro-reform Moroccan journalists demonstrate
Desire for change could turn into overt political opposition
By David Bamford in Rabat

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has launched an apparent charm offensive to win over critics to mark the second anniversary this month of his accession to the throne.

In a newspaper interview given to a Saudi newspaper but widely published today in the Moroccan media, the 38-year-old king spoke of his support for democratic pluralism.


Le Monde stated the king has done nothing to change an absolutist system

But there is a wide belief that King Mohammed supports far stronger constitutional change than he is prepared to admit.

King Mohammed's interview, only the second he's given since coming to power, quotes him as saying he is part of a team working with the elected government.

He praised democratisation measures introduced by his late father, Hassan II.

Criticism

The interview is partly a response to a stinging critique published this month in the French newspaper Le Monde, which has incensed the Moroccan establishment.

Le Monde described how - in its view - the earlier portrayals of the young monarch as the people's king and a champion of the poor have proved to be false.

King Mohammed VI
Expectations were high at Mohammed's accession
Le Monde stated he has done nothing to change an absolutist system in which a few unelected royal courtiers make all the decisions.

But this comes hard on the heels of another extraordinary magazine interview by the King's cousin, Prince Moulay Hicham, which many observers believe reflects Mohammed's true opinions.

The prince is quoted as saying the monarchy should force the pace on modernisation if Moroccans are to end a system of rule which, while being enlightened under King Mohammed, is nevertheless despotic.

Mohammed would be likely to face strong opposition from the many old men who still dominate the political establishment.

And yet he may also need to move quickly, before the disenchantment which is indeed felt by many of the poor and unemployed turns into overt political opposition to the monarchy.

See also:

08 May 01 | Africa
Morocco prison abuses 'rampant'
21 Nov 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
A new royal broom for Morocco
03 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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