Protests in northern Morocco swell with calls for royal intervention

Thu Jun 15, 2017 12:45pm GMT

By Samia Errazzouki

AL-HOCEIMA, Morocco (Reuters) - Under the banner of the People's Movement, Moroccans have just staged the country's biggest political protest since the "Arab Spring" and some now say that only intervention by their king can defuse a deepening crisis.

For months, demonstrators have taken to the streets in Rif region around the northern city of Al-Hoceima to vent their frustrations over the economic, social and political problems of a kingdom that presents itself as a beacon of stability in a turbulent region.

Authorities have responded by arresting as many as 100 leaders and members of the movement, called Hirak al Chaabi in Arabic, since the end of May.

Undaunted, tens of thousands marched through Rabat on Sunday, the greatest number to join a demonstration since a wave of rallies in 2011 forced King Mohamed VI to allow some democratic reforms.

In a country where political protests are rare and the royal palace remains the ultimate power, the demonstrators have directed their anger at the government and the king's entourage rather than the monarch himself. Some, however, believe he must act rapidly.

"I have nothing to say to the government. I address my grievances to the highest authority," said Ahmed Zefzafi, whose son Nasser led the Hirak movement until his recent arrest.

"With one phone call, all of this can be resolved," Zefzafi told Reuters at his family home, just days after a police raid broke down their front door.

So far, the palace has remained silent despite activists' calls for a royal intervention.   Continued...

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