March 21, 2011 / 6:24 PM / 9 years ago

Several hundred keep up protest pressure in Morocco

RABAT, March 21 (Reuters) - Several hundred teachers marched through Rabat on Monday for better pay a day after one of Morocco’s largest anti-government protests in recent decades against corruption and demanding government change.

Monday’s protest, which briefly and noisily disrupted traffic in central Rabat, proceeded peacefully, as did wider nationwide protests on Sunday in the North African kingdom.

“This is an open sit-in: we will protest every day until we get our rights,” said Aziz Benjloud, who was among a group teachers seeking better pay and benefits. “We are about 5,000 teachers in all Morocco. Today we are about 1,500 people protesting in Rabat and tomorrow other teachers will arrive from other regions.”

The Interior Ministry estimated that 35,000 people from all sectors of life marched on Sunday in the capital Rabat, in the country’s largest city Casablanca, and elsewhere.

Newspapers and local media gave prominent coverage to the weekend protests in Monday editions, with some concluding that public protest is gaining steam as it has in other countries of North Africa and the Middle East.

“The snowball is growing one day after another. The number of protesters is growing. Their maturity is growing,” the independent Akhbar Al-Yawm newspaper wrote in an editorial.

“For the first time we are witnessing a sort of direct dialogue between the king and the people,” the newspaper wrote. In having this dialogue, Moroccans no longer need to go through influential palace figures to make their voices heard, it added.

Sustained protests, fuelled by poverty and a lack of democratic freedoms, have ousted long-serving rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, and triggered a violent crackdown in Libya, which in turn has prompted international military intervention.

“As in other countries of the region, Morocco is asking itself whether its economic or political foundations are not among the worst,” L’Economiste daily business newspaper said in a front-page editorial. “There is a need for the social contract to be renewed.” (Reporting by Souhail Karam and Zakia Abdennebi; writing by Adam Tanner)

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