RABAT — A new constitution curbing the powers of Morocco's King Mohammed VI was approved by 98 percent of voters in a referendum Friday, with 94 percent of polling stations reporting, the interior minister said.
Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said voter turnout had been 72.65 percent in the 94 percent of stations reporting from the referendum, called by the king after he faced pro-democracy protests inspired by uprisings throughout the Arab world.
"The referendum went ahead in a normal atmosphere, and showed the degree of interaction between the people and the content of the constitutional project," he said.
In a clear bid to show the vote was supported by the young, Cherkaoui also noted that 30 percent of voters were under the age of 35.
Faced with protests modelled on the Arab Spring uprisings, the king announced the referendum on a new constitution last month to devolve some of his powers to the prime minister and parliament of the north African country.
Under the draft constitution, the king would remain head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco, but the prime minister, chosen from the largest party elected to parliament, would take over as head of government.
The reforms fall short of the full constitutional monarchy many protesters were demanding and the youth-based February 20 Movement, which organised weeks of protests that brought thousands to the streets to call for more democracy, had urged its supporters to boycott Friday's vote.
Along with changes granting the prime minister more executive authority, the new constitution would reinforce the independence of the judiciary and enlarge parliament's role.
It would also remove a reference to the king as "sacred", though he would remain "Commander of the Faithful" and "inviolable".
The new constitution would also guarantee more rights to women and make Berber an official language along with Arabic -- the first time a north African country has granted official status to the region's indigenous language.
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