WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday hailed Morocco's referendum on curbing the near-absolute powers of King Mohammed VI, saying it offered the country's people a peaceful way to express their views.
"We welcome the referendum as an important step in Morocco's ongoing democratic development," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
"In this period of profound change, we think it's important and we congratulate the people of Morocco and their leadership for the peaceful referendum," he said.
The United States has faced a delicate task of maintaining relations with longstanding allies in the Arab world, while also considering the aspirations of protesters who have taken to the streets across the region.
Mohammed VI, who in 1999 took over the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty, offered the reforms after the youth-based February 20 Movement organized weeks of protests that brought thousands to the streets to call for more democracy, better economic prospects and an end to corruption.
The movement urged a boycott of Friday's vote, saying the proposed reforms fell short of the full constitutional monarchy many protesters were demanding.
The interior ministry reported 60.3 percent turnout an hour and a half before the close of polls. Some 13 million of the country's 32 million people are registered to vote. Preliminary results were expected later Friday.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »