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Moroccans protest polls, violence in the capital

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RABAT, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Thousands of Moroccans demonstrated in cities across the country on Sunday, calling for a boycott of early parliamentary polls next month whose outcome will be key to the future of reforms crafted by the royal palace.
Monday, October 24, 2011 3:05:03 PM
Moroccans protest polls, violence in the capital

The protests are the latest in a series of regular peaceful demonstrations by the youth-led opposition February 20 Movement, inspired by uprisings that ousted leaders in Tunisia and Egypt to demand a parliamentary monarchy and punishment for officials accused of graft.

In the capital Rabat, a Reuters reporter saw dozens of riot police with truncheons beating and kicking protesters who had gathered in front of the parliament building at the end of a march by around 3,000 people.

A local elected official in the country's biggest city, Casablanca, said about 8,000 people took part in a similar protest there. Several thousand took part in protests in other cities including Fes and Tangier.

"These nationwide protests were held around the common theme of calling for a boycott of November 25 parliamentary polls," said Omar Radi, an activist from February 20 Movement's local committee in Rabat.

"It is obvious that the polls will bring to power the same figures who have for years been plundering the wealth of the country and holding hostage the future of the Moroccan population," he added.

King Mohammed has promised in recent speeches that the elections will be fair and transparent. The main opposition Justice and Development Party (PJD) has decried laws recently passed for the polls as doing too little to prevent vote-buying.

Under reforms approved in a July referendum, King Mohammed will hand over some powers to elected officials but will retain a decisive say over strategic decisions. The new government will draft laws enshrining a new constitution.

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