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Moroccan monarchy edges towards reform

Moroccan monarchy edges towards reform
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Mohammed VI was crowned king of Morocco on 23 July 1999 after the death of his father, Hassan II.

Hassan ruled his country with an iron fist, jailing and even torturing his opponents. On taking power, Mohammed vowed to move away from his father’s authoritarian brand of leadership.

As well as democratic reform, Mohammed also promised that he would be a king who championed the rights of the poor.

In 2004, a new law was adopted that granted equal rights to women despite hostility from Islamist lawmakers. Men could no longer annul their marriage so easily, polygamy was outlawed and divorce became legal.

That same year, Mohammed ordered the release of political prisoners locked up during the so-called ‘Years of Lead’ of the 1970s and 1980s, the worst periods of repression during his father’s reign.

The move to reform was supposed to shore up support for the monarchy. However, at the last parliamentary elections in 2007, just 37 percent of those registered to vote cast ballots.

It was a sign that Moroccans felt increasingly estranged from the ruling political class.

After similar unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, Moroccans took to the streets in February, calling for a fairer, more democratic society.