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Moroccan activists issue ultimatum demanding democratic constitution.

The banned Islamist group Justice and Charity, believed to be Morocco's biggest opposition force, has said "autocracy" will be swept away unless the country pursues deep democratic reform. The group of Sufi inspiration is believed to have 200,000 members, most of whom are university students, and is active mainly in the poor districts of some cities. Banned from politics, its avowed aim is to achieve a peaceful transition to a pluralist political system inspired by Islam. In a statement posted on its website late on Sunday, Justice and Charity said the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia left "no place today for distortions ... and empty, false promises. The gap between the ruler and the ruled has widened and confidence is lost. The solution is either a deep and urgent democratic reform that ends autocracy and responds to the needs and demands of the people, or the people take the initiative and (it) erupt peacefully ... to sweep autocracy away," it said, Reuters reported.

A group on social networking website Facebook has gathered hundreds of followers for a Feb. 20 protest meant to restore "the dignity of the Moroccan people and (press) for democratic and constitutional reform and the dissolution of parliament". Moroccan officials could not be reached for comment. The government says Morocco is irreversibly committed to democracy and that efforts to alleviate poverty and create jobs have made progress under King Mohammed.

State-controlled television in Morocco has reported the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt with restraint, but many cafes have been tuning in to the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, which has covered the uprisings extensively in real time. Moroccan media, including the official MAP news agency, have reported few attempts at self-immolation, apparently inspired by the fruit seller public suicide triggered the Tunisian protests. No one was reported to have died in these attempts.

Justice and Charity said the constitution should be replaced by "a democratic one to mark a break with all aspects of autocracy ... and monopolization of authority and national wealth and preserves the human dignity of the Moroccan citizen". It also demanded an end of what it called the "Benalisation" of politics and the economy in Morocco, a reference to the authoritarian rule and nepotism of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, ousted last month after 23 years in power.
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Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:6MORO
Date:Feb 8, 2011
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