Hundreds of activists have rallied in Morocco’s main cities to protest against corruption, the high cost of living and other causes of discontent.
Rights groups, trade unionists and the February 20 protest movement had called the demonstrations, amid frustration at the perceived failure of the Islamist-led government to make good on its electoral promises.
In Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, nearly 1,000 people gathered, chanting anti-corruption slogans, denouncing the sharp rise in prices, and calling for the release of jailed activists, a witness said. The protest ended without incident at midnight, an activist reported on social media.
Around 300 people gathered near the main boulevard in Rabat, the capital, chanting slogans criticising Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, and waving anti-government banners, AFP correspondents reported.
“Free the activists… Stop the repression of the people!” one banner read.
Members of the pro-reform February 20 movement have been jailed in recent months for participating in unauthorised protests.
A protest of around 100 people in Meknès ended in violence when protesters were beaten by police, according to an activist.
Other demonstrations, of up to 200 people, were also reported in the central city of Marrakesh, Tangier, the port city on Morocco’s north coast, Tetouan and El Jadida, witnesses said.
Surge in cost of living
Activists blame the ruling PJD party for a surge in fuel prices – petrol jumped by 20 per cent in June when the government moved to cut its unaffordable subsidies bill – that has driven up the cost of food and other basic goods.
They also accuse the moderate Islamist party, whose leader Benkirane was appointed prime minister in January, of not fulfilling its campaign pledges to address social grievances and fight corruption.
But the February 20 movement, formed last year as Arab Spring uprisings swept other countries in the region, has lost much of its support since the PJD won most parliamentary seats in November elections and broke with it.
Saturday’s demonstrations failed to attract the numbers witnessed in May, when tens of thousands took to the streets of Casablanca to complain of unemployment and other social woes.
According to a recent report published by the World Bank, around 30 per cent of young Moroccans between 15 and 29 – who account for 44 per cent of the working age population – are unemployed.