Morocco's Islamist movement leaves reform group

December 19, 2011 - 9:06 AM

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco's powerful Islamist organization said it is suspending its support for the country's pro-democracy movement, dealing a severe blow to the group that once put tens of thousands people on streets.

The Islamist al-Adl wal-Ihsane (Justice and Charity) group said they were suspending their participation in pro-democracy group behind the weekly protests in this North African monarchy since February, because it had been taken over by elements that wanted to weaken its demands for change.

The absence of the Islamists from the protests will further weaken the reform movement, whose power has greatly diminished since an opposition party won the Nov. 25 elections in the kingdom.

The Justice and Charity group has been a stalwart presence at the weekly democracy protests organized by February 20th pro-democracy movement that shook the country earlier this year.

"They want to kill the enthusiasm of the youth and impose a limit on the demands and decrease the pressure for change," the group said in a statement issued late Sunday.

Some members of the religious group, which is banned from politics but tolerated by authorities, have called for Morocco to become a republic, while the February 20 movement would only like to relegate the king to a figurehead role in a parliamentary monarchy. The movement's name comes from the date it hit the streets after a wave of pro-democracy protests that have rocked many Arab countries this year.

Morocco's king moved swiftly moved to meet some of their demands and proposed a series of constitutional reforms that gave more power to the elected government.

The country drafted a new constitution and on Nov. 25 an Islamist party, long in opposition, won the poll.

Pro-democracy activists say all the changes are merely a decor and that most power is still in the hands of the king.

The new head of government, Abdelilah Benkirane of the Justice and Development Party, has offered dialogue with the February 20 movement.

The Justice and Charity, meanwhile, said it still believed in the legitimacy of the democracy movement's demands and called for a change in the "archaic regime."