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Moroccans Demonstrate Against Gas Price Hike

Anti-government protesters from '20th February', the Moroccan Arab Spring movement, shout in front of parliament. Sep. 22, 2013
Thousands took to the streets in Rabat on Sunday to protest against the recent hike in fuel prices introduced by the Moroccan government.

Prices of petrol in Morocco soared last week as the Islamist government began implementing a fuel price indexation system aimed at reforming oil subsidies and plugging a huge budget deficit.

The opposition parties, led by the Istiqlal Party, which withdrew its ministers from the cabinet, accused Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's government of making life harder for citizens during an already difficult economic period.

“These increases seriously affected the citizens’ pockets in a difficult moment, just after schools resumed and after the summer holidays and the holy month of Ramadan. We consider these increases as a solution that is cowardly and lazy. The government should find better solutions that are effective. It should find clear economic and strategic alternatives that don't affect the citizens and the poor classes,” said Abdelkader El Kihel, MP and Chairman of the Istiqlal Party Youth Wing.

The Socialist and Labour parties also joined the demonstration, in addition to some trade unions that were not happy with the government led by the Islamist Justice and Development Party.

“As a social and democratic party, we stand up alongside our people and our citizens. We utterly refuse these hikes because we deem that they are unpopular and not in the interest of the Moroccans,” said Nawfal Belmir, a Socialist party member.

Both the Istiqlal Party and the Socialist Party are trying to form a coalition against the government, while some trade unions, mainly in the transport sector, are threatening to organize a national strike that will paralyze the country.

Unemployed graduates, who demonstrate daily in Rabat, repeated their request to be employed by the government as civil servants.

“The message we want to send to the prime minister is that employment is a right. He should quit if he fails to find solutions to the requests of the masses in general and of the unemployed graduates, farmers and workers from all the Moroccan classes,” said Ibrahim Bouadi, a protester.

These young unemployed graduates are a regular feature of Rabat city centre, where they organize daily demonstrations and sit-ins.

In addition to the new protests, for the first time after a long absence the protest movement called “20 February” staged a small demonstration opposite the Parliament building to express its usual demands of social justice and human dignity and to protest against the official policies.