Morocco, country, Africa: Modern Morocco
The sultan became (1957) King Muhammad V (Sidi Muhammad) and soon embarked on a foreign policy of “positive neutrality,” which included support for the Muslim rebels in Algeria. After the king's death (Feb., 1961), his son Hassan II ascended the throne. He soon enacted a new constitution that established a bicameral parliament. Border hostilities with Algeria in 1963 cost both sides many lives; final agreement on the border was reached in 1970.
In June, 1965, following a political crisis that threatened to undermine the monarchy, King Hassan declared a state of emergency and took over both executive and legislative powers. The country returned to a modified form of parliamentary democracy in 1970, with a revised constitution that strengthened the king's authority. Opposition groups, later called the National Front, rejected the constitution and boycotted legislative elections. An attempt on Hassan's life by military leaders took place on July 10, 1971. Hassan announced a new constitution in Feb., 1972, which lessened the king's powers. In August another assassination attempt took place, when the airplane carrying King Hassan was strafed on its way back from France. The king continued to rule in isolation and maintained relative order through a policy of suppression.
In 1974, Morocco pressed its claim to sovereignty over Spanish Sahara, and in Nov., 1975, Hassan lead the “Green March” of over 300,000 unarmed Moroccans to the disputed region. In 1976, Spain relinquished control of the area, ceding it to Morocco and Mauritania as Western Sahara. However, the Polisario Front, a group of Western Saharan guerrillas with Algerian and Libyan backing, fought for independence for the territory. Morocco took over Mauritania's portion of Western Sahara in 1979 and continued to battle the Polisario throughout the 1980s. In 1983, when Morocco experienced political and economic troubles, Hassan canceled legislative elections.
Normalization of relations between Morocco and Algeria in 1988 cut off Algerian support for the rebels, and in 1991 the Polisario and Morocco agreed to a cease-fire. A UN-sponsored referendum to decide the territory's permanent status was ordered for the early 1990s. Disputes regarding who would be permitted to vote delayed any referendum into the 21st cent., during which time the region was integrated administratively into Morocco. Constitutional amendments in 1996 established a bicameral legislature, and elections the following year led to the first government (1998) in which opposition parties were dominant.
King Hassan died in 1999 and was succeeded by his son Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed, as Muhammad VI. Initially extremely popular, the new king revealed himself to be a strong advocate of social change and economic improvement, but the monarchy nonetheless remained the unquestioned center of power in the country. In July, 2002, Morocco occupied an uninhabited islet off Ceuta that is claimed by Spain, drawing international attention to the disputed Spanish enclaves along Morocco's Mediterranean coast. After Spanish forces removed the Moroccans, both sides agreed to leave the islet unoccupied. The Moroccan elections of 2002 and 2007 returned the governing coalition to power, though the Socialist Union of People's Forces was supplanted as the dominant party by the conservative, nationalist Independence party in 2007. The visit of the Spanish king to Ceuta and Mellila in 2007 soured Moroccan-Spanish relations.
In Feb., 2011, there were proreform demonstrations in several of Morocco's cities; the following month, the king pledged that there would be constitutional reforms. The reforms approved in a referendum in July included transferring some of the king's governing powers to the prime minister and parliament and making Berber an official language, but the king retained his foreign policy, military, and religious primacy. The unusually high turnout and vote in favor of the changes led those who criticized the reforms as inadequate to question the credibility of the referendum. Subsequently progress toward enacting significant human-rights reforms was limited, and outspoken opponents of the government faced repression in subsequent years.
In the Nov., 2011, parliamentary elections the moderately Islamist Justice and Development party (PJD) won the largest bloc of seats, and PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane became prime minister of the broad coalition government formed in Jan., 2012. In July the Independence party withdrew from the government, objecting to proposed subsidy and pension reforms. A new government was formed in October, with the National Rally of Independents replacing the Independence party; although Benkirane remained prime minister, the new cabinet reduced the influence of the PJD.
The PJD won the largest bloc of seats in the Oct., 2016, parliamentary elections. Benkirane was again named prime minister, but he had difficulty forming a government (he resisted any further weakening of the PJD's influence in the cabinet). In Mar., 2017, he was replaced by Saad Eddine El Othmani, a former foreign minister and PJD member, and a new six-party government was formed; it became a five-party government in Oct., 2019. Morocco agreed in Dec., 2020, to normalize relations with Israel as part of a deal in which the Trump administration recognized Morocco's claim to Western Sahara.
Sections in this article:
- Modern Morocco
- The Struggle for Independence
- Colonial Struggles
- Early History to the Nineteenth Century
- Land and People
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