Africa

Morocco country profile

  • 24 November 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Morocco

The Kingdom of Morocco is the most westerly of the North African countries known as the Maghreb - the "Arab West". It has Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, a rugged mountain interior and a history of independence not shared by its neighbours.

Its rich culture is a blend of Arab, Berber, European and African influences.

Morocco was a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956, when Sultan Mohammed became king. He was succeeded in 1961 by his son, Hassan II, who ruled for 38 years and played a prominent role in the search for peace in the Middle East. He also ruthlessly suppressed domestic opposition.

FACTS

The Kingdom of Morocco

Capital: Rabat

  • Population 32.6 million

  • Area 710,850 sq km (274,461 sq miles) (including W Sahara)

  • Major languages Arabic and Berber (official), French, Spanish

  • Major religion Islam

  • Life expectancy 70 years (men), 75 years (women)

  • Currency Dirham

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LEADERS

King: Mohammed VI

Image copyright Getty Images

Groomed for "kingship", as his late father King Hassan II referred to his upbringing, Mohammed VI became monarch in 1999.

He initiated political and economic changes and an investigation into human rights abuses during his father's rule.

A key reform was the Mudawana, a law which grants more rights to women. The king has said it is in line with Koranic principles, but religious conservatives have opposed it.

Following pressure for reform inspired by the "Arab Spring" of 2010, a new constitution was introduced, expanding the powers of parliament and the prime minister but leaving the king with broad authority over all branches of government.

Prime minister: Abdelilah Benkirane

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Moderate Islamist leader Abdelilah Benkirane was named by the king as prime minister for a second term after his party won the most seats in the October 2016 parliamentary election.

After five years in government, the Justice and Development Party (PJD) party won 125 seats while the rival Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) took 102, in a tight race for the 395-seat parliament.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

The broadcast media are either dominated by the state or reflect the official line. However, the private press has succeeded in breaking taboos over some sensitive topics, including allegations of high-level corruption.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders notes that "religion, the king and the monarchy in general, the country and territorial integrity cannot be questioned."

The government owns, or has a stake in, RTM and 2M, Morocco's main TV networks. Satellite dishes are widely used, giving access to French and pan-Arab stations.

TIMELINE

7th and 8th Centuries AD - Arab invasion; Idris founds the first major Muslim dynasty.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A market in Marrakech

10-17th Centuries - Dynasties and religious movements come and go, including the Almoravid movement which at its peak controlled Morocco and parts of present-day Algeria and Spain.

1904 - France and Spain carve out zones of influence.

1912 - Morocco becomes a French protectorate under the Treaty of Fez.

1956 - End of French protectorate after unrest and strong nationalist sentiment. Spain keeps its two coastal enclaves. Sultan Mohammed becomes king in 1957.

1961 - Death of King Mohammed; King Hassan II comes to power.

1975-76 - Morocco annexes Western Sahara, but faces an ongoing guerrilla battle for independence from local Saharawi people.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption King Hassan II of Morocco

1998 - Morocco's first opposition-led government comes to power.

1999 - King Hassan II is succeeded by his son, Mohammed VI.

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