Morocco: Politics, Culture, Society, And Economy – Analysis



Located in northwest Africa, Morocco is bordered by the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea to the north, by Mauritania to the south, by Algeria to the east, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

According to the High Commission for Planning (1) of the Kingdom of Morocco, the Moroccan population is made up of 99.75% Moroccan nationals, which means that only 0.25% are foreign nationals (mainly nationals of France, Senegal, Algeria, Syria, Spain, Ivory Coast, Libya and Italy). A large majority of the population has Amazigh (Berber) and/or Arab origins, but other ethnic groups are also present in Morocco.

60% of the population speaks Moroccan Arabic while 30% to 40% speaks the Tamazight language (Berber). Moreover, it is important to note that French is the second language of Morocco and occupies a very important place in public life. Finally, Spanish is also spoken in the north of the country. English is mainly used by Moroccans who have studied abroad (mainly in the United States), however, linguists believe that it is going to become the first foreign language of Morocco instead of French. Currently, French is used in a commercial context with Arabic for administration.

Islam is the state religion, practiced by almost the entire population. 90% of Moroccans are of the Sunni faith, of the Maliki rite. The day is punctuated by five calls to prayer. During the month of Ramadan, Moroccans fast, stop drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset.

The kingdom of Morocco is perceived as one of the Arab states closest to the West, both in terms of its geography and its politics. Better still, with a multi-secular dynastic continuity and a so-called millennial national history, the Sharifian kingdom has emerged as one of the rare poles of stability in the Arab and African worlds. Morocco provided the Western countries with assistance and support during the Cold War. (2)

Still, in spite of this pleasant façade, Pierre Veremen argues that Morocco faced, in the recent past, multiple challenges: (3)

‘’However, behind its pleasant facade, Morocco then went through dark years. After a troubled end to the protectorate, political independence was quickly negotiated because of the Algerian war. In 1956, the Moroccan kingdom found itself facing itself. However, the short period of the protectorate (forty-four years) had instilled still badly digested ferments of economic and political modernization. Society remained largely tribal, rural, and rebellious to a central authority that the protectorate had been able to enforce only by force. The economic bourgeoisie was eager to recover the positions of the colonists, without planning to share the fruits of this with the population. If the nationalism of the Istiqlâl (the great nationalist party of independence) knew for a moment how to federate energies against the protective power, once the latter was defeated, the centrifugal movements resumed with renewed vigour.’’

Morocco is the Maghreb country best endowed with mineral wealth and hydroelectric possibilities, but despite its assets, it has remained an essentially agricultural country. Moroccan agriculture occupies 51% of the active population, constituting a quarter of the GNP, for a cultivated area representing 17.3% of the total area. Citrus fruits and winter vegetables represent more than half of Morocco’s exports. The olive tree provides 40,000t of oil per year, this production is barely enough to cover local needs. Breeding is quite important but poorly cared for and yields are low.

The policy of major infrastructure projects instigated by King Mohammed VI concerned all modes of transport: roads, highways, ports, airports, and railways. The success of this proactive strategy confirms the strong link observed everywhere between a country’s investments in its infrastructure and the growth of its economy. (4)

The epic of the first high-speed line on the African continent linking Tangier to Casablanca has no precedent in the history of Morocco. It represents an incredible technological and economic challenge for the Kingdom, an industrial, technical, and human feat. Its assets – more fluidity, safety, speed, punctuality, and services – meet the major economic, social, and demographic challenges. High speed indeed confirms the beginning of a new era, that of sustainable mobility, a lever for the economy and employment, a stake in the social cohesion of territories, and a response to major climate challenges.

High speed is rooting Morocco even further in the 21st century. By allowing the entire network to benefit from the technological momentum linked to high speed, this titanic project has revolutionized the Moroccan railway world. The considerable transformations accomplished on the Tangier-Casablanca axis have several objectives. They respond to the economic development of the Tangier region, an industrial hub between Europe and Africa, support the extension of the activities of the port complex of Tangier Med, and also the industrial, cultural, or tourist development of Kenitra, Rabat, and Casablanca. 

This change anticipates the economic and demographic evolution of Morocco, in particular the growing urbanization of the northern and central regions. It will also lead to a profound transformation of national land use planning. Indeed, the spectacular increase in mobility of high speed, designed for the long term, will, with the shortening of journeys, bring territories and populations closer together. From Tangier to Casablanca and as far as Marrakech, a series of giant open-air construction sites have revolutionized rail by facilitating traffic: construction of the first high-speed line between Tangier and Kenitra, tripling of tracks between Kenitra and Casablanca, rehabilitation of the railway tunnel linking Salé to Rabat, reorganization of railway installations at Casablanca, complete doubling of the line from Casablanca to Marrakech, modernization of signaling installations throughout the network, construction of ultra-contemporary railway stations, veritable multi-service centers at the heart of cities.

The high-speed train is part of these major transformations of the Moroccan network. By absorbing passengers from the conventional line, these new trains free up capacity for freight, which is increasingly important with the development of port and logistics platforms from Casablanca to Tangier Med.

The Tangier-Casablanca line is therefore the first step in the ambitious plan to develop high-speed lines. One thousand five hundred kilometers are planned by 2040, including an “Atlantic” line from Tangier to Agadir, and a Maghrebi line, Rabat-Fez-Oujda. This new line has made it possible to design a very high-tech industrial model adapted to Morocco. Its realization was a great opportunity to develop national expertise and know-how, promote the transfer of skills between France and Morocco and initiate the development of a local rail ecosystem. Thanks to high speed, the locomotive of rail modernization, the national network benefits from the latest technological advances.

 In the 2021 New Development Model of Morocco, it is clearly stated that: (5)

‘’ The Nation’s development is rooted in a bedrock of symbolic references and occurs over time. As a country with a rich history and a place of crossroads, Morocco has always chosen a path of plurality, inclusion and transmission. Committed to this secular tradition, the nation is determined to achieve civilizational growth in which all dimensions of development – social, economic, political and cultural – are harnessed to promote an ambitious, forward-looking vision that is fueled by a sense of belonging to a single national community. The Kingdom has made significant progress over the last two decades. These breakthroughs give rise to greater demands and justify new aspirations. In keeping with the spirit of the Constitution, and building on a rich heritage, the national community is yearning for new momentum. It strives to bring together all its components and build a prosperous future based on a strong civic spirit and a sense of solidarity, thus ensuring the well-being of all its citizens. Its forces are all converging today, centered on the same eagerness and the same desire: to release energies by consolidating citizens’ capabilities; to anticipate the world’s changes in order to better seize opportunities and reduce risks; to disseminate innovative local initiatives in a country driven by its youth; to protect individual and collective freedoms within a framework of trust and responsibility.’’

Political environment

Under Article I of the 2011 Constitution, Morocco is a constitutional, democratic, parliamentary, and social monarchy:

  • The King, Head of State, is the Supreme Representative, Symbol of the unity of the Nation, Guarantor of the sustainability and continuity of the State, and Supreme arbiter between its institutions. He appoints the Head of Government within the political party that arrived in heads of elections for members of the House of Representatives;
  • The Parliament, composed of two Chambers, the Chamber of Representatives and the House of Councillors, exercises legislative power in the Kingdom, passes laws, monitors government action, and evaluates public policies; and
  • Executive power is exercised by the government.

In its preamble, the said constitution highlights the plural aspect of the culture of Morocco: it is Arab, Amazigh, Hebraic, Saharan, and Mediterranean: (6)

The blue-hued city of Chefchaouen, Morocco (photo supplied)
The blue-hued city of Chefchaouen, Morocco (photo supplied)

‘’A sovereign Muslim State, attached to its national unity and to its territorial integrity, the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its plentitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity, is forged by the convergence of its ArabIslamist, Berber [amazighe] and Saharan-Hassanic [saharo-hassanie] components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences [affluents]. The preeminence accorded to the Muslim religion in the national reference is consistent with [va de pair] the attachment of the Moroccan people to the values of openness, of moderation, of tolerance and of dialog for mutual understanding between all the cultures and the civilizations of the world.’’

While Article 3 specifies the spiritual and religious nature of the country: ‘’ Islam is the religion of the State, which guarantees to all the free exercise of beliefs [cultes]’’,  (7) Article 5 deals with the official languages of the country: (8)

‘’Arabic is [demeure] the official language of the State. The State works for the protection and for the development of the Arabic language, as well as the promotion of its use. Likewise, Tamazight [Berber/amazighe] constitutes an official language of the State, being common patrimony of all Moroccans without exception.’’

The King of Morocco has two functions: he is both a temporal leader as king and a spiritual leader as Amîr al-Mu’minîn “Commander of the Faithful”. Formalized in 1962, this second title actually overlaps with a tacit function exercised by the king since always. It allows the king to manage the religious policy of Morocco. Like the former caliphs, the king is considered to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad, hence his Sharifian (sacred) descent leading to his powers over the religious sphere. (9)

King Mohammed VI has turned to a normative approach. The idea is to clarify, codify and standardize religious norms in order to obtain a common line for all institutions. This orientation was adopted following the Casablanca bombings in 2003. (10) With this event, the danger of a lack of clarity on religious norms became apparent. This left room for extremist interpretations. Since then, whether it is at the level of the organization of mosques or religious justice, there is the same reference, centered on the rite of Morocco, the Maliki rite. (11) The clarification was furthermore acted upon by the constitutional revision of 2011, which assigns to each religious institution a precise and predefined role.

Since 2003, the country has had an institute for the training of imams, (12) the aim being to avoid slippage and risks of indoctrination. Very quickly Morocco responded to a demand for training imams from abroad, first from Africa and then from Europe. This cooperation takes the form of agreements between States. Agreements were also signed on this theme by former President François Hollande in Tangier in 2015.

What is the Commandership of the Faithful Imârat al-Mu’minîn?

The Commandership of the Faithful in Morocco is an active institution and an essential component of Moroccan national identity. It is not an honorary institution inherited from the history of the country, but rather an active institution that interacts with the causes of the homeland and the spiritual questions of the people in particular. This institution has constituted throughout the history of the Kingdom of Morocco, and in particular during the current era, an essential component of national culture and a societal and democratic system of governance that preserves national identity. (13)

It is an institution that Moroccans have accepted for about 13 centuries, the Commandership of the Faithful is a guarantee of the religious, political, and social constants of the Moroccan nation. It aims to be a pillar that strengthens the links between the King and the people, this institution represents a unique model based on the bonds of allegiance bay’a. (14)

Over the past two decades, this institution has remained attached to religious roots while establishing itself as a system for managing religious, spiritual, and social affairs with wisdom and foresight. It remains the guarantor of the security of the country in its spiritual, moral, and political aspects.

Ahmed Toufiq Historian and Minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs of Morocco introduces the Commandership of the Faithful in the following terms: (15)

‘’The Commander of the Faithful Institution in Morocco spans over more than ten centuries as a system based on a pledge of allegiance (bay’a) in the form of a written contract between the Ummah, through representatives of its social constituents, and the Commander of the Faithful. By virtue of this contract, the Commander of the Faithful is vested with the legitimacy to rule in exchange for the commitment to serve and strive (i) to preserve the ʾUmma’s religion within the fundamental constants it has chosen in terms of creed (‘aqīda), school of jurisprudence, fiqh (madhab), and spiritual behavior; and (ii) to preserve the lives of its people, their property and dignity, and maintain the general order. Through diligence in this commitment, the Commander of the Faithful ensures loyalty of religious forces, i.e., the ‘ulamā, sheikhs of religious orders (zawāyā) as well as the loyalty of the people who follow them. This system was based on the rules of interaction dealings of the Commander of the Faithful with the ʾUmma, the state and society, and his keenness to preserve the spiritual ties with the Mashriq, the cradle of Islam, in parallel with the no less important intent to uphold the independence of Morocco in all matters.’’

The Commandership of the Faithful in Morocco is an institution that adapts to changes and enjoys realistic political efficiency as well as full awareness of the supreme interests of the country.

This institution is also concerned with issues of religion in terms of protection, training, teaching, and education, as well as ensuring development conditions for society, the implementation of the provisions of the Constitution, and the consecration of political pluralism and cultural tributaries in all its forms.

The Commandership of the Faithful, as history and reality guarantees peace, security, and stability and assures Morocco and Moroccans immunity against all kinds of extremism and ignorance while enshrining an Islam tolerant and moderate in the wasatiyya philosophy. (16)

Imârat al-Mu’minîn is a system based on a social contract where legitimacy comes in return for a commitment by interests.

The ‘ulema of the ummah are the protectors of the constants of the religion, which are considered as an integrated religious system chosen freely by the ancestors in respect of the difference that the ‘ulema have promoted and maintained.

These ‘ulema have the right to come forward to protect the constants through the correct jurisprudential understanding of the texts and their assimilation in such a way as to persuade the younger generations.

The institution of Imârat al-Mu’minîn, based on allegiance, as evoked in the Koran and the Sunna and by the Acha’arite dogma, (17) is at the head of the religious constants of Moroccans. The rules of these constants refer to the choice by Moroccans to conform to the Malikite rite, while the behaviors associated with them are illustrated in Sufism. (18)

The Philosophy behind the Commandership of the Faithful

Allegiance to the sovereign has a canonical-religious significance (shar‘î) inscribed in the history of Morocco. It is one of the most striking characteristics of national identity. Hence, placed under the auspices of this institution, the discourse of official preachers has the assurance of attaining its goal. Indeed, the Commandership of the Faithful (Imârat al-Mu’minîn), was established on the basis of an allegiance that associated divine right with the rights of kinship, in perfect conformity with the Koran:

Men! Fear your Lord who created you from a single being, and from this being drew his spouse, and from their union proliferated so many human beings, men and women! Fear God in Whose name you implore mutual assistance! Respect each other’s blood ties properly and fear to sever the sacred blood ties. The Lord has his eye constantly on you (IV (al-Nisa’), 1).

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالًا كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاءً وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا

The day when Mawlây Idrîs I married Kanza, an Amazigh woman, when the construction of Moroccan society was not yet complete, the religious allegiance conferred on him meant that divine right was united with the right of blood and that the “national family” birth certificate was irreversibly issued. We touch here on one of the finest religious specificities of Moroccan society. Since that date and up to the current Alaouite dynasty (1631-Present), Morocco has continued its historical evolution, with the greatest respect for the fundamentally (marji’iyya) religious reference of the country’s political power: the aforementioned unitary conception – an act of faith and dynastic principle – which translates the formula of “Commandership of the Faithful”. As time went on, it continued to gain in strength and depth, and its effects were all the more widespread and more manifest.

As such, Ahmed Toufiq argues that: 

‘’The Commandership of the Faithful invests its historical credentials with absolute confidence in dealing with the manifestations of the present time, that is adapting to the new developments, while remaining thoroughly loyal to its original authentic nature.’’

 At a time when, in the world, many political institutions have experienced, before or after the collapse of the communist bloc, an unprecedented upheaval, with the consequences that we know, and which are still felt today, including, in a good number of Arab-Muslim countries, Morocco has remained perfectly stable. This is because the country knew how to preserve its spiritual peace (amn rûhî), thanks to the nature of its political regime, inserted in a tolerant religious framework that is based on the pact of allegiance of the nation. The latter is certainly, in reality, only a bond of the heart towards a person, therefore located on an affective level (wijdânî), since the religious feeling, as already explained, comes under piety. But it thus ensures communication between the believer and his Lord, and this is the surest and most essential guarantee for the stability of Morocco. The faithful thus exercises his worship in respect of the right that God reserves to himself at the political level, namely to demand the observance of the pact of allegiance and its defense by all means. It is this principle of reference (marji‘iyya) that developed, in the Moroccan people, an instinct of unshakable resistance, which they revealed victoriously at the time of colonization. (19)

The Commandership of the Faithful, through the guarantee it offers him to exercise his religious rights, allows the citizen to know spiritual peace (amn) and to express the impulses of his faith. Moroccan mosques, jewels of traditional and authentic architecture, launch their call to prayer five times a day and announce to all the faithful without exception that they enjoy unshakeable peace. Thus, because the minarets proclaim that their faith is placed under the protection of the Commander of the Faithful, tranquillity and serenity (as-sakîna) inhabit their hearts. (20)

Therefore, it is important that the imam and the preacher, in the exercise of their indissolubly religious and national mission, constantly keep this profound truth in mind. Moreover, it should constitute the essential basis of their speech, not to mention the other characteristic elements.

Fidelity to the pact of allegiance, because it is a right of God, must be constantly present in the conscience of the imam and their sermon, called by their function to replace the supreme imamate. Consequently, they must strive to unite the hearts around them and recall the duty of submission to the Supreme Imam, as expressly stipulated in the Qur’anic verses and the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad. (21)

It follows that the directives issued by the Commander of the Faithful concerning religious and national affairs must be a constant reference for these two functions, in order to ensure permanent communication between the Supreme Imam and his community. On the practical level, this is established with the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs, the Superior Council of ‘Ulemas and the local councils of ‘Ulemas at the national level. It is likely to adjust the religious discourse which aims at the reform, the catechism, and the religious direction of the citizen, as well as to preserve the latter from any misstep, any failure, any challenge to dogma or immutable values (at- thawâbit) of the nation. (22)

For Hassan Rachik, the sacredness of the monarchy is based on different registers some old and some modern: (23)

‘’The sanctity of the monarchy has traditionally been based on different registers: cherifability, baraka, bay’a, caliphate, imamate or commandery of believers. Since the beginning of the last century, the legitimization system has become more complex, especially following the introduction and adoption of modern notions by the intellectuals of the National Movement (the king as a symbol of the nation, the constitutional monarchy).’’

The monarchy and God’s grace (Baraka)

In Islam, the concept of Baraka is explained in the following terms by Serdar Demirel and Hikmatullah Babu Sahib: (24)

‘’One of the concepts Islam considers important for human prosperity is the concept of barakah (Divine blessing) – an alient concept to modernity. This may be the reason that this concept and its derivatives have been mentioned repeatedly in the Noble Qur’ān. It can be said that, barakah is the increase in quality and quantity of God’s blessing via unseen ways to human. It is, in fact, an invisible blessing that manifests itself as an increase that cannot be calculated in material terms encompassing the whole human affairs. The word barakah also means to make the felicity constant and permanent, which also means abundance and the continuity of that. But, with modernity barakah has become an alienated concept in the life of modern man. Thus humanity suffers the results together. This is because modernity denotes a transition period in which the human mind is cleared off the sacred and being appraised in a reductionist fashion, mincing a worldview which encompasses both physical and metaphysical perspectives into a merely corporeal and physical one. Modernity secularized the human perception by means of the worldviews it generated. In this respect it legitimized fostering a relationship with things in a manner independent from the sacred. Once the perception became profane, then it is impossible for the values to orientate the human behaviour. Thus barakah is one of the concepts that need to be “cured”. This research explores and discusses the reasons behind the lack of divine blessing in human life in modern times and the profane worldview behind it by highlighting its importance and application in the light of both, the Qur’ān and Sunnah.’’

Kasbat Ait Ben Haddou in southern Morocco. Photo Credit: Maureen, Wikipedia Commons
Kasbat Ait Ben Haddou in southern Morocco. Photo Credit: Maureen, Wikipedia Commons

The monarchy in Morocco is 13 centuries old, it was instituted with the first religious dynasty of the Idrisids (788-974), and with time it has gained in sacredness, respect, and power. It is basically a written contract between the people and the ruled validated by the allegiance (bay’a) of the congregation of the ‘ulema (religious scholars and savants). The monarch is expected to protect Dâr al-Islâm (House of Islam) from foreign encroachments and aggression, maintain Islamic morality within the kingdom and defend the principles of the Islamic religion. Failing any of these conditions, the monarch is made to abdicate by the ‘ulema and immediately replaced by another. 

It must be pointed out, with much strength, that the ‘ulema, who in the eyes of the population were credited with the status of saints, generally did rarely compete with sultans for leadership. Even the heads of the strongest Sufi tarîqas shied from politics and political positions. In this regard, Vincent Cornell argues, quite rightly: (25)

‘’Contrary to the assumptions of Alfred Bel and his followers, the leaders of the Jazuliyya did not see themselves as rivals for the throne but as religious guides and moral guardians, and they tended to support any claimant for power who agree with their agenda.’’

Even Imam al-Jazuli (1404-1465), the Berber founder at-tarîqa al-Jazuliyyah and one of the famous patron saints of the city of Marrakesh never vied for sultanic power but, on the other hand, always offered graciously religious guidance to the reigning sultan. (26) 

The despotic nature of the sultan in the past was never questioned because people believed that it shows the strength of the monarchy and calls for respect and fear hîba from the enemies within and without. Indeed, the religious savants argue that a despotic monarch is far better than an era of lawlessness: sultanun ghâshim khairun min fitanatin tadûm.

In Morocco, the monarchy enjoys the respect of the population because of the belief in the following trinity:

  • Sharifian status: Graceful descent from the prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima;
  • Baraka: because of their Sharifian descent God has endowed the monarchs with grace, and special powers; and
  • Historical legitimacy: The monarchy has existed on end for 13 centuries in spite of internal strife, wars with the enemies of Islam, colonialism, and military coups.

It is believed by the population, at large, that Hassan II (1962-1999) escaped many assassinations, plots, and two military coups because of his immense Baraka. The “Skhirat coup d’état” was the first military coup attempt against the regime of Hassan II, then King of Morocco, (27) the second being the “coup d’état of the airmen’’. The first aborted coup took place on July 10, 1971, in the royal palace located in the small town of Skhirat, as Hassan II was celebrating his 42nd birthday in his summer residence, which hosted a thousand guests from all over the world for the occasion, spread out among the various pavilions and royal tents. (28)

The “airmen’s coup” is the second attempted military coup against the regime of Hassan II which took place on August 16, 1972, one year after that of Skhirat. This aborted putsch was led by airmen of the Royal Air Force under the command of General Mohamed Oufkir and Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed Amekrane. Such a “coup” is the first of its kind in military history due to its “air-to-air” particularity (with Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighters trying to shoot down the royal plane on its return from France). (29)

To explain how a despotic sultan is feared and appreciated by the populace at large, Maaroufi argues: (30)

‘’The bay‘a to the sultan echoes the “allegiance of benediction (bay‘a ridwan) granted by God to the Prophet when he was sent by the former as a messenger, thus the ritual of allegiance forges a link between the accession of the sultan to the throne and the archetypal events of bay‘a ridwan” (Bourqia, 1999). Generally, in Moroccan popular imagination, Sultans like saints are believed to be endowed with the hereditary powers of their holy lineage. The authority of sultanic rulers is culturally aureoled with supernatural attributes. Deep-rooted in cultural imagination is the belief that sultans have inherited a spiritual force (baraka), and are endowed with saintly attributes thanks to their descent from sharifian lineages.

The Sultanic ruling institution is also considered in the popular mind as a distributing centre of charity and protection to its loyal subjects. The benevolent work of the sultan in the form of alms-giving (sadaqat) and gifts (hibat) mandate donees’ utter obedience and surrender to his Will. Historically, the tribes and saint lineages who benefited from the Sultan’s donations supported his policy and battled on his side in times of stress.’’

Political parties in Morocco

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament. The political sphere is characterized by an abundant multiparty system and a constant internal struggle for power. A profoundly Muslim country that prides itself on its wasatiyya (moderate) practice of Islam, and its openness to the West, Morocco is known as a particularity born of the existing duality in society between secularity and religion, which finds its echo within the very heart of the political class. Moreover, the Moroccan colonial heritage has had a certain impact on the political system, thus the reasoning in terms of left and right is perfectly accepted by the parties and is a major issue during elections. As such, the two most important political issues in Morocco are therefore the Left/Right and Religious/Secular dichotomies. (31)

To understand the spatial distribution of Moroccan political parties, it would be necessary to define the nature of the political system itself. In the constitution, Morocco is described as being ‘’ a constitutional, democratic, parliamentary and social Monarchy ‘’, with a bicameral parliament, where the multi-party system ensures democratic competition between parties before the voters. (32) 

However, this definition does not fully reflect the reality of political functioning. The Moroccan constitutional monarchy does not resemble its Spanish neighbor for example, it is an executive monarchy. Indeed, although the Constitution grants sovereignty to the nation: (33) 

‘’Sovereignty belongs to the Nation which exercises it directly, by way [voie] of referendum, and indirectly, by the intermediary of its representatives. The Nation chooses its representatives from among the institutions elected by way of free, honest [sinceres] and regular suffrage.’’

The king reigns and rules, according to the same constitution, holds real power: he appoints the Prime Minister and the other ministers, on the proposal of the Prime minister, and holds the power to dissolve parliament. The constitution gives the king a wide margin and thus he can wield real power and be the pivot of the political system. 

Some political scientists such as John Waterbury, (34) have called this political structure a ‘’heritage system’’. This name does not fully reflect the current changing political system and the role played by the current monarch during the last decade. In other words, since the accession of Mohammed VI to the throne in 1999, much progress was made with respect to human and women’s rights, citizenship, cultural and ethnic rights, public freedoms, and transparency. (35)

That said, one would rather be of the opinion that Morocco is one of those countries which resists fitting easily into any classification or modelling due to the complexity of a changing political process. Such countries could be grouped together in a category that could be considered as in the process of democratization or ‘’incremental democracy’’.

After the independence of Morocco on November 18, 1955, three governments emerged and were successively chaired by MBarek BekkaÏ and by some of the political leaders from the Istiqlal party. The central power promulgated, then, a new Dahîr concerning public freedoms which came to prohibit the single Party.

Several protest movements began to emerge concerning the constitutional foundations or the way of managing the country, which led to the birth of a political party called the National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP) in October 1959 with major political figures and signatories of the independence treaty such as Mehdi Ben Barka, Abderrahman Youssoufi, Abellah Ibrahim, Abederrahim Bouabid and many others.

From 1956 to 1999, no less than twelve parties will emerge, notably in 1958 with the Popular Movement (MP), a right-wing political party of Berberist ideology by Mahjoubi Aherdane. (36) 

During this period Morocco experienced a fierce battle between the central power and the UNFP which ended in the victory in 1959 of Abdallah Ibrahim who was secretary general of the UNFP party and which led to the formation of the fourth government which would last only seven months since Morocco will transition to a royal government.

In the 2000s, four new parties emerged, including the Democratic Union (UD), the Citizen Forces Party (PFC), the Ittihadi National Congress (CNI), and the Reform and Development Party (PRD). At the same time, the rise of radical Islamism internationally gave birth to the Islamist movement by Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, al-‘Adl Wa al-ihsân, which was not recognized by the government of the time and still today but tolerated, somehow. 

Six other parties were created in 2002, namely the Alliance of Liberties party (ADL), Citizens’ Initiatives for Development (ICD), the Renewal and Equity Party (PRE), the al-‘Ahd Party, the Environment and Development Party (PED), the Moroccan Liberal Party (PML). (37)

In 2002, again, a merger between the Organization of Democratic and Popular Action (OADP), the Movement of Democrats (MDI), and the Movement for Democracy (MPD) gave birth to the Unified Socialist Left Party (PGSU).

Rabat, Morocco
Rabat, Morocco

In 2007, the Federation of the Democratic Left (FGD) was created, which is an alliance of several Moroccan political parties, including the Unified Socialist Party, the Party of the Democratic and Socialist Vanguard, and the Ittihadi National Congress. 

In the year 2005 the Popular Movement was reunited under a single political party, that of the Popular Alliance. In 2008 Fouad Ali El Himma founded the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM).

From one election campaign to another, one frequently hears citizens disillusioned castigate political parties in Morocco: “all the same”, “all corrupt”, “there are no real parties in Morocco”, “they only represent their own interests”. 

Since 1997, electoral abstention and invalid votes have not ceased to increase, and people of voting age are less and less interested in registering on the voters’ lists. On another level, the electoral offer is both bloated and difficult to read. In fifteen years, the number of political parties represented in the House of Representatives has more than doubled. With each election, the ballot paper is enriched with new logos, materializing splits, mergers, or new more or less collective vocations and, behind the sustainability of certain brands, are hiding deep changes. As to pre-electoral coalitions, they do not resist the process of the formation of heterogeneous governments, which never fail to bring together the worst adversaries of the day before. (38)

Like the Commander of the Faithful, the success of Le fellah Morocain défenseur du trône will stand the test of time. (39) While Waterbury observes Moroccan political life from a state of exception(1965-1971), Rémy Leveau closely examines the fabric of the modern political institutionsof independent Morocco (1959-1965). In addition, the personal, academic, and professional background of the French political scientist rather disposes him to apprehend the constitution of the Moroccan electoral arena through the prism of conflicts, andsocial tensions between the center and its peripheries.

The current Moroccan political regime is located in a “grey zone”. (40) On the one hand, it is characterized by basic “democratic” institutional elements: a more or less “political space” less open to opposition parties and civil society, regular elections, and relatively competitive. (41) On the other hand, it is imbued with “syndromes” of “dominant political power”. (42) The monarchy exercises a tutelary power and disposes of reserved domains, without being subject to accountability. Governments resort with more or less “subtlety” to repression, law-breaking, and the “menu of manipulation” (43) as well as co-optation. (44) Justice is not independent. Part of the opposition is excluded, and their access to official media is nil or restricted. The elections are framed by an engineering that hinders the formation of a real majority. The legitimacy of the elections, the level of voter turnout, trust in the public institutions, and state performance remain weak.

The rise of the Islamists has succeeded in creating a new polarization of the Moroccan political system. As a result, a second axis was imposed on this spatial analysis. The rise of Islamism (45) appears to be the most important factor in the political system of Morocco. Islamism appears today as a political movement that refers to religion in its vision of the political project and claims a return to an idealized Islam of the time of the prophet Muhammad. (46) And because Islam is the religion of the majority of Moroccans and it permeates the culture, Islamism finds an audience with the population. This allows the political party claiming to be Islamist to position itself on the political scene. (47)

On the rise of political Islam in the Moroccan political arena Samir Amghar writes: (48)

‘’Nearly twenty years ago, to talk about political Islam in the Maghreb was to talk exclusively about its Algerian and Tunisian variants. At the time, it seemed unlikely that Islamism could emerge in Morocco and Moroccan observers and political figures alike were firmly convinced that the King’s political function (‘amir al mouminoun) protected the country from this ideology. That all changed at the beginning of the 1990s, when Islamism burst upon the Moroccan political scene. Despite concerns among European Union (EU) and Moroccan political figures, the development of Islamism has upset neither the country’s political balance nor the monarchy’s relations with Europe. This article seeks to understand how the internal ideological evolution of Moroccan Islam and the international context have made collaboration with Europe possible. It points out that Moroccan Islamists have shown a desire to increase cooperation with Europe, which they argue has not been reciprocated by the EU.’’

The conflation of Islam and politics has always been a well-established fact. However, with the modernization of the state and the exposure of Muslim nations to Western political models, as well as the emergence of democracy as a value and as the best system to govern, the application of an early Islam of the founding phase with the prophet Muhammad does not correspond to the change that the political, economic and social reality has known. (49)

Within Muslim societies in general, and within Moroccan society, there is a debate on the relationship between religion and politics and on the renewal of the interpretation of the sacred texts. Thus the debate is not reduced to an opposition between those who want to preserve the link between the state and religion and those who would not claim secularism, but also between the political groups who defend being religious but differ in their positions on the place of religion in the state and in the public, economic, and social affairs. (50)

It should be noted that political Islamism became the religious ideology of political parties calling for religion to be the foundation and guide of action in politics by a sort of moralization of social and economic life. This is how in the political arena of societies like Morocco, political Islam is added to the axis of left/right political current. (51)

Jean-Claude Santtuci defines the Moroccan political party system in the following terms: (52)

‘’Anchored in the political history of the national Movement, and largely associated with the anti-colonial fight alongside the Sultan, the Moroccan parties were typically granted, if not full power, at least the lion’s share in the exercise of power in an independent Morocco. Actually, and in spite of their constitutionally recognized function as organizations and citizens’ representatives, parties formed out of the national movement were undermined and marginalized by the monarchy which promoted a multi-party system to help maintain and consolidate its own leadership. The succession of elections that mark the political history of Morocco, provided a context in which parties could express and renew themselves under the close watch of the Monarchy and without any real competitive dimension as to the appropriation of power. Despite liberalization of the regime that began a decade ago with a vision of a revived party system, the Moroccan multi-party system is better defined as an “authoritarian pluralism”, with the constraints and dilemmas imposed by the political regulation of an authoritarian regime: the parties must accept to continue the game of integration or co-optation and risk weakening their social bases all the while increasing their popular discredit; the monarchy must secure the help of the parties through electoral legitimacy in order to guarantee, if not its hegemony at least its stability and survival.’’

Civil society

Moroccan civil society has experienced significant development over the past twenty years, (53) both from the point of view of the legal framework – which is being made more flexible – and strictly from a numerical point of view, with the registration of more than 38,000 associations. (54)

Through an unprecedented participatory approach, the “Civil Society Index” research program created by the international NGO CIVICUS (55) and piloted in Morocco by Espace Associatif, (56) has endeavored to highlight the main indicators of the state of health of Moroccan civil society. The survey work carried out in 2010 on a sample of 1,297 people from the national population and 211 civil society organizations distributed throughout the territory, gave rise to the publication of a national report highlighting the singularity of the Moroccan situation. (57)

From the outset, the report raises two elements representative of the Moroccan context and which shed a harsh light on the overall social environment (level of overall education and living conditions) in which civil society operates: the excessively high level of illiteracy and large wealth gaps. The population surveyed is 41.5% illiterate, and only 6% have a university degree. As for the differences in wealth, 40% of the surveyed population lives with less than 3000 DH per month, and 13% lives with more than 5000 DH.

A paradox if any, but nevertheless revealing of the difficulty of defining civil society and its role, the activity of advocacy is generally not perceived as a fundamental aspect of associative work, whereas in addition great importance is granted to the defense of rights in the concerns of the population. It would therefore seem that anything directly or indirectly related to politics is immediately discredited by public opinion. Social activism is both promoted and discredited or ignored when it attempts to cross the line between charity and political advocacy. It is therefore as if the expectations of Moroccan citizens with regard to civil society were limited to an apolitical and non-partisan association sector, capable, however, of building social ties, contributing to development, and conducting genuine change. (58)

In addition, if active volunteering remains a functional pillar of civil society, it in turn reveals an organizational weakness: the lack of salaried professionals. In Morocco, the observation is based on an obvious lack of financial means (50% of associations receive no aid from the State), which leads to a shortage of qualified personnel, which has repercussions on management problems (significant budgetary imbalance in the sector associations) and governance. (59)

Rabat-Salé-Kénitra, Morocco
Rabat-Salé-Kénitra, Morocco

Another problem raised by the surveys: the involvement of the Moroccan state which, through a few discreet but nevertheless effective side effects, manages to control the dynamics specific to civil society and to remove part of its autonomy. This is the case with the legal framework which, although in the process of being made more flexible for twenty years, hardly prevents political and administrative arbitrariness from being applied in practice, when it is not simply a question of opacity, particularly in terms of utility schemes and public generosity. Corruption, favoritism, and clientelism are part of the game of power, including in civil society (sometimes wrongly crowned with a halo of purity). Evils which, without dismissing the binding force of legal texts, know very well how to negotiate with the failures and blind spots of the system. (60)

In the end, is civil society destined to really exist only in the register of advocacy to support political change or can it organize the common good in an autonomous and “apolitical” way without the risk of instrumentalization from the real holders of sovereign powers? 

Without fully answering this question, the report insists on one fact: civil society is not dedicated to answering questions of public service at the national level, nor equipped to take charge of service provision of this ilk. The best option identified remains the promotion of advocacy activities for the defense of rights, in order to be the voice of citizens, and especially of citizens’ demands.

The Moroccan Network for the Defense of Public Assets (Le Réseau Marocain de Défense des Biens Publics –RMDBP), created on March 24, 2002, is an NGO made up of several associations, political organizations, and trade unions. The RMDBP was born in a particular historical context, characterized at the national level. Through openness and a desire to reform political institutions, with a view to avoiding the serious human rights violations that have marked Morocco deeply during the four decades after independence, known as the Years of Lead. (61) These far-reaching reforms have proven necessary to combat the structural causes that generate injustice and social inequalities, and are therefore at the root of poverty and political oppression. (62)

Faced with this reality, the activists who worked for the constitution of the RMDBP, aware of the challenges to be led for change in order to contribute to the development of a rule of law, based on the principles of democracy, transparency, and accountability, have set themselves the following main missions:

  • The systematic denunciation of acts of squandering and embezzlement of public funds and property;
  • The fight against impunity for economic and financial crimes; and
  • Establishing the truth about these crimes and demanding the restitution of squandered and/or misappropriated public funds and property.

For this, the RMDBP, with actors and partners who share the same values and principles of democracy and transparency, has set itself the strategic objective of contributing to the building and development of the rule of law in Morocco, respectful of Universal Human Rights and enshrining accountability as a fundamental principle in the mode of public governance.

Driss Khrouz, a university professor and civil society activist, views the Moroccan civil society environment as dynamic: (63)

‘’Since the 1990s, Moroccan civil society groups have been proliferating, and they are increasingly influential in addressing society-wide matters including the rights of women, ethnic minorities, and the poor. Moroccan civil society and its NGOs know that they must promote change. To do this, they are mounting advocacy and lobbying efforts to reform laws and policies that need improvement.’’


The Moroccan economy is characterized by a great openness to the outside world. Since the early 1980s, Morocco adopted a policy of economic openness and finance aimed at the liberalization of foreign trade, greater integration in the world economy, and a contribution to the consolidation of a system of multilateral trade.

In this regard, significant progress has been made in the modernization of economic and financial structures and the upgrading of legal frameworks and institutions. The objective is to permanently accelerate economic growth and improve the living conditions of its citizens.

In this context, Morocco is committed to simplifying trade procedures in the external market, the reduction of tariff protection, eliminating non-tariff measures, improving the business and investment environment, expanding and diversification of economic and commercial relations, and finally contributions regularly to consolidating the multilateral trading system. This opening is also illustrated by the signing of various free trade agreements with its main economic partners, in particular the European Union, the United States, and Arab and African countries. (64)

In addition, a set of legal texts have been enacted or amended to support these reforms. This is, for example, the Charter of Investments, the Commercial Code, the law establishing the courts of commerce, the Customs Code, the law on freedom of prices and competition, the regulation of state contracts, and the law on the protection of industrial property and commerce.

Furthermore, the implementation of new sectoral policies based on the advantages comparisons of the Moroccan economy (Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020, Vision 2020 for Tourism, Vision 2015 for Handicrafts, Rawaj Plan for Trade 2020, Green Morocco Plan for agriculture, Halieutis Plan for fishing, etc.) should promote, in the years to come, sustained and sustainable growth.

Finally, the process of economic openness and integration into the world economy is consolidated by the conclusion of free trade agreements with the United States, the European Union, EFTA, (65) Turkey, and the Member States of the Arab League within the framework of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area and the Mediterranean Arab countries within the framework of the Agadir Agreement. (66)

Similarly, the EU has granted Morocco “advanced status” which gives it the possibility to further integrate into the European single market and to participate in certain inter-European cooperation programs reserved for members only, thanks to the privileged relations between Morocco and the EU, and given the progress made in the political, economic, and social fields, as well as numerous reforms undertaken by the Kingdom. (67)

At the continental level, the strengthening of cooperation with African countries has taken a new impetus under the reign of King Mohammed VI. This new view of openness has materialized through the conclusion, since the beginning of the 2000s, of more than 1000 cooperation agreements with more than 40 countries and by the upward trend of the country’s direct investments in sub-Saharan Africa, which reached 3 billion US$ during the last 10 years, placing Morocco as the 2nd investor in Africa and 1st investor in West Africa. (68)

In this regard, Rim Berahab writes: (69)

‘’Trade between Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa has been on an upward trend since 2009, with an annual growth of 12.8% between 2000 and 2015. However, sub-Saharan Africa’s share of Morocco’s external trade remains low in comparison with its other partners, such as the European Union, or to a lesser extent the MENA region. Trade with the latter accounted for 56.7% and 15.3%, respectively, of Morocco’s total trade in 2015, compared to only 3.4% with sub-Saharan Africa. This trend can be explained by the weakness of the African capital markets’ infrastructure, the non-application of trade protocols and the virtual absence of direct land or sea transport lines. This is also reflected by an indicator that integrates the notion of distance between countries in evaluating trade costs. It illustrates that the costs of trade with Africa are indeed very high.’’

And goes on to say:

‘’Furthermore, trade relations between Morocco and subSaharan Africa are asymmetrical as they tend to benefit Morocco more. This can be illustrated by its trade balance with the continent which has become a surplus since 2008. The balance reached $ 992.3 million in 2015 (equal to 1% of GDP), after having reached $ 1,091.5 million in 2014 and $ 981.5 million in 2013. On the other hand, while exports from Morocco to sub-Saharan Africa have been on an upward trend since 2009, imports have followed a downward trend initially between 2012 and 2014, rebounding in 2015, when it recorded a growth rate of 70%.’’

In this context, Morocco aims to position itself as a platform, an essential export market for investors wishing to target markets that are dynamic and have high growth potential in Africa. As such, Casablanca Finance City (CFC) offers international investors a highly connected platform with Africa and privileged access to investment opportunities through, among others, the Africa 50 Fund, which aims to meet the development needs of infrastructure in Africa.

The national economy is expected to show GDP growth of 3.1% in 2023 and 3.3% next year, slightly higher than the MENA region average (3% and 3.1% respectively), according to the World Bank. In addition to slower growth, economies in the region are also facing double-digit food price hikes that are putting additional pressure on poor households and could reverberate across generations, the institution warns. (70) This is what emerges from the latest World Bank (WB) report on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), entitled “Destroyed destinies: long-term effects rising prices and food insecurity in the MENA region”.

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco
Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco

Economies in the region as a whole are expected to register slower growth this year, with GDP expected to decline from 5.8% in 2022 to 3% in 2023 and 3.1% in 2024, as double-digit increases in food prices put additional pressure on poor households and that insecurity could affect several generations. It also emerges, with regard to Morocco, that the growth of GDP per capita would be 2.1% this year and 2.3% in 2024. The current account balance should thus settle at – 3.7% of GDP in 2023 and -3.5% the year after and the budget balance should widen to -4.6% of GDP this year and -4% the following year.

Regionally, the World Bank indicates that oil-exporting countries, which benefited from an oil windfall in 2022, will see their growth slow down, although a large gap remains between high-income countries and the rest of the region. Real GDP per capita growth, “a better measure of living standards,” is expected to decline to 1.6% in 2023, from 4.4% in 2022.

The World Bank also notes that it is above all the oil-importing countries, such as Morocco, Egypt, or Tunisia, subject to depreciation of their currencies against the dollar, which have recorded a rise in inflation in a spectacular fashion in 2022. According to the Bretton Woods Institution, in addition to the oil prices which have exploded, the current accounts of these countries have been battered by the rise in the prices of food products, most of which are imported. Rising food prices have devastating effects on poor families.

Food price inflation is having a devastating impact on poor families. The long-term implications of food insecurity will be felt for generations and sadly limit prospects for many, many young people,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the MENA region. “The human and economic cost of inaction is immense and bold policies are needed in a region where young people make up more than half of the population,” he added. (71)

It was even higher than headline inflation, which averaged 19.4% year-on-year over the same period, compared to 14.8% between October 2021 and February 2022, the month in which war broke out in Ukraine. In the four subgroups of the MENA region covered by the report, namely oil-importing developing countries, oil-exporting developing countries, conflict-affected countries and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, inflation contributes 24-33% to projected food insecurity in 2023. (72) 

It should be noted that the increase in food prices from March to June 2022 could have increased the risk of infant stunting by 17 to 24% in developing countries in the MENA region, which represents approximately 200,000 to 285,000 additional new-borns. More generally, studies show that child malnutrition can lead to poor school performance, lower income and health problems later on. And to tackle severe food insecurity, the World Bank says projected financing needs to run into the billions of dollars a year, but money alone is not enough. (73) 

This is why the World Bank proposes means of action to help alleviate food insecurity before it escalates into a real crisis such as targeted transfers in cash and in kind, which could be put in place without delay to stem acute food insecurity situations. Finally, the World Bank stresses the importance of having more recent and better data on the health and nutritional situation of children, as well as better access to administrative information which would help to target priorities and to reach more easily vulnerable populations. It is therefore essential to increase the resilience of food systems and strengthen supply chains, in particular in the face of climate shocks and future market disruptions.

Religion and culture


Thanks to a wise political vision that believes in the culture of dialogue, openness, and acceptance of others, Morocco has, for centuries, remained attached to the spiritual and human values embodied by its constant quest to establish coexistence and tolerance between religions.

Morocco has indeed shaped a singular model of religious and cultural coexistence which has enabled it to have a unique ability to dialogue with other civilizations and to live together in peace. It has always been one of the countries most concerned with consolidating the spiritual security of the followers of the various religions that characterize its social structure.

Morocco is the country of understanding, par excellence, tolerance, and coexistence. It is the country of Imârat al-Mu’minîn (Commandership of the Faithful), the institution that guarantees national unity, freedom of belief, and freedom of worship for all believers of the three monotheistic revealed religions.

Thanks to a wise political vision that believes in the culture of dialogue, openness, and acceptance of others, Morocco has, for centuries, remained attached to the spiritual and human values embodied by its constant quest to establish coexistence and tolerance between religions.

Morocco has indeed shaped a singular model of religious and cultural coexistence which has enabled it to have a unique ability to dialogue with other civilizations and to live together in peace.  It has always been one of the countries most concerned with consolidating the spiritual security of the followers of the various religions that characterize its social structure.

This question arises in a global context which is distinguished by great sensitivity and complexity, due to the accelerated transformations that the world is experiencing at different levels and which have had repercussions on lifestyles and perceptions related to life.

Indeed, economic crises, wars, and armed conflicts, phenomena of fanaticism, and extremism have been at the root of the aggravation of feelings of disarray, tension, and unease. It is precisely these types of feelings that lead to insecurity and loss of hope, resulting in the spread of crime and an increase in cases of depression and suicide, which poses a problem linked to values.

The Institution of Imârat al-Mu’minîn or Commandership of the Faithful plays a leading role in the consecration of openness, coexistence, and tolerance and the highlighting of the role of religions in the preservation of peace and security in the world. (75)

With regard to the Jewish religion in Morocco, the ancestral Jewish presence in Morocco, which goes back more than two thousand years. Moroccan Jews constituted an element essential part of Moroccan society and their position has been constant in the history of the Kingdom, which embodies an ideal and distinguished model in matters of coexistence between races and religions. (76)

As for the Christian presence in Morocco, it has a particular character, firstly because of the factors of geography and proximity to the European continent, which is experiencing a greater spread of the Christian religion, and also in view of the strengthening of the Christian presence in Morocco by African from the Sahel and sub-Saharan countries.

There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger“: this affirmation of the uniqueness of God, contained in the profession of faith in Islam, supports every gesture of daily life; everything is done in the name of Allah alone. But if God is unique, the way to serve him is plural: popular Islam, orthodox Islam, mystical Islam, pre-monotheistic rituals, and magic are common in the Moroccan cultural tradition. Practices linked to the prophylactic virtue of talismans or the therapeutic effects of caves, for example, the worship of saints. The religious practice of the Moroccan people does not alter anything about the authenticity of their faith in the revealed religion of Islam. (77)

This popular Islam is particularly expressed during moussems. (78) These annual celebrations in honor of local saints, which are very strong moments in religious and social life, are not to everyone’s taste: tolerated by the Moroccan state as a factor of balance, even encouraged by it as an antidote to Islamism, they are, on the other hand, condemned by the rigorists, who perceive them as a blameworthy deviation.

As his father, late King Hassan II, had done before him, King Mohammed VI, upon his accession to the throne on July 23, 1999, asserted his role as Commander of the Faithful: his first official outing, in traditional pageantry, was reserved for Friday prayers; likewise, his first addresses to the nation posed him as the religious leader of a state whose motto is “God, country, king”. It is a constant in Morocco: the different dynasties have always taken care to preserve their religious prerogatives, both to guide and govern and to monitor and punish. 

Morocco's King Mohammed VI. Photo Credit: MAP
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. Photo Credit: MAP

In recent history, the Moroccan monarchy – unlike other states with a Muslim tradition (including Algeria) which, following independence, took a certain distance from religion – used its spiritual power as an instrument of control of the religious and political fields. It has endeavored in particular to maintain the habous (provision of Islamic law regulating the status of the property in mortmain), to support original education, to create departments of Islamic studies in universities, to develop religious education in school curricula, to organize the body of ‘ulema (doctors of Islamic law), to train imams and muezzins, to control the construction of mosques and their closure between prayer times.

Within Muslim countries, the King of Morocco enjoys international recognition as a charismatic figure: following in the footsteps of his father, King Mohammed VI chairs the Al Quds committee, responsible for asserting and defending Muslim rights in the city of Jerusalem. (79)

In a country where religious culture is very strong and where political power holds the affairs of heaven in hand, there is room for controlled Islamism. Indeed, the importance of religion in Morocco, just like the control exercised by the state in this area, does not prevent the Islamist phenomenon from existing. Here, as elsewhere, it feeds on the misery of society’s outcasts, but also on the frustration of the pious middle classes, increasingly receptive to democratic values of human rights. However, it has not so far taken the same form as in Algeria, for example, where it believed itself justified in “re-Islamizing” a society that had lost its Muslim soul, and its identity. Morocco did not experience colonization with the same violence as its neighbor and has retained strong social and religious structures.

Amazigh culture

Morocco, is the most Amazigh/Berber-speaking country in the whole of North Africa. (80) The history of the Berbers of Morocco is very vast and very rich. The culture of the Amazigh/Berber people in Morocco and all its Mediterranean, African, Eastern, European, or international influences, is particularly distinguished in the Kingdom by:

  • An unbreakable link to the earth;
  • A strong relationship to the sacred;
  • Great friendliness and warm hospitality;
  • A great sense of community…

It was between 740 and 1050 that the Arabs were pushed back from Moroccan and Algerian territories, after the so-called era of the Great Revolt of the Berbers (740-743) against the Arabs. (81)

Regarding the Arabization of the Amazigh/Berber people, it is explained this way:

  • First, in the 7th century with the Arab invasion;
  • Then, in the 11th century with the arrival of the Bedouins;
  • In the 12th century, it was the Moroccan dynasties that would contribute to the Arabization of the Maghreb and as proof, capitals of Arabic languages would emerge in Marrakech, Fez and Tlemcen; and
  • Finally, between the 15th and 17th centuries with, from Andalusia, the arrival of refugees…

The great Moroccan Amazigh/Berber dynasties which began in the 11th century are:

  • Between 1055 and 1147, the Almoravids;
  • Between 1147 and 1269, the Almohads;
  • Between 1248 and 1465, the Merinids; and
  • Between 1472 and 1554 the Wattasids. 

For religion, that is, before Islam, we know that the tribes of the Amazigh/Berber people, the different ethnic groups, and the different regions had pagan beliefs endowed with mysticism and were polytheists.

The Amazigh/Berber people gradually regained citizenship in the 1990s. In 2001, King Mohammed VI recognized, in his Ajdir speech, the existence of Amazigh culture and created the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM).

In 2003, the teaching of Amazigh was introduced at school, with the choice of the Tifinagh alphabet to transcribe it. The first Berber television channel was launched in 2010, while the Tifinagh has made its way into the public space, where it appears on the windows of state institutions or road signs. 

A sign that this cause is progressing on the institutional level, the Amazigh language becomes a condition for granting Moroccan nationality. A law, passed by Parliament in January 2023, provides that “sufficient knowledge of the Arabic and Amazigh languages, or one of them“, is necessary for naturalization. Until now, only fluency in Arabic was required. This is to bring the right to nationality into line with the 2011 Constitution, which made Amazigh an official language, alongside Arabic, “as a common heritage for all Moroccans”: (83)

‘’Article 5 

Arabic is [demeure] the official language of the State. The State works for the protection and for the development of the Arabic language, as well as the promotion of its use. Likewise, Tamazight [Berber/amazighe] constitutes an official language of the State, being common patrimony of all Moroccans without exception.

An organic law defines the process of implementation of the official character of this language, as well as the modalities of its integration into teaching and into the priority domains of public life, so that it may be permitted in time to fulfill its function as an official language. 

The State works for the preservation of Hassani, as an integral component of the Moroccan cultural unity, as well as the protection of the speakers [of it] and of the practical cultural expression of Morocco. Likewise, it sees to the coherence of linguistic policy and national culture and to the learning and mastery of the foreign languages of greatest use in the world, as tools of communication, of integration and of interaction [by which] society [may] know, and to be open to different cultures and to contemporary civilizations. 

A National Council of Languages and of Moroccan Culture [Conseil national des langues et de la culture marocaine] is created, charged with[,] notably[,] the protection and the development of the Arabic and Tamazight languages and of the diverse Moroccan cultural expressions, which constitute one authentic patrimony and one source of contemporary inspiration. It brings together the institutions concerned in these domains. An organic law determines its attributions, composition and the modalities of [its] functioning.’’

So many successes won by the Amazigh/Berber movement, carrier of cultural and identity claims, but also active in various social and democratic struggles in Morocco, as illustrated by the presence of the Amazigh flag during the February 20 Movement which accompanied the Arab Spring, or in the protest marches in the Rif in 2016.

Still, the officialization of the Amazigh/Berber language has taken a long time. The law transposing the constitutional provisions of 2011 was only adopted in 2019. In addition to the integration of Amazigh in “public life”, this provided for the “generalization” of the teaching of Amazigh from preschool through high school. But there has never been a generalization. The teaching of Amazigh does not exist in secondary school. In primary school, it is not present in all schools and tends to decline. In the end, less than 10% of students, according to Amazigh associations, learn this language. Among the reasons stated: a lack of teachers, a lack of follow-up on the ground, and obstacles related to mentalities. (84)

The officialization of the Amazigh language, moves slowly, in a context where it is lost every day. The rural exodus has weakened it, as well as its minimal presence at school and in the media. And the families, who are the guardians, no longer fully play their role of transmission. They sometimes choose to speak Arabic at home because their mother tongue is not that of work or the social ladder. 

Amazigh woman in traditional dress

The priority must be that of education. Only the school can save this endangered language. It can also make it possible to convey Amazigh culture and values, transmit a balanced history, and form a citizen who belongs to a plural Morocco and stands on his two feet, Arab and Amazigh. 

Women rights

In Morocco, the legal system affirms gender equality. In social law, there are no differences between the sexes unless a specific text expressly provides for specific standards governing female work. Indeed, despite the affirmation of legal equality, there is a de facto inequality generated by the socio-economic situation, the impact of traditions, illiteracy, and poverty. Hence the importance of strategies for the development of the status of women in the prospects for establishing effective gender equality and making of women agents of development.

In the 1992 and 1996 constitutions adopted by referendum, the constituent power affirmed in the preamble that Morocco subscribes to the principles, rights, and obligations arising from the charters (of international organizations) and reaffirms its attachment to the Rights of Man as they are universally recognized.

The principle of equality between women and men is constitutionally enshrined. Thus men and women enjoy equal political rights: (85)

‘’Article 19 

The man and the woman enjoy, in equality, the rights and freedoms of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental character, enounced in this Title and in the other provisions of the Constitution, as well as in the international conventions and pacts duly ratified by Morocco and this, with respect for the provisions of the Constitution, of the constants [constantes] of the Kingdom and of its laws. The State works for the realization of parity between men and women. An Authority for parity and the struggle against all forms of discrimination is created, to this effect.’’

The indicators show encouraging progress in terms of the status of women in Morocco since the 2000s, including their rights within the family, with, first of all, the reform of the Family Code of February 2004 (Moudowana), (86) which responded to a strong national expectation, echoing the international movement, considering the fight against gender inequalities as a factor of development and social cohesion, particularly in the light of the 5ᵉ objective of the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, (87) on gender equality.

This reform established equality between spouses in the management of the home, through their co-responsibility within the family – and, thereby, the disappearance of the concept of the male head of the family.

In addition, it established a woman’s right to seek a divorce, a prerogative previously only reserved for men through repudiation; the possibility of divorce for disagreement; setting the age of marriage at 18 for girls and boys; the abolition of guardianship over adult women, allowing them to marry without the consent of a guardian. (88)

This reform also affected the interests of the child by allowing, for the first time in terms of inheritance, grandchildren on the daughter’s side to inherit from their grandfather, in the same way as grandchildren on the son’s side. Allowing the grandchildren of the daughter to inherit from their maternal grandfather was an innovation in Moroccan law, including in relation to Islamic law.

The 2004 family code (Moudowana) also established for the first time the right of the illegitimate child to recognition of his paternity in the event that he was born of a relationship outside marriage due to force majeure, widening the scope of legal proof to present to the judge, whereas previously the rule was the systematic non-recognition of children born out of wedlock.

This reform had been perceived as a liberation of Moroccan women from the status of “subordinate” and “minor for life“, which they previously had, and had the merit of showing that mentalities in Morocco had not remained fixed in the past, offering hope for further reforms to come. It also had the merit of having acted as an accelerator of change, demystifying the long-dominant idea that it was very difficult, even inconceivable, to reform the Moroccan family code, perceived as a corpus ” sacred” due to the fact that it draws its main source from the Maliki Sunni Muslim rite. (89)

While the implementation of reforms and the progress made to combat gender-based discrimination are underway, imbalances persist, and projects remain open to consolidate and generalize the materialization of equality between men and women in Morocco, as well as the protection of women’s rights, more in line with article 19 (given here above) of the 2011 Constitution, which enshrines the principle of equal rights for all Moroccans. (90)

For example, in matters of inheritance, if the rules remain almost the same fourteen centuries after the advent of Islam, it is difficult to deny that the state of mind of solidarity which justified them at the time of the Prophet, consisting in particular in the care of women by the men of their family, an essential social rule for centuries, has evolved towards more individualism in Moroccan society

Conclusion: Prerequisites for a better tomorrow

Open to its international environment, Morocco is not prepared today to face the threats of globalization, nor to seize its opportunities. The level of human development remains low and the trend scenario is not viable despite the progress made on the recovery plans, the construction of a modern state, the development of human potential, and the construction of an economy diversified.

The continuation of past trends could lead, by 2025, to widening inequalities and the appearance of new forms of exclusion, to a strong and irreversible degradation of the environment, to a shortage of water, and an accentuation of the “Morocco at several speeds” phenomenon. Considering the insufficient quality and performance of education, an important part of the country’s human potential could remain excluded from the education system, thus reducing Morocco’s ability to face competition which increasingly favors countries with skilled labor. 

The trend of economic growth is insufficient in the face of the growing volume of applicants for employment, unemployment could worsen by 6 points at the national level and affect one working person in 4 on the horizon 2025 in an urban environment. Under such conditions, a social crisis could arise and compromise the democratic process.

The trend scenario being unacceptable for an ambitious country like Morocco which has significant potentialities, a new, mobilizing, and synergistic vision becomes necessary to catch up with the considerable accumulated delays. Raising Morocco to the rank of developing countries in 2025 is a legitimate ambition, and such a vision should find a lasting solution to the key issues of Human Development. (91)

Real knots of the future, these key issues that will have to be overcome to break with the scenario trend, are as follows:

  • Deficit in terms of governance;
  • Deficit in terms of knowledge;
  • Lack of job creation;
  • Limited social mobility;
  • Poverty and vulnerability;
  • Local development deficit; and
  • Degradation of the environment and natural resources.

Among these key issues, four have emerged as lever nodes through the analysis of the interdependencies between the dimensions of human development. These are, in descending order of priority: knowledge, local development, employment, and governance.

Morocco is a country that currently presents credible prospects for becoming a co-emergence pole in Africa. Morocco can assume the role as a future industrial hub, (92) and engine of integration capable of identifying and mitigating the kind of risks that had not been perceived in the context of the current system of globalization”, noting that the Kingdom is already in a “very good position” to play an effective role in the production and supply of certain strategic products, currently manufactured in emerging market economies.

Zakaria Benabdeljalil Sjöberg, Country Manager of Morocco and Regional Manager of North and West Africa of Business Sweden, argues: (93)

 ‘’Morocco’s strategic geographic position offers easy access to key markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; this logistical advantage is emerging as a unique strength in the global supply chain puzzle that many companies are looking to solve. 

To support the automotive industry’s growth, the government has implemented policies aimed at encouraging foreign investment, such as tax incentives and streamlined bureaucratic processes. Additionally, the government has invested in infrastructure, including the creation of two main industrial platforms: the construction of a new port in Tangier, facilitating exports and a second in Kenitra, both enjoying free zone status which means companies operating in them over the next five years will be exempt from corporation tax.  Following a tax rate cap of 8.75% for the next 20 years, it is expected that investment from leading automakers in Africa will increase, thanks to financial incentives and multiple free trade agreements with the European Union and the US. This, in turn, is expected to have a positive impact on export activity in the country.’’

The desirable future has been drawn from these levers of development. It is characterized in particular by advanced democracy, wide international influence, strong participation of all localities in development, and better-distributed prosperity. This desirable future constitutes a course mobilizing more than an objective to be achieved by 2025, with regard to the deficits to be overcome and the fundamental prerequisites to be met (increased participation of development actors, financial means consequent…).

Taking into consideration the future evolution of the international context as well as the assets and the seeds of change in Morocco, a reasoned future has been proposed in order to channel energies toward progress. This reasoned future is possible insofar as it could itself generate the means for its realization, thanks, in particular, to good governance and improved efficiency of public policies.

Promoting the realization of the desirable future, it sets the course, in the long term, on knowledge with a view to sustainable human development and the influence of Morocco at the regional and international levels. Its achievement would be facilitated by strengthening the medium-term local development process, which could strengthen social and territorial cohesion and increase the participation of all development actors. In the short term, it requires ensuring decent living conditions for the entire population and tackling the most alarming indicators, in accordance with the National Initiative for Human Development.  (94)

Concerning this issue, Global Delivery Initiative writes: (95)

‘’From 2000 to 2020, Morocco made significant strides in improving both its economic and its social status. Compared to the growth rates it maintained on average during the 1980s and 1990s, it increased its GDP growth rate and diversified its economy by focusing on sectors that had growth potential, such as the aeronautical, automobile, and solar energy industries. Encouraged by the positive results and improved indicators, Morocco strove to close its economic gap quickly and join the ranks of upper-middle-income countries. From a social standpoint, the country’s performance was also sound. It significantly reduced overall poverty and nearly eradicated extreme poverty. Over that 20-year period, Morocco also made progress in developing its human capital. A prominent national program driving the development of the country’s human capital was the National Human Development Initiative (NHDI). Launched in 2005 by King Mohammed VI, he described it as “a royal project that places the human element at the center of national policies.” The main goal of the NHDI was to address critical gaps in Morocco’s development trajectory, such as high poverty in rural areas, social exclusion in urban areas, and the lack of opportunities and resources available to vulnerable populations (Benkassmi and Abdelkhalek 2020; World Bank 2017a). It was designed to improve socioeconomic conditions in targeted poor areas through participatory local governance mechanisms. The government implemented the initiative at the level of rural and urban local governments (known in Morocco as communes) and in urban neighborhoods (Bergh 2012). The program was implemented in multiple phases, adapting to changing circumstances as it facilitated projects that advanced human capital development.’’

In addition to these three temporal dimensions, the reasoned future is based on three essential elements: good governance, strong and sustainable economic growth, and a foundation of progressive values. It is also based on three axes of overcoming factors of acceleration of human development, namely stronger participation of women, the involvement of young people in the work of development, and a harmonious anchoring in the international community.

Faced with the deterioration in the quality of education and the slow pace of the fight against illiteracy, Morocco has no choice but to favor knowledge and make a real breakthrough in this area, a sine qua non for strengthening the rule of law and modernizing the economy. By betting on knowledge, which has a transversal character, Morocco could reinvigorate its strengths and loosen constraints to its human development and therefore seize the opportunities offered by an international context where the knowledge society will be predominant.

Local development is an effective way to operationalize the reasoned future and to make it relatively easy to do. The desired impacts are national cohesion and the reduction of territorial inequalities, the enhancement of tacit knowledge and local cultures, and the preservation of a healthy living environment for present and future generations.

A well-thought-out strategy for local development, developed within the framework of a knowledge-based vision, should allow the participation of all components of society in the work of development and bring together the conditions conducive to an economic take-off and to strengthening attractiveness and territorial competitiveness.

To make up for the considerable accumulated delays and achieve a high level of human development, it would be wise to pay particular attention to the categories of the population with a strong impact on human development such as women and youth.

The education of women and their protection against all forms of discrimination would increase their economic and political participation and would enhance the national human potential as much as they have an important role in the education of future generations.

As for young people who have a mixed vision of the future, sometimes reflecting anxiety about the future, should give them hope by responding to their specific needs, preparing them for the demands of matters of ethics and citizenship, and involving them in the work of development so that they become responsible actors.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: @Ayurinu


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  8.  Ibid., p. 6.
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  26. Ibid
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  32.  Constitute. Morocco’s Constitution of 2011, op. cit., Article One. 
  33.  Ibid, Article 2.
  34.  Waterbury, John. The Commander of the Faithful. The Moroccan Elite. Op. cit.  
  35.  In 2003, King Mohammed VI announced a reform of the family code Moudowwana which granted more rights to women. He also created the “Equity and Reconciliation Commission” for reconciliation with the years of human rights abuses during his father Hassan’s reign, known as the ‘’Years of Lead’’ (Daoud, Zakya. Maroc: les années de plomb, 1958-1988 : chroniques d’une résistance. Paris: Manucius, 2007).
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  38.  The parties represented in the House of Representatives are 3 in 1963, 6 in 1977, 8 in 1984, 11 in 1993, 15 in 1997, 21 in 2002, 24 in 2007. Then, an inflection is observed (18 parties in 2011 and 12 in 2016).
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  42.  Ibid., p. 10.
  43. Ibid.
  44.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’Co-Opting Politics in Morocco’’, The Washington Institute, May 7, 2019.
  45.  Islamism is referred to in Arabic literature as “political Islam” in reference to the use of religion in politics. Cf.  Darif, Mohamed. “Al Islam As-siyassi fi al-Maghrib (Political Islam in Morocco)’’, Revue Marocaine de Sociologie Politique, 1992. Cf. also, Darif, Mohamed. ‘’Al-Islamiyyûn al-maghariba : hisâbât as-siyyâsa fi al-‘amal al-islâmî 1969-1999 (Les islamistes marocains : les calculs politiques dans l’action islamiste 1969-1999)’’, Casablanca, Al-Majalla al-maghribiyya li ‘ilm al-ijtima’ as-siyyâsî, 1999.
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  47.  Dalmasso, Emanuela & Francesco Cavatorta. “Political Islam in Morocco: Negotiating the Kingdom’s Liberal Space”, Contemporary Arab Affairs, vol. 4, no. 4, 2011, pp. 484–500. JSTOR,
  48.  Amghar, Samir. ‘’ Political Islam in Morocco’’, CEPS, CEPS Working Document No. 269/June 2007.
  49.  Rodinson, Maxime. L’Islam politique et croyance. Paris : Fayard, Paris, 1993, pp. 29-31.
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  55.  CIVICUS is an international NGO founded in 1991 by bringing together world leaders of civil society wishing to pool their skills in order to establish links between the different national situations, set up common analytical frameworks and tools for strengthening of civil society.
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  64.  Country Economy. ‘’Morocco’’.
  65.  EFTA. ‘’EFTA-Maroc Accord de Libre-Échange’’.
  66.  Bilaterals. ‘’Agadie Agreement’’.
  67.  Jaidi, Larbi. ‘’The Morocco/EU advanced status: what value does it add to the European Neighbourhood Policy?’’, IEMed, IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2009.
  68.  MAP. ‘’France: Morocco, 2nd African Investor in 2020 (Official)’’.
  69.  Berahab, Rim. ‘’Relations between Morocco and subSaharan Africa: What is the potential for trade and foreign direct investment?’’, OCP Poliy Center, Policy Brief February 2017, PB-17/04.
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  71.  The World Bank. ‘’Growth Slows for Most MENA Economies Amid Double-Digit Food Inflation’’, ‘’ April 6, 2023.
  72. Ibid.
  73. Ibid.
  74.  Kingdom of Morocco, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. ‘’National Action Plan for the Alliance of Civilisations’’.
  75.  United Nations. ‘’Secretary-General’s opening remarks at the 9th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations’’, November 22, 2022.
  76.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’ Jewish-Muslim Conviviality in Morocco – Analysis’’, Eurasia Review, December 29, 2022.
  77.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’Timeless Belief in Saints and Spirits in Morocco’’, Morocco World News, January 19, 2017.
  78.  The moussem, also called wa’da in certain regions, agdud in Berber or mouggar in the south-west of Morocco (Berber Tachelhit) designates in North Africa an annual regional festival which associates a customary celebration, which can sometimes be religious (often to honor a saint) to festive and commercial activities.
  79.  MAP. ‘’U.S. Commends Leadership of HM the King, Chairman of Al-Quds Committee, in Supporting Palestinian People and Two-state Solution’’, January 06, 2023.
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  82.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’The Amazigh Cultural Renaissance’’, The Washington Institute, January 18, 2019.
  83.  Constitute. Morocco’s Constitution of 2011, op. cit. 
  84.  Chtatou, Mohamed.’’ Promouvoir, protéger et revitaliser la langue amazighe’’, Le Monde Amazigh, April 8, 2022.
  85.  Constitute. Morocco’s Constitution of 2011. Op. cit.
  86.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’Revisiting Family Code Reform in Morocco’’,
  87.  United Nations. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  88.  Center for Public Impact. ‘’Reforming Moroccan family law: the Moudawana’’, May 2, 2016.
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  90.  Nami, Rajae. ‘’The Burden of Unequal Inheritance Laws on Moroccan Women’’, Navanti. 
  91.  Knoema. ‘’The human development index of Morocco’’.
  92.  Sjöberg, Zakaria Benabdeljalil. ‘’Morocco emerging as key global production hub’’, Economy Sweden, April 19, 2023.
  93. Ibid.
  94.  Global Delivery Initiative. ‘’A Participatory Approach to Building Human Capital: Morocco’s National Human Development Initiative’’, May 2020.
  95. Ibid.

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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