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Short History of Morrocco

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A Short History and Summary of the Current Conditions in Morocco and Its Geographical Situation
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Title: A Short History and Summary of the Current Conditions in Morocco and Its Geographical Situation
No Abstract Needed for Global Issues Research Papers
Geography and Background Our nation, the Kingdom of Morocco, is situated in a historically strategic location along the Strait of Gibraltar in North Africa, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to the north and Algeria and Western Sahara to its south. Today’s Morocco is a Muslim nation, slightly larger than the state of California in the U.S., which boasts an estimated population of 33 million people. Although Morocco claims Arabic as it’s official language, French is primarily spoken in the business and commerce sectors (Morocco, 2007). But these are merely basic facts. To better understand our current position in the global arena, one must first examine the recent history of Morocco, both as a nation and as a people.

Following the arrival of the Arabs in the seventh century and hundreds of years of subsequent ruling dynasties, Morocco’s natural resources were fully discovered by European nations during their explorations to Africa in the 1800’s. According to Youngblood-Coleman), “the Algeciras Conference in 1906 formalized France’s ‘special position’ and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. In 1912, the area was divided into French, Spanish and international zones.” (p.1) The Treaty of Fes followed in 1912, officially naming Morocco as a French protectorate (Background Notes, 2006). Despite the ebb and flow of various independence movements throughout the following decades, it wasn’t until 1953 that France took real action in quelling any potential uprisings by exiling Morocco’s sultan, Sidi Muhammad. Unfortunately, this only made the situation worse. After two years of being governed by what Moroccans deemed to be an “illegitimate” ruler, the French caved to increasing pressure and, in 1955, reinstated Muhammad as ruler (Morocco, 2009).

By 1956, Morocco won its independence from France and in 1957, Muhammad was officially named King. It is important to note that beginning in 1956 and spanning to today, Spain still retains control over a handful of Moroccan locations, but its influence simply impacts local culture more than anything else. Upon Muhammad’s death in 1961, the monarchy was passed down to his son, Hassan II, and various governmental changes occurred over the course of the next couple of decades, including the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and a bicameral parliament (Morocco, 2009). A new constitution was drafted in 1996 that provided for a House of Representatives, but, according to Country Watch (Political Conditions, 2007), “In so doing, in theory, political power was fully constitutionally instituted for the first time in Moroccan history. Real power, however, remained securely concentrated in the throne.” (p.1) Muhammad VI succeeded the throne upon his father Hassan’s death in 1999 and so began the current era of reign, notably marked by its advocacy of social and economical progress.

The Current Political Situation

The following is an examination of Morocco’s current governmental structure, a constitutional monarchy led for the past twenty years by the initially popular King Muhammad VI.

Logistically speaking, King Muhammad is the head of state that holds effective power and appoints the prime minister, a position currently held by Driss Jettou. Prime Minister Jettou oversees the government, a Parliament consisting of a 270-seat Chamber of Counselors and a 325-seat Chamber of Representatives (Morocco, 2009). Members of the Chamber of Counselors serve nine-year terms and last held elections in 2006. The Counselors, who were most recently elected in 2007, hold terms of five years each. But this is all information that reads nicely on paper. As one delves deeper into the administration, a more realistic photo emerges. The Economist (2007) is quick to point out, “Aside from heading the army and state, and being Commander of the Faithful, [the King] appoints and fires ministers, governors and judges, and issues or vetoes laws. To insult him is a crime.” (p.50) In referring to the Moroccan Constitution, Background Notes (2006) concurs, “Ultimate authority rests with the King. He presides over the Council of Ministers; appoints the prime minister….appoints all members of the government….and may, at his discretion, terminate the tenure of any minister, dissolve the Parliament, call for new elections or rule by decree.” (p.2) When defining itself as a constitutional monarchy, it seems in Morocco that the emphasis is on “monarchy”. But what about those elected to Parliament? Despite an average of three representatives allotted to each of the country’s 95 districts, “all the kingdom’s elected institutions together represent a mere fifth of actual decision-making clout.” (Economist, 2007, p. 51) Unlike the bi-partisan congress in America, the vast number of parties represented in each of Morocco’s Chambers makes it nearly impossible for anyone to ever gain substantial footing over another, let alone garner a majority vote. There are even parties elected to represent the people that are not formally recognized. Consider the Justice and Welfare Party, whom in spite of its elected presence in Parliament, “is formally banned for its refusal to accept the king as Commander of the Faithful.” (Economist, 2007, p. 51)

Clearly there are still some governmental wrinkles in need of ironing out and instances such as a 2002 Senate commission of inquiry declaring the kingdom’s “absence of a reliable accounting system” (Youngblood-Coleman, 2007) certainly aren’t helping. Youngblood-Coleman (2007) goes on further to state, “political change in Morocco has no central, domestic driving force. The pro-democracy parties are alienated from the people, and the Islamists have no credible modernization or democratization plans. Corruption continues to be omnipotent.” Indeed, the Moroccan government has made significant progress in a relatively short amount of time, but there are still considerable improvements necessary before truly becoming legitimate in the eyes of the Western World. And maybe in the global scheme of things, that isn’t so bad. All Western governments have experienced some form of corruption in their pasts but the ability to overcome these without foreign intervention probably ultimately helped contribute to their integrity. The Economist (2007) notes, “The pace of political reform is frustratingly slow, for sure, with the palace still wielding crushing influence. But this has let the system absorb, and to a certain extent co-opt, the Islamists.” Morocco will get there; it will just take time.

The Economic Situation

As Morocco’s government has one foot in the Third World and one foot in the present, so too does its economy. Abundant in natural resources, Morocco’s top exports include phosphates, raw metals and iron ore in addition to clothing, textiles and fish. Tourism is a significant contributor to the Gross National Product as well and one that is increasing exponentially. Approximately 40% of the country’s workforces are rural farmers and roughly 19% of the population lives below the poverty level (CIA, 2007). Again, these are the facts, but not the entire story. As is typical in many Third World countries, initial efforts toward modernization have resulted in a greater divide between the upper and lower classes. The Economist (2007) confirms, “the distribution of wealth and social services is strikingly skewed. A recent acceleration of economic growth, which now tops 7%, has so far enriched few people, even as property prices, boosted by an influx as European and Gulf Arab investment, have soared further out of reach of ordinary Moroccans.” Rural farmers who sought a better life by moving to the cities now find themselves part of the urban poor. This has led to a phenomenon that Aksikas (2007) refers to as an “informal economy”, a collective group of workers who earn their living as drug smugglers, dealers in the black market, shoe-shiners, street vendors, etc. These are not documented professions per se, but the fact that they cumulatively comprise nearly 40% of the overall urban economy makes them a faction far too large to be ignored. And so Morocco’s current economy trudges along in a state of modern limbo, where the upper, industrialized class becomes increasingly wealthier as the middle and lower classes sink further into hardship. The expansion of capitalism brings with it a much-needed increase in global presence and GNP. This is both necessary and good. But as Aksikas (2007) also notes, there is a consequence. “[T]he decrease in government funding for basic social services such as education, health care, economic housing, and public services has equally contributed to the worsening of the living conditions of this class of marginal workers. At the same time, the income levels of the working and lower-middle classes – the primary consumers of this marginal sector – have also decreased.”

Analysis and Conclusions

So how can Morocco maintain internal balance and order as it moves further into the global community? To be sure, improving the economy and reducing poverty are two crucial elements. Following the 2002 elections, King Muhammad “stressed the need for social and economic reform, citing poverty alleviation, the reduction of illiteracy, educational improvements, and a decrease in the unemployment rate, as the most vital matter facing Morocco’s future.” (Country Watch: Political Conditions, 2007) This is, however, a conspicuously politically correct statement and perhaps one that was made by part of the problem itself. The Economist (2007) counters, “There are economic troubles apart from poverty, such as the persistence of monopolistic practices by royal favourites, a capricious legal system, low education standards and an entrepreneurial class that has learned to avoid risk.” But the fact remains that the King probably isn’t going away anytime soon. So as the government continues to work through its glitches, it also needs to step up the pace of growth. The 2004 free trade agreement with the United States was indeed helpful. An increased presence by companies such as Dell, Accenture, Airbus and Boeing (Morocco Rising, 2009), and increased efforts to promote tourism alone will undoubtedly allow Western influence to further spread throughout the people and their culture. “Other measuring sticks of increased democratization and liberalization will be the establishment of a real electoral process, the rule of law, and an efficacious judicial system.” (Youngblood-Coleman) Fortunately, once a country takes steps towards modernization and makes an appearance in the global arena, there’s no going back. Unfortunately, the process must occur while the rest of the industrialized world impatiently taps its foot. Stay the course, Morocco. Continue to expand and grow yourself economically, politically, and culturally and soon enough you will no longer face maladies exclusive to the Third World. Upon your arrival, there will undoubtedly still be plenty of Western adversities for you to face as well.

Aksikas, J. (2007, July). Prisoners of Globalization: Marginality, community and the new informal economy in Morocco. Mediterranean Politics, 12(2), 249-262. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
History. (2006, July). Background Notes on Countries of the World: Morocco, 2-3. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.
Morocco. (2007). CIA World Fact Book, 156. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
Morocco, country, Africa. (2009, January). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th edition, 1-3.
Morocco Rising, (2009, May/June). Foreign Affairs, 88(3), 1-6. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
The king still runs the show. (2007, September). Economist, 384 (8545), 50-52. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete.
Youngblood-Coleman, Denise, editor. Country Review: Morocco. 2007. Houston, Texas: CountryWatch Publications, 2005. Country Review: Morocco. Online. Available URL:…...

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