Morocco in the 1960’s and 1970’s

Morocco in the 1970's

In November 1962 King Ḥasan II, successor of Muḥammad V who died in January 1961, announced a new constitution, which was approved in December with a popular referendum. It defined Morocco a monarchical, constitutional, democratic and social state; legislative power was entrusted to a Chamber of Representatives elected every 4 years by universal suffrage and to a Chamber of Councilors made up of representatives of municipal and provincial councils, trade union and professional associations and various business categories. In the elections for the first of the two Chambers (May 1963) the Istiql ā l (ousted from the government in January) won 41 seats; the National Union of Popular Forces, UNFP, made up of young politicians led by Mahdī b. Barakah, who left Istiql ā l in 1958 (from December 1958 to May 1960 the party led the government with ‘Abdallāh Ibrāhīm) had 28 seats; 6 went to independents, and 69 to the Front for the Defense of Constitutional Institutions (FDIC), a formation linked to the Crown set up ad hoc in March. In July, UNFP exponents were accused of conspiring against the state (later sentenced to death, the sentence was changed in 1965 to life imprisonment); in the elections for the House of Councilors, in October, the FDIC had 107 seats, the Istiql ā l 11; 2 went to independents. In October 1964, the formation of a government by Aḥmad Bāhaninī, president of a new Democratic Socialist Party, was interpreted as an attempt by the Crown to obtain the cooperation of the opposition; and in fact, although in February 1965 the congress of Istiql ā l had pronounced himself in favor of new elections, in May the king made a useless appeal for a government of national union that would launch a program of economic development and administrative reforms. Strikes by students and workers resulted in the proclamation of a state of emergency and the suspension of the constitution in June; the situation, both internal and international, was aggravated in October by the disappearance, in France, of the exponent of the UNFP Ben Barakah, of which the French judiciary accused the gen. Ufqīr, very close to King Ḥasan. For Morocco 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.

An attempt to return to normality took place in October 1969, with municipal and provincial elections which were however boycotted by the opposition. However, in July 1970, after a popular referendum, a new constitution was promulgated which provided for a single chamber of 240 members, 90 elected by universal suffrage, 90 by municipal and provincial councils, 60 by a college of representatives of professional and trade union associations. The elections (August) gave the opposition parties 22 seats: the rest was divided between independents, 158, and members of the governmental Popular Movement (MP), 60. In July 1971, cadets of the military school, it seems deceived by their commanders, they attacked the royal palace of Ṣkhīrāt during a reception; the attempt was fortunately cut short, and the perpetrators condemned: responsibility for the plot was placed on Libya. In the following months there were new contacts between the crown and the opposition, in the useless search for a possible collaboration: as an act of good will, in February 1972 the king announced a new constitution for which two thirds of the Chamber would be elected by universal suffrage, but in April it was announced that the elections were postponed pending the revision and updating of the electoral lists. A new attempt on the life of the king, whose plane was attacked by military fighters, took place in August 1972: gen. Ufqīr, Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff: the king’s position at that moment appeared very precarious, because political isolation was joined by mutual distrust in relations with the armed forces. Strikes by students, which clashed with the police, led to the dissolution of the National Union of Moroccan Students (UNEM); a wave of arrests occurred in March following the capture, in the Atlas Mountains, of guerrillas who said they were armed by Libya. Particularly affected were the exponents of the Rabat section of the UNFP (which was suspended in April): 157 people were referred to the court of Qenīṭrah, accused of conspiracy and terrorist activities, and 15 were in November passed to arms. In March, meanwhile, the king had announced a plan for the Moroccanization of the economy within two years and ordered the seizure of lands owned by foreigners and their distribution to peasants: a measure that had generated tension in particular with France. The extension of territorial waters from 12 to 70 miles also caused difficulties with Spain; in return, the new nationalist policy brought Morocco back to the other Arab states.

In 1974, although the political processes continued, a political claim towards the Spanish Sahara, and later the principals, led to a rapprochement between the Crown and the opposition at least on foreign policy issues: a substantial agreement was in fact reached on the initiative, taken by the king to remove the risks of a referendum tamed by the Spanish authorities, to ask for the matter to be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, a request accepted in October 1974 by the United Nations. Internal relations remained difficult: in September there were new death sentences for the events of 1973, but at the same time numerous exponents of the Rabat section of the UNFP were released, party that reorganized itself taking the name of Socialist Union of Popular Forces (abbreviated to Socialist Union). Meanwhile, in August the extreme left had formed a new Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), defined as the “revolutionary vanguard of the Moroccan working class”. Pro-Crown Berber elements founded a Progressive Liberal Parity (PLP) in November. With the “Green March” the Crown finally obtained the recovery of part of the Spanish Sahara in 1976, with favorable repercussions on the internal political situation, also due to the nationalistic reaction against attacks from Algeria. On June 3, 1977, the political elections took place, which registered the victory (44.6%) of the party of the “Independents” loyal to the king.

Morocco in the 1970's