Morocco

Population: 
31968000

In 788, about a century after the Arab conquest of North Africa, successive Moorish dynasties began to rule in Morocco. In the 16th century, the Sa'adi monarchy, particularly under Ahmad AL-MANSUR (1578-1603), repelled foreign invaders and inaugurated a golden age. The Alaouite dynasty, to which the current Moroccan royal family belongs, established a sultanate in Morocco beginning in the 17th century. In 1860, Spain occupied northern Morocco and ushered in a half century of trade rivalry among European powers that saw Morocco's sovereignty steadily erode; in 1912, the French imposed a protectorate over the country. A protracted independence struggle with France ended successfully in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier and most Spanish possessions were turned over to the new country that same year. Sultan MOHAMMED V, the current monarch's grandfather, organized the new state as a constitutional monarchy and in 1957 assumed the title of king. Morocco annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature, which first met in 1997. Under King MOHAMMED VI - who in 1999 succeeded his father to the throne - human rights have improved. Morocco enjoys a moderately free press, but the government occasionally takes action against journalists who report on three broad subjects considered to be taboo: the monarchy, Islam, and the status of Western Sahara. Despite the continuing reforms, ultimate authority remains in the hands of the monarch. Influenced by protests elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, thousands of Moroccans in February 2011 rallied in Rabat and several other major cities to demand constitutional reform and more democracy and to protest government corruption and high food prices. A number of similar demonstrations and marches continued through March. Police response to most of the protests was subdued compared to the violence noted in protests elsewhere in the region. In early March, in response to demonstrator demands, King MOHAMMED VI announced the formation of a commission to reform the country's constitution. A draft constitution is to be presented by June 2011, followed by a popular referendum.

Ethnicity: 
Arab-Berber 99.1%, other 0.7%, Jewish 0.2%
Religion: 
Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%

Country information from the CIA World Factbook.