Morocco’s population averages 35 millions individuals today, having tripled over the past 50 years, with 60% of the population living in urban areas. Albeit all the efforts seemingly put in place over the past eighteen years to strengthen its economy and allow its society to develop the characteristics of a democracy, Morocco's society is in fact fighting off ills on all fronts, from social and economic inequalities, to continuously weakened and threatened individual freedoms. Today, a majority of Moroccans believe they are living in poor and very poor conditions. It is estimated that the income of 10% of the well-off is over 12.7 times that of 10% of the poorest.
By essence, the Moroccan society is a rich and diverse one, where multiple regional cultures have blossomed over the centuries. As such, 30,3% of the population speak Arabic and French, while 17,3% Arabic only. Among them, almost 90% of Moroccan speak Darija - Moroccan Arabic - and one in three speaks a Berber language.
For decades, following its independence from France in 1956, Morocco made Islam and the Monarchy the bedrocks of its identity. Today, the population remains predominantly Muslim. In terms of governance, the lack of long-term guidelines is illustrated by a state that has reversed its position on which language to use in public schools several times, the oppression of the Berber people and their languages, a regionalization process that is far behind and a clustered elite that identifies with Western culture and languages. As a direct consequence, but also matching a global trend, a majority of Moroccans lost trust of their institutions.
A highly divided society
While authoritarianism remains at the heart of the power structure in the country, many ‘Moroccos’ coexist alongside each other. Firstly, a rural and enclaved Morocco where the rules and logic of its governance have remained unchanged for centuries and where the State plays barely any role besides those of observer and provider of basic infrastructures and services. Secondly, the Morocco of small and medium towns: chaotic and disenfranchised, where local and national government levels have mostly failed to improve infrastructures and the wellbeing of its inhabitants. Lastly, the Morocco of large cities, with a somewhat structured urban life surrounded by ever growing shantytowns. The minority of an economic elite benefits from the perks of urban life and the overall status quo.
As modern institutions coexist alongside traditional means and structures of social and political control in several regions, the concept of the common good is severely inhibited and no consensus is reached in how to tackle broader issues such as gender equality, public schools, common values, and the role of religion.
2011: the mixed success of the Moroccan Spring
In this highly divided social context, the revolutionary fervour that grew within the Arab world in 2011 was an incomplete success for Morocco. Although some taboos were breached, reforms were mostly seen as cosmetic. As a result, it has only convinced half of the Moroccans, with 51% of them seeing it as positive for the country.
Despite this current dire social situation and the decline of democratic practices in the country, Morocco still ranks as the most democratic country in the Arab World.
- Numbers on religion and languages come from the Haut Commissariat au Plan, cited in « Mapping Digital Media: Morocco » (2011).
- Numbers related to the perception of the political, economic situation and the Arab Spring come from the 2016 Arab Opinion Index.
- The surface area of 446 550 km2 comes from the World Bank and does not include Western Sahara. With it, the total surface of the territory is 710 850 km2.
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