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Sunday, 30 July, 2000, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
King Mohammed - one year on
King Mohammed celebrates one year on the throne
Islamic leaders flank the Moroccan king
As King Mohammed marks one year on the throne, BBC Monitoring's Peter Feuilherade looks at his achievements and future challenges.

King Mohammed VI's accession to the throne a year ago raised hopes in Morocco of a new commitment to tackling the country's social problems.

In a televised address after the death of his father King Hassan, he declared his commitment to constitutional monarchy, political pluralism and economic liberalism.

His main challenges were the entrenched resistance to progress among conservative circles, the need to accommodate the growing Islamist movement, and the challenge to secure the support of the army.

Reforms

In November, King Mohammed dismissed long-serving Interior Minister Driss Basri and replaced him with the former head of the domestic intelligence service, Ahmad Midaoui.

At the same time, he unveiled a package of reforms designed to end the unrest in the disputed Western Sahara region. But plans for a referendum under the auspices of the United Nations on the future of the territory remain deadlocked.

Morocco profile
30m inhabitants
Administrative capital: Rabat
Major languages: Arabic (official), Berber, French, Spanish
Form of government: monarchy

In March this year, the government and the Islamists staged rival rallies for and against a "national action plan" to give women in Morocco more rights. Ministers in Rabat were able to muster only some 40,000 supporters.

The Islamist challenge

But in Casablanca, about half a million Islamists marched through the city. Those demonstrations highlighted the increasing rift in Moroccan politics.

The king's support base comprises intellectual elites, economic reformers and the country's burgeoning youth population.

Lined up against him are Islamic conservatives and some of the elite families of political and business leaders.

Moroccan mourners at King Hassan's funeral 25th July 1999
A nation mourns King Hassan
The question foreign commentators are still asking is: Can the Islamists derail the king's civil reforms?

Another of Morocco's major problems remains unemployment. In urban areas, unemployment in 1999 was estimated at 22% of the workforce of five million. World Bank figures show that at least 13% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Basic services such as running water and electricity are unavailable in many rural areas. Economic growth is more dependent on seasonal rains than industrial factors.

Unemployment is especially present among the youth, who make up about 45% of the population, especially in the growing slums of major cities.

The difficulties of change

A new five-year economic plan covering 2000-2004 aims to upgrade Morocco's infrastructure, boost the business environment and create new jobs, targeting real gross domestic product growth of 5% per year. The official estimate of the investment required for the five-year plan is more than US$50,000 million.

Expectations that economic growth should accompany political change are widespread, both within the kingdom and among international donors and potential investors.

Moroccan Muslims at prayer
A sea of faith
According to figures from the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, economic growth will fall to 3.3% in 2000, while inflation will remain modest.

Foreign analysts agree that the King has found it difficult to implement change in his first 12 months in office. A mid-year prediction, again from the Economist Intelligence Unit, says the government will probably introduce new laws to make elections more transparent and to guarantee freedom of expression.

Also on the cards is a cabinet reshuffle, intended to reduce the number of ministries and government departments.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

24 Jul 99 | Africa
Testing time for new king
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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