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ISTIQLAL. The leading Moroccan nationalist party in the period 1943-1962, the Istiqlal (Hizb al-Istiqlal, “Independence party”) was founded in December 1943 by Ahmad Balafrej and a group of younger Moroccan nationalists drawn from the urban bourgeoisie of Fez, Rabat, Tangier, and Tetouan. Together with King Muhammad V, Istiqlal played a major role in bringing about the end of the French and Spanish protectorates in March 1956.

From the outset, the movement drew both on currents of Islamic reformism (Salafiyah) and political organization and on the emerging younger generation of French-educated elites. Salafiyah-influenced young leaders, such as Muhammad `Allal al-Fasi, joined forces with more secular individuals, such as Ahmad Balafrej and Makki Nasiri. Politically, Istiglal was the successor of the Kutlah al-`Amal al-Watani (National Action Bloc), which had been established in 1932. The Kutlah was an elite-based nationalist organization that drew its supporters chiefly from the urban bourgeoisie of northern Moroccan cities. Many of the leaders of the Kutlah, among them Muhammad Hasan al-Wazzani, Ahmad Balafrej, Makki al-Nasiri, and `Allal al-Fasi, later went on to play important roles in the nationalist movement in the 1940s. In 1934, the group issued a Plan of Reforms that criticized the French protectorate government and demanded far-reaching reforms. A major weakness of the Kutlah and other early nationalist groups is that they were primarily based among the elites and not mass based. By 1937, when French authorities banned it and jailed or exiled most of the leadership, members numbered only around 6,500.

After 1946, an alliance with the Moroccan king, Muhammad V, permitted Istiqlal to extend its influence rapidly among peasants and workers. In the ensuing years, the Istiqlal party successfully developed into a

mass-based nationalist organization, playing a particularly crucial role in the independence movement in the period following the French deposition and exile of Muhammad V in August 1953. However, its lack of support in the countryside and the emergence of guerrilla groups outside its control marked the limits of its effectiveness. The return of Muhammad V from exile in November 1955, and the subsequent independence of Morocco in March 1956, inaugurated a new phase in the party’s political role.

Following Moroccan independence, Istiqlal became the largest political party in the Moroccan majlis (national assembly). Divergent interests and personal rivalries gradually undermined its alliance with the crown, however. When Muhammad V encouraged the emergence of political parties favoring his policies, Istiqlal gradually moved into opposition. At the same time, younger and more militant elements in the Istiqlal party led by Mehdi Ben Barka (al-Mehdi Ibn Barakah) split off and formed a new party, the National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP). Following the death of Muhammad V in February 1961, Crown Prince Hasan ascended to the throne. The adoption of a Moroccan constitution in 1962 transformed the political arena. Since 1956, periods of representative government have alternated with periods of direct rule by the crown. Throughout, the king has continued successfully to pose as political arbiter. Istiqlal was an important participant in several Moroccan governments. By the 19gos, no longer the dynamic force it once was, Istiqlal has declined in political influence, although it continues to have a constituency among urban voters.

[See also Morocco and the biography of Fasi. ]


Abun-Nasr, Jamil M. “The Salafiyya Movement in Morocco: The Religious Bases of the Moroccan Nationalist Movement.” In Social Change: The Colonial Situation, edited by Immanuel Wallerstein, PP. 489-502. New York, 1966.

Ashford, Douglas E. Political Change in Morocco. Princeton, 1961. Bernand, Stephane. The Franco-Moroccan Conflict, 1943-1956. New Haven, 1968.

Fasi, `Allal al-. Al-Harakat al-istiglaliyah fi al-Maghrib al-`Araai. Cairo, 1948. Translated by Hazem Zaki Nuseibeh as Independence Movements of Arab North Africa. Washington, D.C., 1954.

Halstead, John B. Rebirth of a Nation: The Origins and Rise of Moroccan Nationalism, 1912-1944. Cambridge, 1967.

Rezette, Robert. Les partis politiques marocaines. Paris, 1955.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/istiqlal/

  • writerPosted On: July 4, 2014
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