Wrap-up On Elections & Challenges Ahead
First off, allow me to address the delicate question of turnout, boycott and blank/invalidated ballots: the elections have been won with the voices of a minority of voters, and they themselves are not representative of all Moroccans eligible to vote but did not register (or where not) for elections.
Just a quick run-down on numbers: there are, according to HCP established figures, 32.2Mln Moroccans, among which 21.5Mln eligible voters. Only 13.6 of these have registered, and less than half (6.2Mln) bothered to turn up at polling stations. To make matters worse, some 20% of those made their choices in a very unorthodox manner, which leaves us with at most 5Mln of healthy ballots; In other terms, only 24% of adult Moroccans voted. Does this invalidate elections? Definitely no. It does not weaken PJD’s legitimacy, nor does it hurt the whole electoral process‘ credibility among international organizations and significant partners; if anything, a clear PJD victory only strengthens the narrative by which the official discourse goes: Morocco is a regional exception, and regulates its own upheavals better than its neighbours.
This could well be true, but when the most resolute Feb20 activists do not tire from pointing out that these elections “do not represent the Moroccan people”, they should be very cautious when they bring up numbers to buttress their claim : in absolute terms, nobody represents “the Moroccan people”, nor the Feb20 movement, nor the electoral process. As long as polls and other precise measurements to capture the mood of the nation are not there, it is wrong to state that any organization, PJD, Feb20 or otherwise can claim a mandate from the people. It so happens that in a large population that seem to display very little interest in politics, a subset has cast the ballot in favour of a party, and in a very clear manner.
Now, I believe in global change to the incumbent institutions towards a more democratic and open system; I also believe that systematically refusing whatever comes from these institutions runs the risk to alienate whatever sympathy left among the apolitical majority they would feel toward Feb20. The boycott option has not worked, on July 1st as well as on November 25th; An all out street showdown, if it is the movement’s real goal, is a losing strategy as far as I can tell. A press conference held today in Casablanca can illustrate my point; fellow Blogger and Feb20 advocate Larbi tweeted about it: The movement does not view itself as a political player with an agenda to bargain with (bargaining means eliciting a compromise or concession for the greater good):
#feb20 : “nous n’avons pas de dirigeants ni vocation a dialoguer avec le pouvoir. Le dialogue c’est répondre a nos revendications”
Bottom line: it does not matter whether PJD’s victory was carried with a minority of popular votes relative to the adult population, what does matter however, is that they displayed their actual strength, and it is quite significant, more significant than Feb20′s own -often gainsaid- get-out-to-protest turnout.
Where did PJD gain votes? Popular votes’ figures have not been released yet, but as the complete list of the future representatives has been published, the ballot system allows for a reliable estimation of popular vote per province.
Relative to 2007, PJD has performed extremely well, and could have gained a lot more seats with a stronger ballot system, e.g. ‘First Past the Post’. These results show that PJD was the first beneficiary of an increased house chamber from 325 to 395. The 60-seats on national ballots have usually a neutral effect on larger parties, but these constituencies allocated additional seats happened to be districts where PJD had either a strong incumbent there, or benefited from a surge in sympathetic votes.
Overall, PJD still lacks the main prerequisite to pose as a “national party”, meaning, with nationwide constituency; true, PJD has expanded its support beyond their 2002 and 2007 strongholds, but rural constituencies are still a tough nut to crack. This however, did not prevent them to carry some tough districts in Casablanca, Tangier and Rabat to name but a few. If PJD manages to pull off a significant agrarian reform, they could well try and perform and even bigger upset by carrying in 2016 a province like Rhamna-Sraghna, Safi or other rural hinterlands.
This leads us to the next two points I wanted to discuss: the challenges laying ahead of the maiden PJD government, and those specific to the Moroccan liberal and left-leaning radical groups. Some have engaged in grown-up politics, others are still entrenched in partisan squabbling and obsolete schemes.
PJD will have to deal with a tough opposition, so as many observers have noted, outside and inside parliament (regardless of their next coalition partners, PAM will be screaming for PJD ministers’ blood during question time) but I see the real challenge elsewhere; “It the Economy, Stupid” all over again: PJD’s message before, during and after the campaign is loud and clear: rooting out corruption will bring prosperity to everyone.
To that effect, their manifesto provided for generous spendings, and a 40% increase in GNI per capita over the next 5 years. The economic message is very important, not because of the author’s interest in the subject, but because the unlikely coalition that brought PJD to power is a motley of interests that unify in only one subject: the economy – how to improve standards of living and bridge income and wealth gap.
PJD has started on the wrong footing: yesterday, PJD representative and heavyweight Najib Boulif (typed off as likely government minister) has clearly stated in a Radio show on Atlantic Radio that the next government might not after all manage to perform the 7% GDP growth, at least not before 2015. This is bad news for the 40% GNI increase, because they now need a lot more than 7% to do so. We shall wait and see what PJD will do on Fiscal policy, whether they will go for economic efficiency, and not succumb to ideological exaction. I am also interested to hear how they will conciliate their pledge not to go beyond a 3% GDP deficit with their liberal-leaning expansion programs.
For those of you still interested in what’s Left (there goes a cheap pun) of the Moroccan liberal/radical current, I have been reviewing PSU’s platform for their next convention (to be held mid-December) and I have to confess my increasing upset at the language and the contents of what should be the party’s ideological line for the next 4 years. A mixture of renewed juvenile idealism, the fear of being outflanked on the left, and a desperate attempt to cling on the movement as a surrogate to what is perceived to be a mass social uprising have led to the release of a bizarre manifesto I absolutely feel will alienate a lot of moderates leaning towards PSU. I do not claim the party’s representative of liberal voices, but I find it quite disturbing parallel drawn between PSU’s increasing political “looneyness” and USFP’s shameless strategy to remain in government as long as possible.
Both will receive retribution for their decisions: the former for the surge in excessive idealism, and latter for squandering what is left of political credibility. The election results and the movement’s entrenched and defiant posture will spell doom upon what is left of Moroccan liberalism, I fear.
This should be my last post on Moroccan elections – I shall now return to my favourite subjects, thank you for your time. In the meantime: