The Moorish Wanderer

Une Théorie du Jeu des Coalitions

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair Baghough on October 20, 2013

Maintenant que la nouvelle coalition gouvernementale est en place, je me dois d’expliquer l’inadéquation d’un pronostic présenté dans un post précédent sur la non-crédibilité du retrait de l’Istiqlal de la coalition post-Novembre 2011. L’argument s’articulait sur un arbitrage portefeuilles ministériels et majorité parlementaire, qui a été invalidé précisément par la distribution des maroquins dans le gouvernement Benkirane II. D’autres hypothèses attachées à la formulation de la théorie (un jeu en une seule période plutôt qu’à coups successifs) se sont aussi avérées défectueuses.

Malgré tout je persiste à soutenir que les interactions du champ politique marocain se prêtent très bien à une modélisation faisant intervenir des mécanismes de comportements rationnels, même si la réalité ne semble pas à priori, exhiber une logique rationnelle dans les comportements de nos politiciens. Ce décalage est à mettre au compte du jeu politique lui-même, sans pour autant remettre en cause l’application systématique de ces principes décrits plus hauts.

Il est toujours intéressant d’observer quelques données empiriques issues des diverses élections législatives tenues depuis 1963: après tout, l’expérience des coalitions gouvernementales précédentes contient suffisamment d’informations quant aux habitudes de négociation des politiciens dans la formation de la majorité, et ce abstraction faite des limitations de la campagne électorale ou de la validité des résultats eux-mêmes; On peut convenablement considérer les tailles des différents groupes parlementaires ex nihilo pour la principale raison que le gouvernement doit se mettre à l’abri de motions de censure, ou encore de votes adverses sur des projets vitaux (comme la Loi de Finances).

Une brève estimation du lien entre majorité gouvernementale et divers facteurs, comme le nombre de membres de la coalition, l’identité partisane du Premier Ministre (ou Chef du Gouvernement) l’identité partisane du Parti leader dans la coalition majoritaire, et enfin le nombre de partis représentés dans l’hémicycle.

Le cas simple d'une représentation bipartite illustre l'effet disproportionné d'un éclatement de la représentation en parlement

Le cas simple d’une représentation bipartite illustre l’effet disproportionné d’un éclatement de la représentation en parlement. La Balkanisation oblige la coalition majoritaire à être plus large, et inévitablement hétéroclite.

Le lien entre la majorité parlementaire et le nombre de partis représentés est suffisamment fort pour donner une justification quantitative à un lieu commun: un parlement éclaté (balkanisé) handicape sévèrement la formation d’une coalition majoritaire. Chaque parti représenté par un seul député est capable de forcer la coalition majoritaire à chercher 4% supplémentaires de sièges. Pour avoir une idée du pouvoir de nuisance qu’exerce une représentation balkanisée au Parlement, un député sur 395 (ou un parti représenté par un seul député) peut forcer la coalition gouvernementale à chercher 16 députés d’un seul groupe (ou d’un seul parti)

De plus, l’identité partisane du chef de la coalition semble avoir un effet significatif sur la composition de la majorité gouvernementale: les partis de la Koutla (USFP et PI) ont plus de difficultés à composer leurs coalitions respectives que les non-Koutla (RNI, UC ou PJD) une probabilité 10% plus élevée à former une large coalition. Différentes raisons expliquent cet écart, mais il est intéressant de noter que si l’on considère les prochaines législatives de 2016 comme une compétition PI/PJD, ce dernier a un avantage additionnel à former plus facilement une coalition majoritaire. Koutla_NoKoutlaOn observe aussi que l’arrivée des partis de la Koutla à la position principale de chef de coalition coïncide avec la multiplication des partis représentés au Parlement, un résultat confirmé par la différence majorité en absolue (abstraction faite de la taille des parlements issues des différentes élections considérées) une moyenne de 13 sièges lorsque l’Istiqlal ou l’USFP étaient chefs de coalition gouvernementale, 50 sièges en moyenne pour les autres partis (FDIC, RNI, UC, PJD) ou lorsque le gouvernement est dirigé par une personnalité apartisane. Il est à noter que l’étiquette partisane du Chef du Gouvernement (ou Premier Ministre) compte peu dans la taille de la coalition gouvernementale, ce qui implique que les interactions de formation de coalitions majoritaires sont principalement liées au degré d’éclatement des groupes parlementaires.

Les résultats décrits suggèrent donc une contrainte supplémentaire pour le parti-leader à former sa coalition, en l’occurrence le nombre de partis représentés au parlement. Dans le cas du PJD, il s’agit de trouver la plus petite combinaison de partis alliés pour obtenir 198 sièges. Paradoxalement, il est plus difficile de réunir cette coalition lorsque le nombre de partis au Parlement est très large; cela explique les difficultés successives de M. Youssoufi en 2002 (et l’échec à former une coalition sous le leadership de l’USFP) ou M. El Fassi en 2007. La première erreur était de sous-estimer l’effet disproportionné qu’exercent les petits partis sur les chances de création d’une majorité stable: si ceux-ci ont peu de chance de faire partie de la coalition elle-même, leur existence affaiblit les plus larges partis dans la taille de leurs groupes respectifs,

Dans l’absolu, trois partis sont suffisants pour réaliser une coalition majoritaire: PJD, Istiqlal et RNI. Or cette coalition est instable car le PJD a une incitation à chercher à diluer la force de ses alliés en proposant à des groupes parlementaires moins importants de les remplacer – de même, les alliés les plus importants dans le coalition gouvernementale peuvent créer des difficultés en faisant un chantage (dont les retombées sont difficiles pour ma part à inclure dans la formalisation proposée)

Chaque coalition formée débouche sur des incitations pour les "nouveaux" alliés (et le chef de coalition) à chercher à la déstabiliser

Chaque coalition formée débouche sur des incitations pour les “nouveaux” alliés (et le chef de coalition) à chercher à la déstabiliser

Comme on peut le voir sur le schéma ci-dessus, la seule solution viable pour le PJD à former une coalition dont il contrôlerait la stabilité est de paradoxalement la diluer en admettant un nombre plus élevé que nécessaire d’alliés, affaiblissant ainsi par l’occasion la viabilité du gouvernement. Le seul cas de figure où une coalition stable est viable serait lorsque le PJD (qui par les règles du jeu de coalition en fait forcément parti) a besoin d’autant de siège que le plus petit allié peut offrir: dans ce cas, c’est avoir 178 sièges pour les 20 du PPS.

Predictions for the 2016 Elections, Part.1

Posted in Dismal Economics, Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair Baghough on November 5, 2012

The proportional vote ballot with a minimum threshold adopted in Morocco has proven to be of weakening effect to representative democracy. Sure, it has allowed more parties to get on the game, and even get a seat or two, but it has definitely weakened government party coalitions, as these grew larger, more heterogeneous and political weaker, beholden to the non-elected part of Moroccan government. Consider the last 2011 elections: PJD came first with 1.08 Million votes with Istiqlal following behind with little less than half the votes – in fact, PJD needed an additional 268,700 votes to get an absolute majority, a 7.33% nationwide swing.

Istiqlal, on the other hand, needs an 18.9% swing to overtake PJD. Where did that figure come from? The proportional ballot system allocates different levels of majorities to each district. In 2011 for instance, the corresponding majority votes would have been 1.35 Million votes, or 28% of the popular vote (I have posted on the reasons behind discrepancies between absolute majorities, plurality and parliamentary seats’ majorities)

The operating principle behind the politics of government coalition is simple enough: since no political party can form a government on their own, they need to build a coalition. In fact, it does not have to be the party with a plurality of votes, as long as the ‘majority swing‘ i.e. the percentage of popular votes needed to attain absolute majority, is significantly low. In 1997, the 40,000 votes difference between USFP and Istiqlal could have put either in charge of the Alternance government (Istiqlal leaders did protest as they felt they had a slight advantage in the popular vote) because these votes made up only .68% of the electoral turnout.

The same goes for 2002, while USFP was again ahead in the returns, the differences with the second ranking party – Istiqlal – were statistically insignificant (less than 2% of the votes) and there was good chance either M. Abderrahmane Youssoufi or M. Abbas El Fassi could have led the 2002 government. History of course shows it was otherwise, the internal squabbles in the Koutla prompted the King to dismiss both and instead appoint non-partisan M. Driss Jettou. In 2007, the re-match was between PJD and Istiqlal, with an even lower margin of .15%, so in truth, the 2007 Abbas El Fassi government could have been the Saad Ed-Dine Othamni government.

2011 shook-up the ambiant 1997 consensus because it was the first time since 1984 one party managed to carry more than one million vote (in 1993, USFP and Istqlal contested elections on joint lists, carrying 1.5 Million votes) and at the same time minimize the majority swing, from 15.72% in 1984 for Union Constitutionnelle, to 7.33% for PJD.

The table reads: “PAM can lose 5 seats to MP” and “MP loses no seat to MP”

This is precisely what is at stake: out of 305 seats on local ballot, 84 of these are marginals, i.e. due to the proportional ballot system, a member of parliament might lose his seat (yes, there is only 10.4% chance to get a female representative elected on local ballot) if only a couple of votes switch to the next party. Incidentally, the ‘real’ number of marginals should have been 92 (for 92 district) the last slot for each one being the ‘marginal’. This proves some parties (PJD, Istiqlal, PAM and RNI) tend to have strong constituencies, and that displacements are not as frequent as one might think they are. On the other hand, as shown on the table above, these displacements are not evenly spread – some marginals are more marginal than others, with various probabilities of vote swing.

Who Vote(d) Progressive in Morocco?

I have recently come across some detailed figures on this website, most importantly the complete set of results from the 2011 legislative elections per province, and I wonder how they got hold of these (apparently Attajdid newspaper published them in full)

the story behind those figures is damning to the left: they have lost their historical stronghold a long time ago, and I can recall one statistical evidence that provides a sad indictment to the sorry state of progressive politics in Morocco: in 2007, USFP candidates garnered 2301 votes in Aïn Chok. In 2011, they managed to pull 2304, even as turnout jumped from 22,125 to 41,195. There is a large probability the same people turned out to vote USFP, even as parties like PJD and MP doubled their respective votes from respectively 7,493 and 3,067 to 20,849 and 6,579. This is from a city where UNFP and the progressive parties before 1997 usually carried 37% of the votes, an average of 86,000 votes per election since 1963. In 2011, the total votes in Casablanca for all competing left-wing parties was around 29,500 (6.1% for the Casablanca metropolitan area) an abysmal performance matched only by the 1977 elections, when neither USFP, PPS or UNFP/UMT managed to carry a seat there.

Historically however, the total score of popular vote garnered by all progressive-affiliated political parties is very close to PJD’s feat: PJD carried 22.8% of the popular vote, some 1,080,914 votes, and all left-wing political parties carried on average 1,135,281 votes. It would be interesting to identify those areas that have voted (or still vote) progressive since 1963. Perhaps the evidence shown later would confirm the urgent need to unify all of these political parties into one big tent. The chief benefit of a broad coalition is electoral maths: one party, or at least one cohesive coalition means the perverse effect of the Moroccan ballot system would be alleviated somewhat: two competing left-wing candidates are cancelling each others out. In 2007, the vote was split evenly between USFP and the PSU-PADS-CNI alliance in Essaouira: though both got a seat each, their combined 17,540 votes (out of 66,740) could have most likely carried a third seat from the 4 slots. In 1997, the aggregate progressive vote in Marrakesh was second only to Istiqlal, leaving behind RNI (73,777) and MP (50,800) but because it was fragmented between USFP, PPS and OADP, their electoral performance didn’t amount to much.

There is one instance where electoral cooperation produced impressive results: in 1993, USFP and Istiqlal stood with joint candidates, a strategy that yielded Koutla‘s highest performance ever since it was first formed in 1970: 36.2% with scores as high as 79% in Mohammedia, Essaouira (61.26%) and Alhuceimas (58.1%) Casablanca and Rabat-Salé averaged 56% of popular votes.

Perhaps my definition of ‘progressive’ is too biased: after all, it fails to account for the extra-parliamentary opposition, all those political parties with definite views on the parliamentary system (including PSU since February 2011). But I guess the best analogy to describe the state of the Moroccan left is that of the informal sector: the activity is out there, but because it operates beyond the legal framework, the correct appraisal of the sector’s contribution to legal GDP becomes difficult, if not impossible to perform. Left-wing parties operating outside the mainstream political competition (the electoral process, so to speak) contribute to the Moroccan political life, but because they refuse to submit to the only viable performance indicator around, i.e. elections, they do not influence mainstream politics. Polling is not a thriving business in Morocco yet, so general elections since 1963 are so far the only correct indicator as to how popular progressive and liberal ideas are with the Moroccan electorate. Official figures, electoral official figures in particular are hotly gainsaid by many in the opposition, and in many instances, their accusations are founded. This is an inevitable caveat: to talk about Moroccan elections in a serious fashion is to use official figures, and these are not always accurate. Still, in the absence of an alternative, one has to make do.

the progressive vote “migrates” away from large metropolitan districts to smaller, more rural seats (even a couple in the Sahara) especially since 1993

UNFP/USFP, FFD, PPS, PSD, CNI, PT, PADS, OADP/GSU/PSU, PS, PGVM are all left-wing parties (with explicit references to values of socialism or progress in their respective denominations) with a history of electoral campaigning and for most of them, at least one gained seat since their foundation. Together, they have held between 19.6% and 22.5% of parliamentary seats and 22.8% of popular votes since 1963. Nonetheless, the geographical distribution of their parliamentary caucus has changed a lot over the years. True, the Casablanca-Rabat-Agadir formed much of the middle-class stronghold upon which parties like UNFP, then USFP built their political strength, but there are other places where support has been random: Alhuceimas is the best example of a “swing province”: in 1963, no vote were cast in favour of UNFP, even as USFP and PPS carried about 25% of the votes in 1977, and 22% of all the votes went progressive in 2007, only to swing dramatically to other allegiances in 2011, with only 11.8% of the votes going to USFP, PPS and other competing political parties.

The electoral map shows steady patterns in the progressive vote, both disturbing and hopeful: Casablanca, Mohammedia and Rabat are no longer leaning left, and Agadir itself is becoming less prone to give its votes to the USFP-PSU/PADS/CNI tandem. In fact, these traditional strongholds of middle-class, unionised public service workers have been crumbling since 1993, before the Alternance Consensuelle: the nationwide performance of left-wing Koutla (USFP, OADP, PPS, PSD) in 1997 was around 36.5% of popular vote, but the breakdown per metropolitan areas shows a steep decline, obviously offset by gains from new constituencies in the South and rural hinterlands: Abdelwahed Radi carried around 43,100 votes in his Kenitra constituency for instance. The disturbing part is that mainstream progressives (USFP, PPS and perhaps FFD before 2011) have seen their core parliamentary seats shift from Rabat (7 out of 8), Casablanca (14 out of 31) to other places (the South mainly) leaving the already ambitious MPCD-turned-PJD ample room to fill in the void (in 1997, MPCD already held 6 seats in metropolitan Casablanca). The depressing part is the seemingly delibrate strategy by all left-wing parties (including the Democratic Alliance, with a strong showing in the Ouad Dahab district in 2007) not to take the battle to their former urban stronghold: Casablanca, Rabat, even Agadir are now lost battle to the USFP as well as smaller parties, should PSU or PADS ever go back into parliamentary elections. The obvious advantages to such strategy are easy to enumerate: the required number of votes to carry a seat are much higher in Casablanca than they are in, say Beni Hssen, or Guelmim. There is a clear-cut trend for both the governmental and democratic left in shifting their core votes (and seats) from urban to peripheral-urban and rural seats: their share in parliamentary caucuses has been constant since 1993, which belies the fact that left-wingers are no longer effectively representing their cherished public, the urban middle and working classes: these have been lost around 1993 already.

In many instances, the fact that up to 5 competing left-wing candidates are fighting each other off over 3 slots makes it a pyrrhic victory to however emerges. Sidi Bennour is a great example of how a united left can prevail: in 2007, the Democratic Alliance (PSU/PADS/CNI) garnered 10,559 votes, about as much as USFP as one can see:

SIDI BENNOUR OULED FREJ (226,379 voters)
======================================================
Party                                Votes   %  Seats
------------------------------------------------------
Constitutional Union                 7,990  10.5    -
Independence Party                   9,737  12.8    1 
National-Democrat Party - Covenant  10,006  13.1    1 
National Rally of Independents       3,305  04.3    -
Party of Progress and Socialism      4,804  06.3    -
Popular Movement                     9,700  12.7    -
Socialist Party                      4,292  05.6    -
Socialist Union of Popular Forces   10,297  13.5    1 
Union PADS–CNI–PSU                  10,559  13.9    1 
Others                               5,534  07.3    -
------------------------------------------------------
Total                               76,224          4

and yet if both USFP and PSU/PADS/CNI managed to stand with one common list, they would have carried the third seat away from Istiqlal. Another interesting feature of the Sidi Bennour district is the turnout, down 10,670 from 2007 (76,224) to 2011 (65,554). Boycott, in that particular case showed clearly as those  AGD voters preferred not to go to the polling stations. There are 4 seats opened for the left down there simply because they can mobilise around 20,000 voters out of a 193,000. Obviously, they do not have the Rhamna juggernaut at their disposal: in 2007, the so-called independents under Fouad Ali Himma’s leadership carried all 3 seats for the Rhamna district with a whooping majority of 41,265 to a total number of voters around 56,755, a super-majority of 35,187.

regional contribution to historical average: populous regions still contribute more

I mentioned earlier that the historical trend in voting pattern bore depressing features. There are however signs of potential comeback: first, the aggregate vote in urban rings shows as a strong second or third. There is great potential however in smaller cities: Essaouira, Sidi Bennour of course, and other districts usually concentrated in Marrakech-Tensift-Haouz and Souss-Massa. The aggregate vote shows more than often potentially an additional seat should all progressive candidates stood on coalition platforms. In parliamentary arithmetics, that translates into a dozen additional seats from marginals (including PJD’s) and around 5 more with the national ballot automatic transmission effect.

A Koutla of the left can be achieved, and from what I have seen since 1997, there are around 30 districts (meaning, around 45 seats) where at least one party does not carry enough votes to cross the legal threshold for campaign reimbursement. A rational strategy would be to strike a deal in coordinating their choice of candidates, if indeed these parties cannot agree on a ready-made coalition platform.

But then again, as long as the old rivalries persist among all components of the Moroccan left, there is little hope a strong progressive parliamentary party will emerge and present itself as a viable alternative to the Makhzen as well as the PJD.

Building a New Progressive Coalition – Looking for New Partners

Koutla, Middle Class civil servant, Unions and radical activists. Give or take, this is the progressive coalition since 1956: contentious, heterogeneous, ready to sell out to seemingly ideological adversaries, and yet much keen to take to the high ground whenever the opportunity arises – USFP’s latest turncoat in opposition is a sight to see. These are just crude generalizations, though I can also provide specific instances of what seems to be an unstable coalition: the first cracks showed with the 1997 Alternance. And quite so, each partner had a divergent agenda, and what is more, there is a constant inner struggle between political organizations to take control of each others; energy initially thought to be devoted to further the ideal of progress was instead diverted into petty politics.

The Core Progressive coalition: Unions, Radicals, former Resistants and new Socialists

The first progressive coalition to emerge in post-1956 Moroccan election was the UNFP-UMT-ALM triumvirate: one political party, one party and one liberation armed organization. But it quickly turned out into a UNFP-UMT Doppleadler with little success to take over power by peaceful -nut not necessarily democratic- means: elections were rigged, and chances of a successful general strikes were stifled by regime oppression or union officials equivocations about their role as defenders of the “Masses”. What follows delivered serious blows to that coalition: student activists split from left-leaning parties, moderate elements from the same parties distanced themselves:  23 Mars and Ilal Amam in the early 1970s, USFP in 1972-1975 and CDT Union in 1978 are all striking evidences of that inherently fragile coalition for progressive values.

History still leaves its fingerprints over the sorry state of progressive thinking in Morocco: sorry because two large, governmental left-leaning parties have long lost been discredited, and the host of smaller left-leaning parties have been blinded by -or made themselves blind with- Feb20 glitter of rejuvenation. Although I should mitigate this by stating the pre-2011 balance of power: the 2007 Elections have seen all left-leaning political parties garner 67 seats -on par with the RNI-UC alliance, and 21 more seats compared to the PJD caucus. In fact, the Moroccan left could have carried a lot more seats (about 120) has it decided to run unique candidates to stand for parliament, and carried some 1,232,024 votes back then – some 23.66% of all electoral votes.

How about the middle class civil servants? they made up until recently (say 2002) a sizeable chunk of the progressive coalition electorate; not out of love for progressive ideals, but perhaps because the liberal discourse in Morocco emphasised for a long time the need for fairness, the left has been advertising itself as a defender of the underdog; needless to say the underdog/populist discourse was echoed by union bosses as well: Noubir Amaoui CDT (former?) boss, a former schoolteacher, managed through populist and strong-worded speeches to make many Moroccan civil servants to identify with him. Paradoxically, that progressive coalition went even more fragile with the mid-late 1970s when the more moderate elements (USFP and later on OADP with the early 1980s) ditched their hard-liners, and accepted to go alone with the conservative elements; the Koutla from 1970 to the early 1990, formed on the premise of a ‘reasoned’ alliance to prepare for a peaceful alternative, traded ideological coherence for murky common historic struggles. The progressive coalition nowadays relies heavily on the new breed of activists, very much into Human Rights and specific causes; it tends to hurt more than anything else the coalition itself, because it inevitably falls into parochial interests: for sure, a small-coalition interest can do with specific issues, but this is a coalition with a self-allocated task of bringing people together, or indeed to be as inclusive as possible; needless to say, narrow -sometimes obtuse- dadas tend to alienate a lot of potential supporters of the progressive coalition.

The first example to come to mind is this strange union fetishism: every left-wing party, from USFP to Annahj, tends to try very hard to take over a specific union to make it its own . This may be so because of an inherited -but no longer true- perception of unions’ political strength. This might also explain why USFP for instance never bothered to put forward a much needed Strikes and Industrial Relations bill in parliament when in office for the last 14 years to fill in a void ongoing since 1962.

Human Rights issues were a good bet in 1979, when AMDH was founded, perhaps well into the early 2000s, too. But an HR obsession could -if it has not already- damage political activism in 2012. There is nothing wrong to stand for Human Rights, in fact, it is a noble pursuit that honours those who care for it. But there is a danger of depriving the mainstream discourse, more specifically the liberal and progressive discourse from any other topic worthy of public debate, thus permanently labelling every left-winger in Morocco as a potential “Looney HR”. It also induces the coalition to go into all-out opposition to the regime, because Human Rights violations occur inevitably (and more often that possible bearable). These abuses must be publicized and their perpetrators held accountable, no doubt about it, but by doing so systematically, the most committed members of that coalition fall into some kind of miserabilisme and tend to get blind-sided too: who cares about private monopolies cashing-in juicy profits when one (second-rate) pro Feb20 rapper is imprisoned?

All-out opposition is also a killer, within as well as outside institutions: USFP -and to some extent, CDT and UMT- are represented in parliament, and recent news indicate the opposition caucus will be bitching a lot. As for extra-parliamentary opposition, and for all the talk about democracy and power to the people, their activism tends to side with the more obvious victims/dissidents: a rapper, a world champion boxer, the unemployed graduates, all of which drives the left-leaning pro-democracy platform into supporting narrow interest at the expenses of a wider, more comprehensive reform agenda.

82 seats - for old times' sake.

I would argue the progressive coalition has a huge potential in claiming back popular mandate: while it is true voters can be very shifty in their voting patterns, it is always possible to assume they would go back and vote for a particular candidate given some prerequisite indicators of good faith.

Rabat, Casablanca, Tangiers and Agadir urban rings, long held by left-leaning candidates, concentrate now about 5 Mln urban voters and carry some 47 seats. In addition, Benimellal, Khouribga, Kenitra, Taounate, Alhuceimas, Taza, Tetuan, Fez and even Guelmim, at one point or the other in history, have been either carried by a left-leaning party or the aggregate left-leaning votes have captured a sizeable majority. In terms of current electoral votes, that’s 82 seats, almost PJD’s strength by the 2011 elections. Demographics changed meanwhile, to be sure, but the progressive coalition ought to outperform PJD’s victory – especially since both share similar constituencies.

My point is, the coalition needs to be radically rebuilt and distance itself from the old “National Movement”: in with the fresh up-and-coming, out with the decrepit, and old. And that means specifically the Koutla has outlived its supposed term limit.

Most importantly, agree on a wider platform that transcends parochial interest, which makes it more urgent to widen the coalition to a new constituency.

The Case for Real Partisan Democracy

Posted in Moroccan Politics & Economics, Morocco, Polfiction, Read & Heard, The Open Society Project by Zouhair Baghough on January 13, 2012

… and ultimately result in a reduction of the number of parties around.

November 25th General Elections reversed a trend observed since 1997: smaller parties endorse strong candidates for a winning ballot, depriving larger, mainstream parties from bigger caucuses in parliament, and in the process preventing strong coalitions to emerge. The proportional ballot tends to harm larger parties in specific constituencies when a smaller party (usually a breakaway group) manages to capture some votes and thus deprive the bigger party from gaining more seats on district slots.

But during this election, from all 33 competing parties, 18 managed to gain at least one seat, and seven top caucuses concentrate 90.5% of all 305 seats available on local ballot. One of the top seven parties -USFP- concentrates about the same number of seats the remaining 11. Needless to say that this is an improvement from 2007, where the top 7 parties had concentrated only 78% of local ballot seats, while 17 parties (and not 11) shared the remaining 65 seats. By HHI measures, concentration increased from 0.09 to 0.15. In politics, a concentrated parliament delivers stronger -and more accountable- government majority.

One of the reasons why so many parties are around is perhaps the lack of internal democracy within political parties, including those belonging to the historical Koutla; The process described by Abdellah Hamoudi is indeed very current: the leadership, more of an aggregate of father-figures, if not outright proponents of gerontocracy, kick out (or are kicked out of) the younger dissent that challenge their leadership, and these in turns create another party that seeks to capture the disgruntled activists. Post-1956 political history is littered with instances: In 1959, Mehdi Benberka, Abderrahim Bouabid and Abdellah Ibrahim decided to breakaway from the more traditional leadership in the person of Allal El Fassi and Mohamed Boucetta, and go on to found UNFP; Mohand Laenser in 1986 kicks out MP’s elder leader Mahjoub Aherdane -who in turn creates his own MNP party.There are very few instances of political parties with proven record in partisan, internal democracy, and this opacity in selecting political elites has worked as a deterrent to prevent a lot of Moroccan citizens to be involved with politics.Many political scientists however see in Feb20 demonstrations a revival of youth politics, and would be inclined to foresee -and I tend to agree with this view- an imminent renewal in our political personnel.

There is also another institutional roadblock to the revival of “big party politics”: I argue that Koutla parties, weakened by an Alternance Consensuelle they failed to turn to their advantage, fell back on more traditional, Moul Chkara -local notabilities- ton insure their caucus does not wane. USFP and Istiqlal, both electoral juggernauts tend to draw their typical Political Bosses from rural, traditional constituencies, a trend more acutely observable since 1997, where their elected delegations from Casablanca, Rabat or Agadir steadily decreased to marginal results form November 2011. Weakness in internal democracy, once justified by the struggle Koutla parties had to leader against Makhzen-led rival parties (MP in 1957 as a strong rival to Istiqlal, RNI and UC to Istiqlal and USFP, and more currently PAM as an anti-PJD bulwark)

One would think that parties lacking both internal democracy and a reliable stock of local notabilities would eventually die away; UC, while being out of office at least since 1992, still hangs on and manages to produce a decent caucus with the 2011 elections. And yet, they look like a smaller version of RNI: both share a common history of ‘Born To Rule’ kind of party, and their faith in all-out free-market ideology is undoubted.

What I would like to discuss is a two-steps legislation I believe would change the political landscape in a very short period of time: political finances and multi-party membership. I’d better start with the former.

Multi-party membership

as it is now, the law forbids a citizen to accrue membership:

Article 26

Nul ne peut adhérer à plus d’un parti politique

It is very counter-intuitive. How come one individual could be involved with more than one party? And there goes the ‘Moroccan Exception’: Morocco has a multi-party system not out of an inherent and vibrant pro-democracy stance, but because a large number of political organizations weakens that very democracy – and at times, it was even a way for the Makhzen to extend its hold over political legitimacy.

But what if we consider some kind of formalized relationship between smaller and larger parties of similar political persuasions; a small party has little chances to go beyond a nationwide 6% of popular vote on general elections; they get a seat, or two, possible 5 at best, but not enough to gain some representation on the national ballot, and that hurts larger parties with whom they share similar constituencies. So a deal can be made to help both parties, especially if they share a common history and ideology: the smaller party can ask to join a large party of their choice during ordinary convention. And given the larger party’s acceptance, an ad hoc common convention at the end of which a common document is produced detailing the quotas devoted to the junior partner(s) in terms of platform contribution, leadership slots and even electoral agreements, e.g. what seats should be the partner’s and at what level.

What are the pay-offs for each party then? That’s a contract for sure, and it is best when self-enforced, meaning, that both co-contractors find their benefit in the deal. For junior parties, the benefits are immediate and obvious: niche constituencies at local level with little competition from stronger parties: local community board, perhaps even slots at the regional assemblies (we just have to wait for the Organic Bills that regulate Regional elections) the opportunity to weigh-in nation-wide on policy-making, and finally, better organization and finances.

"A personality problem" (Image: Aujourd'hui Le Maroc)

And if the junior party is happy with the alliance, they might want to merge altogether, no problem. Meanwhile, it is their own valuation for a seat in parliament that will condition the essential motive for the whole thing: do they really want to compete so badly, or are they ready to trade an improbable race for parliament for a surer victory at local level?

The senior party benefits from the ‘alliance’ during general elections: we consider some seats contested during the November 2011 ballot; In Rabat’s both districts, there were 137 competitors for 7 slots. In Casablanca, the same goes: 34 seats attracted 640 candidates. Tangiers, finally, attracted 110 candidates for 5 slots. Mohand Laenser, the Representative for Boulemane, could have carried his n°2 as well, if the MDS didn’t put a good fight in his constituency: the Haraki vote was therefore split, and Laenser’s majority weakened substantially. Larger constituencies typically tend to attract more candidates from all parties, but ironically enough, tend to harm more larger parties – in a sense, PJD’s victory was more out of their competitors’ weaknesses than some sort of popular mandate.

This convoluted argument for a multi party-membership is due to the equally convoluted state of politics, and that goes especially for the Left. The number of political parties with an explicit reference to the Left, Socialism or Progress is now 11 – joined lately, it seems, with the PAM. The same goes for ‘Conservative’ or ‘Rural’ parties. I mean, the sole existence of a dozen of parties -no doubt with such nuanced differences in ideology- only confirms the lack of internal democracy, or a mere issue of egos. The idea is to create some material incentives for smaller parties to come together with larger parties and at the same time spare their leadership some self-pride in the process.

Party Finances

Article 28

Les ressources financières du pari proviennent:

- des cotisations de ses membres;

- des dons, legs et libéralités, en numéraires ou en nature, sans que leur montant ou valeur global (sic) ne puisse dépasser 100,000 dirhams par an et par donateur;

- des revenus liés à ses activités sociales et culturelles;

- du soutien de l’Etat

The need to make sure politics stays clean of any dirty money is to get public finances to step in. Sadly enough, Morocco has an abysmal record on how the State managed money in the political process. Perhaps a shrewder move is to abolish public-funded schemes altogether. Large parties already enjoy big donations besides regular public money, and smaller organizations will eventually force themselves to put their act together once that lifeline is cut – some will have to merge with other parties, others will just disappear – there is no longer money for the smaller leadership to retain followers.

On the other hand, the 100,000 limit is absurd. It really is. La Vie Eco reportedly priced an electoral campaign to 1 Million dirhams. The spending limits on electoral campaign too are ludicrous – especially so when one considers that these limits are not indexed to inflation, these have been imposed by bureaucratic fiat.

Perhaps lawmakers were being protective of the right to constitute a political party by giving a ‘fair and equal chance’ and strict regulation. But the fact is, larger parties already enjoy a substantial advantage. Scrapping such legislation will harm no one, it will only recognize the fact that 100,000 dirhams are not enough to run a party. The same goes for limits on polling too, and both activities go hand in hand: it will take a lot of money to order polling, a business now intimately associated with modern politics.