Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.2
Why is it no political party can “rule” by itself? In other terms, how come we always need a coalition (sometimes very heterogeneous) to form a government, even with the Alternance Consensuelle?
To begin with, this has marginally little to do with the number of political parties, in fact, a “weak coalition” setting is multifarious, as it ranges from political gerrymandering to ballot system, from weak root activism to the existence of powerful local notabilities, “Moul Chkaras”. And when the administration meddles with elections for some 30 years, nasty tactics do not disappear by themselves.
Gerrymandering: Opposition parties have always denounced constituency boundaries because many of those reduce their chances to carry seats. The most recent example is the 2007 Elections, where PJD caucus carried 500,000 votes, some 100,000 more than Istiqlal, but the latter has got 46 seats, some 6 more than PJD. Now, this can mean two things: PJD-led districts have delivered higher majorities, or constituencies where PJD was neck-and-neck with competitors (most famously, the Prime Minister’s district, Larache) boundaries over such and such borough in such and such city can be a deciding factor, since most PJD seats represent urban districts.
Gerrymandering, as denounced by many opposition parties over the years, is not the only factor preventing those political organizations -past and present- from what they have considered their right to move into office; indeed, politics of elections in Morocco is hardly a zero-sum game, even though political parties are convinced it is so. While it is true some districts have been allotted with fewer openings for seats, the administrative boundaries do encompass these districts, and administrative provinces have been designed with some other considerations in mind, considerations that rise above petty short-term politics. Security issues, and the need to control rural populations have been more urgent and important to that effect. The traditional dividing line between Useful Morocco vs Useless Morocco was not born out of constituencies’ boundaries.
A straightforward illustration of discrepancies between popular votes and caucus size is to compute the number of constituents per carried seats: the lower the ratio, the more favoured a political party was, relative to the carried constituencies: assuming two parties got similar number of votes, one will carry more seats than the other, because the former has a lower electability ratio than the latter.
Many of my off-line friends and acquaintances from Rabat or Casablanca showed a great deal of sympathy towards PSU, and would my party have chosen to contest these elections, their votes would have been cast in favour of PSU or Left-Alliance candidates. It’s all very commendable and laudable (from my perspective anyway) but in these specific constituencies, it is very hard, almost impossible to carry more than one seat; first because competition is fierce among ideologically similar parties, the electability ratio is way higher than the national mean, and it requires a lot more than just a few dozen additional votes to make a difference. In that respect, the boycott option spared PSU-AGD candidates the painful and costly ordeal of campaigning in highly competitive districts.
In Casablanca, a candidate needs to gather around 63,000 votes to get elected. In Rabat city, the number goes as high as 57,000. This explains partly why many members of the Left-Alliance leaned in favour of boycotting; for it is a suicide mission to go campaign for votes in large cities; true, there are more seats out there to take (Casablanca and Rabat urban rings gather 48 seats) but it is a costly and hazardous endeavour not every candidate can undertake.