The Moorish Wanderer

Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.13

What would it take for a party (or more likely, for a coalition of parties) to win elections and form a government next November 25th?

This is the immediate post-elections worry: right after the polling stations are closed, when the electoral map shapes up, no matter what the turnout is, the process of forming the next government is boiling down to simple arithmetics on the number of seats. Because the Head of Government needs a vote of confidence, he’d better be sure he’d already secured the votes and the seats. It is as simple as it gets: there are 395 seats, and the next government needs to secure a 198 seats-strong super-caucus (a 197 seats in fact, considering the number of small parties in parliament). As for the ways and means to secure such a majority, the discrepancies in computing majorities on local and national ballots (NB) make it trickier.

The super-caucus has two (actually three, but the same computation applies to the Women’s and Youth’s ballot) classes of seats: locally-elected representatives, some 295 of them, and candidates on national ballots, 60 women and 30 young men. The national ballot results are to be computed following Art.85 of OB 27-11 organizing the House of Representatives: first, political parties failing to reach the 3% threshold of popular votes are eliminated (just like those local candidates with less than 6% votes, as per Art.84’s provisions) and the number of seats allocated per remaining party in the same way candidates are elected on local ballots commensurately to a certain factor computed on the number of votes per seat. And so, parties with large caucuses (that is, a caucus of 30 representatives and more) are more likely to trust the national ballot seats. But the next leading party needs to have some strong allies too. Why so? First because no political party in Morocco can seriously claim to carry an absolute majority of seats. And second, a coalition of strong parties has a better chance at capturing a large caucus on the national ballot. By contrast, a coalition with one strong senior partner and smaller parties, while it can claim some percentage on the NB slots, will be handicapped on its overall majority.

Nonetheless, the A8 “Alliance of Democracy” might well prove to be a smart combination of small and large parties: the juniors partners have only slim possibilities to go beyond the 6% threshold nationwide, and thus would not, in theory, capture collectively more than a dozen seats and no slot on NB. Their mission, in short, is to make up for the shortfall if the larger partners fail to deliver, but only just. the big quarter, RNI-PAM-MP-UC has to claim a large but specific chunk of seats because of the double constraint on their coalition strategy: as de jure Leader of the Coalition, RNI needs a strong showing as first party in terms of votes, a tough challenge, considering PJD, Istiqlal and USFP will not go down without a fierce fight.

By playing their cards right, the A8 coalition might well win the election with less than 153 seats on local ballot but more than 45 seats on national ballot, so as to reach the magic number of 198 easily, and if the quarter falls short of overall majority by a seat or two, the small parties gravitating around can make it up.

And so the assumption goes as follows: PJD can carry as much as 60 seats on local ballots -which is not out of the realm of possibilities. RNI needs to beat that number, say by carrying 65 seats. Because the assumption goes with RNI and PJD as the two leading parties, they will each get around 18 seats on national ballot; by setting the strongest terms as such, they will also condition the number of national ballot seats for other parties. A further assumption sets PPS as the party with the smallest caucus on these slots -which was the case for 2002 and 2007- as well as allowing for some estimations on what is the number of seats PAM, MP and UC need to carry so as to maximize both their overall caucus and their standing on NB.

Projection for an equilibrium case - A8 coalition vs PJD, Koutla and other parties.

The set of assumption goes on, with UC as the ‘weakest link’ of the quarter, and finally MP and PAM measuring up to Istiqlal and USFP (that is, carrying roughly the same number of seats, with a slight advantage to the Administrative Parties in terms of local caucuses- the NB seats will not vary much in this case). And so the result goes as follows: for UC with locally-elected 20 representatives-strong caucus (plus 6 on national ballot) marks the lower boundary for A8 (and PPS with a couple of seats less, the boundary for the present Koutla)

The graph shows an absolute majority for A8 coalition, but that was only possible for each quarter member strong enough to place a percentage close to RNI and PJD results. And that is the key for a winning coalition; a mixture of strong parties to shore up seats from NB slots, and smaller parties to make up the shortfall because the slots do not account for coalitions but only individual parties.

 I am aware these assumptions are too restrictive (meaning they might not apply at all) and rely too much on an over-rationalization of Moroccan politics. But so far, and save perhaps for some rumours and noises on possible defections and turnabout, it seems there is a clear intent, from the A8 coalition’s side, in sticking it to PJD and promote RNI as ‘The First Party’. In what terms, and how would that apply is left to question.

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