“Marginals” and “Safes” – Post Game Analysis
This is not about the election itself, but rather how each caucus holds on to their seats, and more importantly, how strong is the PJD conference. I suggest that their now nationwide appeal is not as strong as it seems, and though they remain by and large the leading political party in parliament, many of their seats are ‘marginals’ and could be turned by PJD’s competitors in 2016 – if they do not perform well. Trouble is, they perform far far better than their competitors; so their apparent weaknesses are of no immediate worry to them.
But PJD’s seats are not the only marginals around: other parties have had a hard time snatching their owns, and in the end, every mainstream party (that ranges from PJD to PPS) have some relatively safe seats, and others their representatives must work hard to retain their constituencies. The very existence of PJD marginals, in my opinion, shows that these elections have been, on the whole pretty open, transparent and ‘clean’: under different circumstances, gerrymandering and other nasty ballot-stuffing manoeuvres (from pro-regime candidates, for instance) would have deprived PJD from a dozen seats we shall have a look at later on. I may be at odds with many who disparaged these elections as non-representative and organized within an undemocratic constitution, but I feel the topic at hand is a very good start of mainstream parliamentary democracies: where are the strengths and weakness of various political forces, and how much does it take to unseat them, as part of the dynamic, democratic renewal of governments.
First off, the present ballot system still handicaps rising challengers; it was, it seems, the only viable compromise between a homogeneous parliament house with large party caucuses, and the possibility for smaller parties with regional appeal to gain representation. We cannot also rule out the need for the Interior Ministry to maintain their grip on various constituencies, and thus predict (if not force some of them) results fitting their own agenda. Once data relative to each seat’s votes are released, we can even dive into interesting simulation of other ballot systems; yes, PJD could significantly improve or downgrade their performance, depending on the selected ballot system; Is there an ideal system that would promote democracy and government accountability? Political scientists tend to think not. But nonetheless, public debate and collective involvement with the decision-making process can insure the selected ballot system would fit the citizen’s needs.
But let us consider the existing ballot used in Morocco – it is proportional with a 6% threshold, and is defined by the Interior Ministry as follows:
Le scrutin a lieu à la représentation proportionnelle suivant la règle du plus fort reste sans panachage ni vote préférentiel.
Toutefois, en cas d’élection partielle, celle-ci a lieu au scrutin universel à la majorité relative à un tour lorsqu’il s’agit d’élire un seul membre.
computed as follows: There are 3 seats in a particular district, and 5 parties are competing for these; they have carried the following votes:
Party A: ……………………….3.000
Party B: ……………………….2.400
Party C: ……………………….1.400
Party D: ………………………….500
Party E: ………………………….120
The electoral coefficient is thus: (3.000+2.400+1.400+500+120)/3=2.473
Party A gets the first seat, and retains 3.000-2.473= 527 votes.
Party B gets the second seat, and retains 2.400-2.473 = 73 votes.
Party A carries the third seat because its residual votes outmatch Party C’s 500 votes (by 27); the district allocates therefore two seats to A and one to B. If Party C had managed to get a dozen more votes, it could have well carried that last seat – their own, marginal seat so to speak.
What’s a marginal in Moroccan parliamentary politics? Let us consider the example of a large district – i.e. with many opened slots for candidates: the newly unified Meknes district has 6 seats, and these have been filled as shown on the picture.
Now, following the existing ballot system, PJD has most votes, but not enough to capture all available slots, though enough to gain 2 out of 6, a rather strong showing considering how large the district is, and the stiff competition around it (there were 150 candidates competing for 25 parties) MP, on the other hand, has barely got enough votes (just above the electoral coefficient computed to get a shot) Representative Abdelkrim Labrigui (MP – Meknès) holds therefore a marginal seat – the likelihood of losing his seat next election is contingent on a small number of votes; by contrast, outgoing finance minister and maiden representative, Salaheddine Mezouar, has managed to scrap enough votes to elect himself, and it will take more votes to unseat him; the same can be said of Representative Abdellah Bouanou, whose votes have been large enough to get him and his n°2 elected; in that respect, Bouanou holds a relatively ‘safe’ seat – relative to what PJD managed to carry in other constituencies, as we shall see later on.
Fortunately, there are other districts that can illustrate the concept of ‘safe seats’: basically, these are districts where one party has enough votes to carry their entire list on all opened slots, or a significant majority on these seats; PAM and PJD have their safe seats: PJD has carried all 3 seats allocated to Mohammedia and Sidi Bernoussi. In seven districts, PJD collected 2 seats out of three (in Casablanca, Tangier and Marrakesh)
PAM, on the other hand, has relatively weaker safe seats: 2 seats out of 3 in Rhamna (obviously) and the others are all two-seats openings (Bodjour, Jerada, Mdiq-Fnideq, Mediouna and Zag) and remains perhaps the only party with a regional stronghold. Istiqlal has Laayoune (2 out of 3) and that’s about it. USFP, RNI and MP do not get more than one seat per district, and more often than not, they do not get the n°1 seat.
PJD have their own, marginal seats as well: Chefchaouen, Kalaat Sraghna, Khemisset-Oulmes, Laayoune and Nouaceur representatives have had just enough votes to put them in the ballot and carry the last opened seat.
Speaking of marginals, there are three parties, whose caucus is made up of a significant number of highly-fought for seats on local ballot: Istiqlal has 16 marginals (out of its 47) USFP and PAM have each 11 marginals -out of respectively 30 and 35 seats. As far as USFP and Istiqlal are concerned, these are tale-telling sings of weak national parties, in a complete contrast with PJD’s vitality and aggressiveness.
But what would it be if Morocco had a different ballot system? What if we had First Past the Post for instance? This ballot system, used in the United Kingdom, allows for strong parliamentary majorities, but does not help smaller organizations and communities to carry their voice to parliament house. But nonetheless, let us consider the implications of such a system:
– There are 92 districts (divided into 305 seats) on local ballot; national ballot just mirrors the results to provide representation for women and the youth.
– A district is carried only by the leading party, regardless of how many seats it has carried
– We then replicate the percentages commensurate to the 305 opened seats
Results are astonishing: almost half of all 92 districts are led by PJD candidates (now Representatives) and other parties see their parliamentary caucuses go through some dramatic changes; for one, First Past The Post does not reward mediocrity: it is alright to get candidates elected on the second or third opened slot, but it is a bit worrying not to manage to get the lead seat.
These results, I hope will be further vindicated once detailed figures are released, but it is clear PJD is, by far, an underestimated winner. Other parties, if anything, barely held to their seats, and to the seemingly other winners, their marginals -the surest sign of weakening popularity- make up a worrying percentage of their caucus’ seats.