The Moorish Wanderer

The Electoral College in Morocco

Posted in Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on November 3, 2012

Yet another piece of evidence the electoral process in Morocco has been wickedly turned around to smother democracy with artificial multi-party system. Indeed, a recurrent theme in Morocco’s official ‘selling points’ during the Cold War was its supposedly open, multi-party political system. It even boasted it had a pro-communist party openly contesting elections (and ultimately electing its leader, Ali Yata in 1977)

… Au total, si la légalité du statut du PPS paraît aujourd’hui un acquis, on peut se demander quelle latitude d’action lui est finalement permise par le Pouvoir. Tout se passe comme si l’on acceptait bien sa faculté contributive au système institutionnel…(La Grande Encyclopédie du Maroc, Vol. Institutions, p.105)

“Moroccan Democracy” culminated with 26 parties contesting the 2002 elections, yet it has resulted in the largest vote dispersion ever since general elections were called in 1963. Broadly speaking, I use the present regional map to sketch a ‘winner takes all’ US-style elections on the basis of each region’s electoral votes – and the results are quite simply extraordinary. In fact, it enunciates a simple rule our politicians should abide by: it is easier to have stronger government (and opposition) parties with larger constituencies, and the fewer competing political parties, the better. Quite so: even the historically largest minor party (PPS) did not manage to carry at least one region since 1977.

Legend for the Slideshow below

In fact, the national minor party with an Electoral Vote system is Mouvement Populaire; and there is the threshold: Istiqlal, RNI, PJD, MP and USFP. All five carried at least one region three times in 1963-2011. It is no surprise these parties account for 75% of all local ballot seats. These are the accrued results of ballot system and large constituencies: the electoral college system in the United States uses First Past the Post (save for Nebraska and Maine) with the party candidate with a plurality of votes ends up carrying the district/constituency. It shows Morocco does not have that many ‘national’ parties, and that smaller parties do not necessarily contribute to representative democracy, other than taking away votes from larger parties – splitting the vote as it were.

Consider the publicized 2002 -and to a less extent, 2007- elections: even with the First Past the Post system, smaller parties, because they have more or less reliable local and/or regional bases, can field enough votes to get all available seats for a particular district. Yet local base does not mean regional outreach. In fact, the vote dispersion harmed larger parties, denying them 59 seats, enough to provide large majorities for the national parties, hence allowing one party to form a government alone (in 2007, PJD or Istiqlal. In 2011, PJD)

parties with wider and stronger regional outreach tend to perform better in the Electoral Vote: in 2002 and 2007 Istiqlal did not have that many seats under the regular FPTP, yet because their vote is widespread across regions, and because the FPTP recipient is not always the same across districts – while Istiqlal ranks a close second- they get to benefit from large constituencies – in this case, regions. More to come.

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