The Moorish Wanderer

Predictions for the 2016 Elections, Part.1

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.

3 Responses

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  1. ibnkafka (@ibnkafka) said, on November 5, 2012 at 18:04

    Small districts account for the relative fragmentation of Morocco’s party politics, although the 2011 elections reversed that trend – lesser parties and greater concentration of seats among the bigger ones. Wilaya-size districts would probably give the bigger parties a higher share of the seats, while a single national constituency, like in Israel or the Netherlands, would probably only leave five parties in parliament. There’s no prize for guessing why this is so: the makhzen prefers its parliament diluted and weak…

    Two remarks otherwise: USFP and Istiqlal had joint candidates in 93, not joint lists, as these were held under the then traditional first-past-the-post system. Second, what’s the margin below which you consider a seat to be marginal?

    • Zouhair Baghough said, on November 5, 2012 at 19:21


      Thanks for you comment. There is no doubt small districts, and most importantly uneven distribution of votes/seats for each district account for political fragmentation.

      As for parliament and Makhzen sights, it goes without saying the legislative branch of government has been disparaged more than often.

      1993, FPTP indeed, and so joint candidates and not lists. I stand corrected.

      The marginal is the last seat filled by a party. For instance, Meknes is a marginal for MP because they got just enough votes to get through the electoral coefficient. I am planning to post on a probabilistic approach to the table on this post.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the blog 🙂

  2. marokino said, on November 5, 2012 at 21:06

    comme c’esrt charmant de voir deux intellectuels marocains disccuter en anglais des élections qui auront lieu dans le plus beau du monde dans quatre ans! Et surtout de faire des prévisions!

    Mais, mes amis, les oualed blad se foutent complètement des paertis, des idéologies, de la proportionnelle comme du sufrage universel.

    Ce qui les intéresse c’est de vivre au jour le jour, c’est de profiter de moment présent, de l’occasion qui se présente!

    Toute votre littérature reste de la littérature pour les étrangers : vous leur devez bien cela, is’n it?

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