The Moorish Wanderer

The Next USFP Premier

It lives! Driss Lachgar has been elected as USFP next boss. A great victory for Game Theory applied to Moroccan politics, and a great victory for the new political order in Morocco.

His moustache is not a new fashion, mind you.

I should perhaps begin by addressing some issues about the numbers: I am still not sure about the total number of party delegates (1,200? 2,000?) though I am enclined to think the total number of votes was close to 1,600 for both ballots. Other than that, my predictions were broadly vindicated: party delegates chose overwhelmingly parliamentary candidates, and the fact that Mr Oualalou failed to muster enough support to carry him through the second ballot translated automatically into a Lachgar coronation.

Furthermore, I suppose Mr Zaidi was hurt by Mr Malki’s candidacy: indeed, I have assumed delegates had some ranking of their choices, and they move to their second choice when their first did not make it through the first ballot. I have further assumed delegates supporting parliamentary candidates prefer would automatically prefer to vote for Mr Oualalou as a second choice, should he make it to the second ballot. It also appears Mr Lachgar was the main beneficiary of these second or third choices, respectively for Mr Oualalou and Mr Malki supporters.

And now to the political conclusions of tonight: This election, I would argue, signifies the end of intellectual politics in the Moroccan political discourse, and especially in a party that prides itself as a cornucopia of intellectuals and thinkers. And though Mr Lachgar is perhaps has a great deal of education (he is a Lawyer after all) he represents, with Messrs Chabat (PI) and Benkirane (PJD) the very idea of anti-intellectualism, and fully embodies populism as an efficient political strategy.

I also argue this is not as bad as it looks for Moroccan representative democracy: It would be foolish to expect our present political system to produce beacons of integrity, thoughtfulness, honesty and competence. On the other hand, the system rewards those with acute instincts for political survivals, and a large subset of the electoral has confirmed the trend. Now, three populist party bosses means Moroccan politics will be a lot livelier than the past decade, which is always good, and it also creates among the electorate, not a new hope, but some level of expectation. And this is the party where democracy, and ultimately citizens, get their rewards.

As I have mentioned before, these populist exhibit remarkable instincts for political survivals, and their rationality is not to be underestimated (whatever numerology mumbo-jumbo Mr Chabat fancies) they do know they cannot promise what they cannot deliver. They also know the limitations of their own political power; the rational course of action would be to look for professional advice, operatives and specialists to support them in their venture to revolutionise Moroccan politics. Indeed, let us not forget they are all in a quest against some corrupt establishment (though they deny charges of disestablishmentarianism)

Game Theory Rules! USFP First Ballot Results

My theory worked out just fine, up to a certain point indeed, but the broad conclusions have been vindicated by what appears to be the final dénouement of the USFP convention held during this week-end. I have just learnt the convention as 1,600 party delegates instead of 1,200 so this blurs some figures a bit, although the initial likelihoods remain untouched.

In fact, it would be the rational course of action for both candidates to issue a whip count and reach an agreement instead of going through the second ballot. The fog-of-war element might however prompt both candidates to proceed regardless. However, if indeed a show of unity (or some face-saving) is expected to be the party’s finishing touches to their convention, the rational course of action is to proceed with a whip count, then reach some agreement (with perhaps Mr Zaidi keeping his job as Caucus Leader)

According to this tweet

(confirmed by Les Echos Newspapers)

Mr Lachgar was 253 votes shy of an absolute majority at the first ballot, so there will be a second round. A couple of observations before I elaborate further.

USFP Caucus leader Ahmed Zaidi will most certainly lose clout whatever the outcome: his position as de facto parliamentary leader (or perhaps it was de jure with someone as troublesome as Driss Lachgar) should have granted him support and endorsement from his parliamentary colleagues, who would then nudges their local party base to cast a plurality of favourable vote, at least on the first ballot: after all, a third of USFP seats come from Chaouia (Zaidi-Malki match-up) Souss-Massa and Fez. It should have been Zaidi with about 530 votes, first, or a strong second.

Fathallah Oualalou might have been a disappointment to many of the party faithful and outside observers, but I don’t think it was all that inevitable. For sure, he was a strong candidate (with the support of the Souss delegation behind him) but as I have mentioned before, the rational decision for party delegates was to weight Parliamentary leaders 60% versus 40% for the others. As it turned out, they were even more inclined to vote for these – 77% of the first ballot votes went to Lachgar, Zaidi and Malki. If anything, my model underestimated party delegates’ seemingly strong preferences for parliamentary leaders. (alternatively, I can cast Mr Malki aside and trumpet expactly 62% of party delegates voted for ‘strong’ Parliamentary Leaders’)

I will post later on when the second ballot results come up.


PJD’s “Pocket Landslide”

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Morocco, Read & Heard, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on December 8, 2012

A little over one year after PJD‘s victory, it would be interesting to look at what is already their electoral legacy, or indeed the lack of real appreciation of how important it is. Not matter how past electoral results come under criticism, they have been de facto the law of the land – whatever the real results following the 2002 elections, all parties agreed to the official results, and these have been validated as such. And it would be better, I think, if this criticism was laid aside, especially since the 2002 election did give PJD a clear win, were it not for the diluting proportional ballot.

Majorities are 'easier' to form when the ballot system weighs in pluralities in districts

Majorities are ‘easier’ to form when the ballot system weighs in pluralities in districts

In general terms, I describe a method that points to majority-based ballot system as a good indicator of how political parties can improve their probabilities of forming a government by themselves, thus delivering stable governments and even more stable parliamentary majorities.

PJD’s victory in 2011 was a pocket landslide because the party was 65 seats short of an absolute majority – even if it was well ahead of its nearest competitor. A majority-based ballot system could have delivered the absolute majority they needed. Their feat was only matched by the joint USFP-PI 1993 campaign. Unfortunately for PJD, they are in a coalition with parties directly (and adversely) affected by any re-districting, or majority-based ballot system. (read here the theoretical argument against coordinated effort among political parties)

This is how I compute these majorities: for a particular district, all of the seats are allocated to the party with a plurality of votes. The simplest, crudest rule of politics – and poker: winner takes all. On the basis of this principle, the electoral map since 1963 is radically changed. I further consolidated party performances by aggregating split-offs – which leads to 13 big ‘partisan conglomerates’ – and these results tell a story: a consolidated political competition over parliamentary control allows for larger probabilities of reaching an absolute majority (in the cases of seats open for local ballot) and these contradict the final outcomes observed over the past couple of elections; for one, the 1997 Alternance would have been led by Istiqlal instead of USFP, and 2002, not 2011 would have been PJD’s coronation. But then again, efficiency is not Morocco’s forte.

These results can then be compared against the probabilities of each party to get a majority of the votes. These probabilities are computed on the basis of past electoral results – with increasing weightings for more recent electoral campaigns. And I am pleased that up to 92% of the historical results are explained by the following, rather simple linear model: V(\max_{i,j})=\sum\limits_{p_{k,i,j}}^n\alpha_k \mathbb{E} \left[V(P_{k,i,j})\right]+\epsilon_{k,i,j}

where \alpha_k the estimated probability for a party k to get the plurality in a district i. These parameters need not sum over 1, because there are a lot of cross-party historical votes. This confirm my earlier claim about PJD’s robust position on its 2016 prospects, as well as the need to go for a majority-based system – some parties have clearly more chances to get the majority, while others do not (those have been taken out of the fitting because of the statistical insignificant results)

      Source |       SS       df       MS              Number of obs =     153
-------------+------------------------------           F(  6,   147) =  292.75
       Model |  5.1894e+10     6  8.6491e+09           Prob > F      =  0.0000
    Residual |  4.3430e+09   147  29544400.6           R-squared     =  0.9228
-------------+------------------------------           Adj R-squared =  0.9196
       Total |  5.6237e+10   153   367564886           Root MSE      =  5435.5
         max |      Coef.   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]
     pnd_pam |   .2806256   .0863479     3.25   0.001      .109982    .4512693
     rni_ind |   .4540341   .1007729     4.51   0.000     .2548834    .6531848
    mpdc_pjd |   .5029201   .0445715    11.28   0.000     .4148364    .5910038
          pi |   .3938989   .0974869     4.04   0.000      .201242    .5865558
     fdic_mp |   .2368222   .0761314     3.11   0.002     .0863687    .3872757
   unfp_usfp |   .3958337   .0742675     5.33   0.000     .2490639    .5426035

As one can see, the next elections tend to favour PJD (with an estimated 50.2% chance of getting a vote majority on all seats – quite different from getting a majority of seats) although there are a couple of contenders, and an even stiffer competition between say RNI vs USFP, RNI vs PI, and finally, USFP vs PI. As for PAM, my estimate is they are not likely to get anywhere close to a serious contender for governing party.

In essence, PJD’s electoral legacy would be that of ‘breaking the mould’ of opposition parties: strong enough to have a large caucus, but too weak to force censure motions, and definitely unable to form a government on their own right. It would be a breakthrough legacy if PJD could force through an electoral reform that seeks to improve the chances of a one-party government. True, this would mean PJD is most likely to stay in office for the next decade, but this is about representative democracy.

Data description: seats are allocated to each district per each electoral districting. All of the seats are allocated to the party with a plurality of votes. Parties are merged afterwards when applicable.


Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.20

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Morocco, Read & Heard, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on November 25, 2011

Today is the big day! Moroccan will flock en masse (or perhaps, not) to polling stations and vote for 5,392 candidates on local ballot, whose own results will condition the outcome of another 1,710 candidates (Women and ‘Young’ Men) on national ballot – all in all, 395 seats are in-game, and behind it, a coalition ready to muster a 197+ seats strong caucus  as its supporting parliamentary majority.

Consume by: November 25th

The campaign has proven authorities are losing their grip on media regulations: the amount of videos uploaded and share on social networks and websites have exploded over the last week, fanpages, groups, leaflet scans have flooded the Moroccan internets about the same way paper versions pollute the streets and neighbourhoods of Moroccan cities and villages.

On the other side of the barrier, pro-Boycott Feb20 movement has found itself more or less reinvigorated once again with a clear goal; random arrests, and aggressions targeting Feb20 activists only strengthen their resolve in seeing through tomorrow’s polls with the lowest possible turnout.

Thanks to a sneaky law passed weeks before elections, no serious polling could have been carried out to take the nation’s voters into confidence, and figure out the broad trends – we had instead to content ourselves with ill-defined, mysterious polls prepared by Hudson Institute and Thomas More think-tanks, with no particular insight on method, or the sample’s representativeness relative to overall population.

The available pool of candidates has improved a bit with a majority of them holding college degrees; larger districts, like Casablanca, Tangiers, Rabat, Marrakesh and Agadir alone show an average 55% percentage of college-degree candidates, with figures as low as 49% in Tangiers or Marrakesh.

The next batch of representatives is most likely to have a higher education level: I am confident at most 23 seats will be filled with representatives lacking formal education (that’s a scenario whereby all 23 of them manage to carry enough votes on the ballot); They might not be as young as we would like them to be, but many of them will certainly bring a fresh perspective,  87% of them are running for the first time (or are not incumbents running again for office); on paper, at least, we shall certainly have a relatively renewed Legislative body; whether they can fulfill their assignment as the people’s representatives is a matter of debate: needless to say that parliamentary representatives are usually left by themselves when it comes to scrutinizing the Executive, due to a lack of coherent parliamentary leadership and a sheer lack of resources to carry on with their duties: committee hearings do not carry meaningful resolutions, they cannot impeach a civil servant or a minister; they do not even initiate a lot of bills. So a batch of fresh representatives could do wonders in shaking old parliamentary proceedings.

What about the pro-boycott side of the story? I’m not pro-boycott myself, but in the event I was there, I’d most probably go to the polling station, and slip a blank ballot. I like to think voting is a matter of principle (an individual decision that does not carry judgement over what others could do) and a statement about how I believe things could change; through the ballot – I deplore the legislation curtailing polls, I abhor the abusive interpretation of the law that results in brutal crack down on pro-boycott activists, but just as July 1st referendum results have proven, all-out boycott does not advance the cause.

So Today is a big day.

Gaming Majorities in Moroccan Parliament House

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on September 22, 2011

La Vie Eco published an interesting projection on the future post-25 November election. More of a speculation really: in the absence of computed swing votes for each party over all opened seats for parliament house, predictions over which party will lead the coalition are meaningless, though they can shed some interesting lights on the future coalition government.

It is safe to say that there are two given in Moroccan politics: first, no political party can pretend to form a government on their own, meaning, no single political party can gather absolute majority – half seats plus one- in both houses, and second, coalitions need not to be homogeneous to work together for a full term. USFP and Istiqlal did manage to work with political parties it has long identified as ideological adversaries and rivals, parties like MP or RNI for instance.

Since 1993, major political parties have failed to grasp majorities with large margins, meaning that as time goes by, majority coalition has increased the number of necessary parties to secure a government. Political problems also increased in forming such a majorities: junior partners need to be contented just as large ones, and opposition parties -those left out of negotiations- need to be isolated, and the negative effect of their size in parliament is blocked away. And so, speculation goes over which party will emerge as the winner, and the subsequent coalition built around the new leader of the house.

The seat allocation changed since then, mostly with a larger Mouvement Populaire caucus and the foundation of PAM

And yet, the same parties keep popping up as candidates for coalition members, even the issue of “leader party” is meaningless, save perhaps for the “President of Government” new trophy position: is it going to be Mezouar? Biadillah? Benkirane? or one of the respective successors of El Fassi or Radi? It goes without saying that ballot system will condition the Premiership allocation to one party over the other, but would have little effect on the coalition itself. So 2011 might very well turn out to be not only predictable as for the majority coalition, but the number of seats can be predicted as well.

So far, parliamentary caucuses of MP (Mouvement Populaire), RCU (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Unifié – RNI and UC Joint-venture) and PAM make up for 150 out of 325, they are favoured as a winning coalition, especially when the outgoing government coalition gathers the support of 140 seats, with all the drawbacks of a motley composition made up of Koutla members and “Administrative Parties”.

Now, gaming majorities in Moroccan politics has been increasingly difficult ever since 1997. First off because administrative meddling with election abated since then, as ballot-stuffing, gerrymandering and other nasty tactics progressively -but not entirely- gave way to a certain degree of freedom and fairness during the campaigns, which does not mean corruption and frequent incidents did not occur over the last 15 years. All in all, these parties that have been kept out in opposition for many years turned out to be quite harmless when they finally came in office, and instead did not challenge the establishment they were so keen on denouncing when they were out, in the wilderness.  Second, turnout started to drop markedly starting from 1997: elections prior the Alternance Consensuelle observed a 58.3% turnout, which have been decreasing ever since: 51.6% in 2002 and finally 37.3% in 2007. The result of the decreasing turnout accrued to that a fragmented political play-field, as 5 major parties are needed to carry an absolute majority. In 1997, 4 parties could have insured that majority. The subsequent splits and spin-offs, as well as the exercise of power have weakened parties, while others stepped in the limelight and quickly became political forces to be reckoned with.

But the new constitution has, for all of its shortcomings, introduced a new variable in the balance: the Prime Minister’s (or shall we say, the President of Government) character: is it going to be an “Iron Gentleman” who elicits the support of his ministers through his charisma, like Abdellah Ibrahim or King Hassan II, or will he be weak character, but nonetheless able to keep a heterogeneous coalition together, like Abbas El Fassi, or Mohamed Karim Lamrani, or perhaps a “team player”, a coalition-building character, like Driss Jettou or Mâati Bouabid. Though it is almost impossible to assess precisely the impact of personality on post-elections government coalition, it surely will play an important role, perhaps even more important considering the constitutional obligation to appoint a President of Government from the majority party (alternatively, the constitutional interpretation of Article 47 could be that of the coalition, instead of party, leader)

Let us now turn to some predictions on the November 2011 Elections: since the new legislation has not yet been processed to this day, we still consider the 295 districts -and their existing boundaries- plus the 30 seats allocated to women as the basis of coalition gaming. The great thing about 2007 elections is paradoxically its low turnout; those districts with the highest abstention rates were precisely the ones carried by PJD vote. Other than that, constituencies East and South the Atlas Mountains have registered relatively high turnout, an average of 57%. On those seats, incumbents are not easily unseated, especially when it comes to challengers like PJD in rural areas and hinterlands. On the other hand, the same party has pretty good chances to carries a majority of seats in Casablanca, Larache, Khouribga and Rabat, but would not, unless exceptional circumstances decide otherwise, carry more than 60 seats, most of which are located in the constituencies mentioned above.

Because PJD would be returning with a larger caucus, USFP and Istiqlal will bear the loss of transferred votes: let us remember that in 2002, Istiqlal Leader Abbas El Fassi carried 15,823 votes, while PJD candidates carried 15,125. In 2007, the same party leader, soon to be a Prime Minister was 2 points behind PJD candidates, a sure sign of weakness, considering the strong electoral base Istiqlal party enjoyed for many years. USFP presence in Casablanca has also been very symbolic, considering the extremely low turnout (less than 2% of the votes across the Grand Casablanca) and might very well be ousted in the next elections. Both Koutla partners will be competing for Sahrawi seats, since both USFP and Istiqlal carried around 25% of votes in all constituencies, though because of their strong foothold there, PAM candidates could prove to be serious challengers. All in all, and because PJD gains would be at the expenses of Koutla members, their combined caucus would not go beyond 60-70 seats. This means USFP loses its remaining Rabat and Casablanca-Anfa seats, and partially make up the loss in Agadir hinterlands, while Istiqlal concedes Mediouna and Hay Hassani.

Because their constituencies are relatively concentrated in similar provinces, RNI, UC and MP can claim to improve their majorities; as far as MP performance goes, Rabat hinterland is now locked-in, with good chances for another seat at Rabat itself. As for RNI-UC, and since they have taken up their electoral alliance a step further, it is not inconceivable to imagine a “Blue-Yellow” coalition, with Blue RNI-UC-PAM making a run for urban and rural districts, while MP carries its traditional constituency in mountainous regions. Indeed, PAM votes deliver the Atlantic coast, Marrakesh and its rural outskirts, with some 25 to 30 seats, although such computations assume commensurable results to the carried votes by previously independent representatives, or candidates from the smaller parties than joined and merged in before 2009. The RNI-UC caucus could gain a dozen of seats in some cities like Casablanca, Kenitra, or rural districts like Sidi Kacem or in the Eastern districts. All in all, the Blue-Yellow coalition could muster 160-170 seats pretty easily, thus insuring a stable and large majority in parliament house.

Proposed scenario for Nov.25th. Smaller parties would be left with 25 to 30 seats

These numbers are not pulled out of a hat, obviously. We consider 128 seats in 24 provinces either because of the important number of carried districts, or the high number of young, less than 30-years old voters. In Casablanca and Rabat, young voters make up respectively about 816,000 and 216,000. That’s more than all turnout voters in 2007, and certainly more than what one party could have gathered. Indeed, Istiqlal and PJD representatives at best, gathered 160,000 votes in Casablanca in 2007, which makes less than 14% of total electoral votes. A larger turnout, in the region of 40-60% could change completely the electoral map in the Grand Casablanca, as well as major urban agglomerations across Morocco.

it becomes apparent that out of these 128 seats, 90 can be delivered with large landslides, were the youth vote turnout to be in line with a nationwide rate (estimated at 58-60%), some 4.5 Million young voters are indeed going to determine both locally and in parliament, the shape of coalition majority and opposition.

Province Seats Competing Parties Young Voters Vote Per Seat
Grand Casablanca

























Chtouka Aït Baha




















Sidi Kacem





Kelâat Sraghna






























My Yacoub








































Now, it has been observed that turnout in legislative elections following constitutional referendums has been on average, higher than those of ‘regular’ elections, by some 18 points-odd margin. And so, an expected turnout of 60% could mean genuine majorities for representatives in terms of popular vote, and not a pyrrhic victory for the last man standing. Furthermore, the table above shows how a candidate can seize a seat with the help of the youth vote. It is not unreasonable an assumption that, since young voter have had in the past a stable, low turnout in general elections, they would participate enthusiastically in large numbers, provided candidates appeal to them and manage to elicit their support.

That’s the ball game: The previous projection is a conservative estimate of what might happen with reasonable prediction over long-term pattern votes. But then again, there are 90 seats around easy to fill with youth vote, for any coalition party ready and willing to do what it takes to get young Moroccans registered and down to polling stations. Other seats can be equally carried with a majority of young voters too.