The Moorish Wanderer

Mawazine, Tourisme et Chiffres

Posted in Dismal Economics, Flash News, Moroccanology, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on May 28, 2013

On m’a proposé l’idée d’explorer l’hypothèse selon laquelle le festival Mawazine (qui se déroule actuellement) n’influe pas vraiment sur le nombre de touristes visiteurs – ou plutôt, que les moyens mis en place pour faire de la publicité à cette manifestation culturelle (y compris les invitations aux différents artistes connus) participent de la promotion de notre pays en tant que destination touristique; auquel cas, le budget Mawazine se justifie complètement, comme un vaste coup média.

Sauf que je n’ai pas souvenir de lire une quelconque analyse sérieuse de ce coût d’opportunité: certes, les budgets marketing dépensés en sponsoring auraient pu servir à construire des hôpitaux, écoles, routes, éclairage public, des diplômés chômeurs dans la fonction publique en plus, mais un argument équivalent peut se faire sur la base d’un raisonnement Trickle Down: la publicité internationale attirera plus de touristes, donc plus de revenus fiscaux, pour les opérateurs touristiques, des créations d’emplois, etc. Et il est probablement plus facile de vérifier cette seconde assertion que la première.

Je préviens le lecteur de suite que je suis très sceptique quant à la validité des résultats présentés ci-dessous: je me suis basé sur un échantillon trop petit – de 1995 à 2010. Malgré la robustesse statistique de ces même résultats, toute critique quant à la pertinence de ceux-ci sera entièrement valide. Je pense néanmoins que si nous raisonnons en termes de coûts d’opportunité et de rendements, il faudra bien commencer à un moment ou un autre à proposer des chiffres, aussi imparfaits soient-ils.

Pour ce faire, j’emprunte aux travaux académiques d’économie du travail une fonction très connue du rendement de l’éducation, et dont la forme serait \ln r_t = \alpha_0 + \alpha_1 z_t + \alpha_2 z_t^2 et j’insiste sur le terme \alpha_2 z_t^2 qui mesure ainsi l’effet marginal des entrées de touristes sur les recettes – car il ne suffit pas de récupérer le maximum de touristes pour augmenter nos recettes du secteur touristique lui-même, il s’agit de faire en sorte que le rendement potentiel du visiteur non-résident potentiel reste le plus élevé possible.

légère inflexion dans les recettes touristiques vers 2008-2009, mais le nombre d'entrées est toujours en croissance

légère inflexion dans les recettes touristiques vers 2008-2009, mais le nombre d’entrées est toujours en croissance

Et c’est là que toute la discussion devient importante: comment peut-on contrôler l’impact de Mawazine dans la relation décrite plus haut? après tout, il est difficile (peut-être impossible) de contrôler pour un évènement présent, surtout que la tendance des rentrées en revenus et de touristes est robuste dans leurs croissances respectives.

Que se passerait-il si on décidait d’intégrer l’évènement d’organisation de Mawazine dans le petit modèle sans forcément faire apparaître le terme? Je m’explique: une régression standard lie directement les revenus touristiques au nombre de rentrées, avec un terme capturant le rendement des arrivées de touristes, abstraction faite de l’organisation du festival. On se propose d’intégrer Mawazine comme instrument – c’est-à-dire une variable sans lien direct à priori avec l’évolution des recettes, mais influençant les rentrées de touristes.

----------------------------------------------
    Variable | OLS_NoMawazin    GMM_Mawazin   
-------------+--------------------------------
     arrival |  .67609406***    .71855215***  
  arrival_sq | -.03344045**     -.0374711***  
       _cons |  19.546418***     19.46791***  
-------------+--------------------------------
          r2 |   .9641003       .96265975     
        r2_a |  .95857727        .9569151     
----------------------------------------------
      legend: * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001

Premier constat, l’effet aléatoire (ou présumé comme tel) sous Mawazine est légèrement supérieur à la régression standard, ce qui laisserait à supposer un effet de traitement positif – mais dont le différentiel est très faible, assez faible en tout cas pour douter de la validité de l’hypothèse selon laquelle un festival aux invités prestigieux sert l’image du royaume, et donc son secteur touristique.

La différence de coefficient dans le second modèle (GMM_Mawazin)  par rapport au premier, est expliquée par l’introduction de l’évènement Mawazin dans le calcul du rendement des arrivées en termes de revenus d’activités touristiques. Or en testant les deux valeurs 3.34% et 3.74% on découvre qu’il est très difficile de conclure à une quelconque différence statistiquement significative, ceci sans oublier le fait que l’échantillon est excessivement petit pour en tirer une conclusion définitive.

"L'inflation" du budget annuel du festival met en difficulté son effet vertueux sur le rendement touristique

“L’inflation” du budget annuel du festival met en difficulté son effet vertueux sur le rendement touristique

Voici donc un résultat qui ne plairait probablement pas au Ministère du Tourisme, et que les auditeurs des entreprises participantes de leurs budgets Marketing respectifs pourraient utiliser pour discuter du rendement effectif de leur sponsoring: certes, le rendement estimé pour “l’effet Mawazine” se vérifie sur le rendement touristique, mais ce résultat est tellement fragile qu’il ne vaut certainement pas le budget annuel alloué à cet évènement. Pour ce faire, on se permet de comparer les courbes respectives de rendement pour un modèle sans effet Mawazine, et l’autre avec le festival comme instrument – la valeur initiale sera la même afin d’isoler plus exactement l’influence du festival, puis avec un niveau initial inférieur prenant en compte l’évolution moyenne annuelle du budget du festival.

On remarquera ainsi que sous hypothèse d’un différentiel significatif, le festival n’atteindrait son objectif que si son coût de fonctionnement reste constant, ou en tout cas, enregistre une croissance modérée – et cela ne semble pas être le cas.

Cette critique n’est pas particulièrement orientée contre l’organisation de Mawazine (un bien bon festival dans ses éditions initiales en tout cas) mais plutôt la conclusion que plusieurs initiatives – dont plusieurs s’insèrent dans les fameux Grands Chantiers– se parent d’un pseudo-calcul de coût d’opportunité, alors que le résultat statistique est pour le moins peu probant. Pour une fois que l’approche technocratique se met vraiment au service du citoyen, autant en profiter.

Mai 1963: Un Demi Siècle d’Élections Parlementaires

J’avoue, je confesse une obsession (saine) pour les statistiques des élections parlementaires du Maroc. Probablement parce que celles-ci sont si difficiles à compiler, mais peut-être aussi parce qu’elles semblent tellement mises en doute que tout usage cartésien serait immédiatement rejeté en faveur d’une analyse descriptive tout à fait recevable, mais monopolisant le discours analytique de notre histoire moderne. Il est probable aussi que nos politologues soient arithmophobes, mais enfin, il serait intéressant d’observer ce que le Maroc a produit comme paysage électoral au lendemain du 17 Mai 1963. Sur ce point, il convient de féliciter le doyen de nos parlementaires: M. Abdelouhed Radi a été élu la première fois en 1963, et semble être reconduit sans interruption jusqu’à la dernière élection, en 2011. Il n’a pas encore battu le record de longévité enregistré dans des pays à tradition plus démocratique dans l’histoire moderne, mais il sera sur la bonne voie d’y parvenir, s’il décide de se représenter en 2016.

Un contexte historique: le bras-de-fer engageant l’Istiqlal-UNFP contre le Palais et ses alliés lors de la campagne de référendum en Décembre 1962 s’est soldé par la victoire du dernier camp et la mise en place de la première constitution du Maroc moderne. Des élections parlementaires sont prévues pour obtenir la première chambre élue (remplaçant l’Assemblée Nationale Consultative) et confrontent le FDIC (Front de Défense des Institutions Constitutionnelles) aux candidats de l’Istiqlal et de l’UNFP, ainsi que des indépendants. le FDIC rassemble notamment le MP (Mouvement Populaire) le Parti de la Choura (pourtant parti du Mouvement National) et le Parti Socialiste Démocratique fondé par le conseiller et confident du Roi Hassan II, Ahmed Guédira. Sans prendre en considération la performance électorale des candidats indépendants, on se propose de mettre en relation le taux de participation avec la taille de la circonscription (représentée par le nombre d’électeurs inscrits)

--------------------------------------------------------------
    Variable |    model1          model2          model3      
-------------+------------------------------------------------
alpha1       |
       _cons | -.00003192*     -.14638065*                    
-------------+------------------------------------------------
alpha2       |
       _cons |  5.438e-10*                                    
-------------+------------------------------------------------
beta         |
       _cons |  1.1772032***    2.2407248***                  
-------------+------------------------------------------------
    enrolled |                                 -6.339e-06     
       _cons |                                  .92950935***  
-------------+------------------------------------------------
Statistics   |                                                
        r2_a |  .33139627       .27745393       .16886769     
          r2 |  .41005553       .31995664       .21775783     
--------------------------------------------------------------
                      legend: * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001

Model3 est une simple régression linéaire du taux de participation sur la population enregistrée

tx participation = \alpha reg + \beta + \epsilon

Model2 est une régression log-linéaire similaire, sauf qu’il s’agit du log népérien de la population enregistrée

tx participation = \alpha \log(reg) + \beta + \epsilon

Model1 est une régression quadratique du taux de participation sur la population votante.

tx participation = \alpha_1 reg + \alpha_2 reg^2 + \epsilon

On pourra observer que l’estimation quadratique du taux de participation est la plus efficace, d’abord pour la solidité des résultats statistiques évoqués plus haut, mais surtout parce qu’elle donne une estimation précise de la vitesse à laquelle le taux de participation décline au fur et à mesure que le district/province augmente en taille d’électeurs enregistrés.

Probablement une coïncidence, mais les circonscriptions 'médianes' s'avèrent être celles de Tétouan, Nador & Taza, celles ayant le plus voté pour les indépendants

Probablement une coïncidence, mais les circonscriptions ‘médianes’ s’avèrent être celles de Tétouan, Nador & Taza, celles ayant le plus voté pour les indépendants

Il n’est d’ailleurs pas surprenant d’apprendre ainsi que les populations enregistrées sont les plus importantes dans les districts urbains, lesquels exhibent non seulement un taux de participation plus faible que la moyenne nationale, mais aussi avec des taux de rejet de bulletins plus élevés aussi (une explication offerte par Bernabé de Garçia étant la disponibilité de moyens couplé à la compétitivité plus élevée pour les sièges urbains) mais ceci n’est pas surprenant: ce qui l’est par contre, c’est la remarquable stabilité de cette relation entre taille de district et participation enregistrée. Une option offerte serait d’introduire la dimension du taux d’urbanisme par circonscription (lequel est proprement aléatoire à priori aux chances d’enregistrement des électeurs, mais lequel a un effet sur le taux de participation)

Ces résultats varient beaucoup des districts gagnés par les partis d’Opposition (Istiqlal + UNFP) et ceux de la coalition gouvernementale: les résultats présentés plus bas montrent peut-être une composition beaucoup plus hétérogène (et paradoxalement ayant une prétention plus robuste à être représentatif de l’électorat marocain) de la relation entre taux de participation et taille de circonscription (qui s’inversera au fur et à mesure que le paysage politique se fixera, y compris géographiquement)

Légende: FDIC (Jaune) UNFP (Mauve) Istiqlal (Rose) Indépendants (Vert)

Le découpage sur la carte électorale actuelle ne correspond pas exactement aux résultats circa 1963, mais la distribution des votes ne varie que marginalement.  Légende: FDIC (Jaune) UNFP (Mauve) Istiqlal (Rose) Indépendants (Vert)

Le lien que nous pouvons faire entre les élections en 1963 et celles contemporaines de 2011, et les futures consultations est direct: la démocratie représentative est un arbitrage constant entre l’existence de circonscriptions assez larges pour déjouer les stratégies de fraude de certains candidats, et la mesure exclusive qu’utilisent régime, participants et détracteurs pour jauger de la santé de cette démocratie représentative. De grandes circonscriptions résultent irrémédiablement de taux de participations décroissants.

D’un point de vue statistique, les résultats en 1963 montrent que l’électorat marocain était réellement politiquement divisé: certes, le FDIC aura réussi à contrôler 49% des sièges de la nouvelle chambre (et avec l’aide des 6 députés indépendants, la majorité absolue était acquise) mais la distribution des majorités parlementaires dans les différentes provinces reflète cette hypothèse de division: les majorités des candidats UNFP, Istiqlal et FDIC ne sont pas statistiquement significatives (respectivement 9.500, 8.650 et 10.400 voix) et quelque part le théorème de l’électeur médian se vérifie: réécrire l’histoire en allouant les 144 sièges hypothétiquement sur la base d’un scrutin majoritaire à un seul tour (un modèle britannique en définitive) donne une carte électorale beaucoup homogène mais certainement plus divisée que le résultat historique, d’où l’importance des circonscriptions votant pour les candidats indépendants, et leur localisation géographique:

Candidat Sièges
FDIC 44
PI 44
UNFP 42
Indépendants 14
Somme 144

Certes, n’importe quelle combinaison entre les partis majoritaires pouvait s’octroyer une majorité absolue (dans les 60%) mais on ne peut sous-estimer le rôle important que pourrait jouer le groupe indépendant comme équilibriste entre probablement une alliance UNFP-Istiqlal ou un gouvernement minoritaire FDIC soutenu par certains éléments Istiqlaliens. D’autant plus que le soutien pour les candidats indépendants était concentré au Nord (entre Taza et Tétouan) une région à l’histoire récente houleuse (par rapport à 1963) et un premier exemple des années de plomb à venir, sûrement.

Que peut-on donc conclure des résultats de Mai 1963? Probablement que le scrutin électoral en lui-même ne représentait rien, une triste constatation et prémonition de l’impotence de l’institution parlementaire marocaine. C’est vraiment une occasion manquée: malgré toutes les limitations constatées à l’époque le Maroc était presque équitablement partagé: le camp progressiste UNFPiste, les légalistes Istiqlaliens, et les monarchistes consolidés dans le FDIC. Nous aurions pu profiter de cette ligne claire de démarcation (représentée par le votant médian pour le candidat indépendant) pour introduire une réelle démocratie parlementaire. Le contexte de guerre froide, et peut-être la rupture de confiance irrévocable suite au décès de Mohamed V entre le mouvement national et la Monarchie, ont en décidé autrement.

Pour une lecture contemporaine des élections (et la source de certains résultats) l’Annuaire d’Afrique du Nord rapporte des éléments additionnels à considérer.

Résultats Statistiques:

    Variable |  Model_Oppo      Model_Govt  
-------------+--------------------------------
alpha1       |
       _cons |  .00006663      -.00005952     
-------------+--------------------------------
alpha2       |
       _cons | -1.029e-09       1.253e-09     
-------------+--------------------------------
constant     |
       _cons | -.33776981        1.354882**   
-------------+--------------------------------
Statistics   |                                
          r2 |  .12604783       .66791841     
        r2_a | -.09244021       .50187761     
----------------------------------------------
      legend: * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001

Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.3

The Boycott Option:

A clueless strategy since 1962

Has the boycott been of some significant over general elections since 1963? Beforehand, I have been admonished for my use of official data on the last 50 years or so. And I agree: half a century of ballot-stuffing, gerrymandering, administrative parties mushrooming whose sole aim is to prevent opposition from reaching power through regular electoral processes. Driss Basri, Interior Minister since 1983 (and Secretary of State since 1993) has performed wonders in shaping majorities, weakening parties, elevating others, and systematically delivering high turnout and Soviet-style results in constitutional referendums. And so, why study past results, since all figures have been twisted? Indirectly, this has been -and still is, to this day- one of the main pro-boycott set of arguments: if authorities can temper with supposedly free and fair elections, why bother to vote? (incidentally, this is also a good argument for not caring about past elections…)

The Boycott Party has had a rather strong showing since 1963: of 4.7 Million registered voters, 1.2Million cast blank or invalidated votes, and some 1.3 Million did not bother to turnout to vote at all. The “Boycott Party” (if indeed it was a boycott) had carried a similar number of votes to that of pro-regime FDIC. When non-cast ballots are accrued, it turns out only one elector out of two bothered to express an interest in UNFP, or Istiqlal or FDIC candidates.

If non-voting electors represented a sizeable population, that was taken care of with the next 1977 elections, where turnout climbed as high as 82.36%, which means some 1.1 Million voters did not go to polling stations, and 541,000 others had their votes annulled. 1977 elections observed high turnouts in, say Casablanca (88.75%) and Rabat (83.46%) but equally, their annulled ballots percentage was higher than nationwide mean, respectively 16.93% and 9.49%. An explanation one might venture would be that since ballots in urban areas are easier to check and staff -from opposition parties’ point of view- any perceived risk of ballot-stuffing or tampering with election results in these boroughs is significantly reduced, and even when the mistake is in good faith, chances are it will not be registered properly.

Then again, urban areas have had historically high boycott and blank ballot rates throughout: the 1977 and 1963 elections have been retained as specific examples to prove the existence of a strong sense of civics, albeit a particularly deviant one. The talks of referendum or elections these last couple of months are not particularly new: there has always been a significant population that does not trust ballot results, either because it does not trust the political field, or the process itself, or has great doubts over the actual impact on their everyday lives.

In any case, this population, theoretically a large one ever since 2007 (by some 9.7 Million disaffected voters, in addition to 1 Million blank votes) is indeed our very own “Silent Majority“, albeit a heterogeneous one: it gathers the academic sick and tired of partisan politics and more concerned with their standards of living, the high-school or college graduate youth with no clue about the whole she bang, but also the human rights and charity activist disappointed by the political process and convinced other means are more effective into bettering Morocco;

This silent majority of about half of the potential electorate embodies a blatant reproach to the failure of political parties to take charge of their constitutional duty. Not that they did not always want to, but because they have failed, up to date, in their large majority, to devise strategies to circumvent the ordinary obstacles to reach out for these voters. Taking to the street might be one, but the risk is to alienate many of those in the process…

The “Silent Majority” concept was coined by Richard M. Nixon as a generic word to designate voters fed up with and confused by the deep changes the United States were undergoing at the time (Vietnam War, civil rights, city riots, Hippies, students’ protests…) and adjunct to the sense that somehow, the society was falling apart.

Going down with style, PSU Boycotts Nov.25 Elections

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Polfiction, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on September 19, 2011

One has to hand it to the comrades: when they go down, they do so in style indeed. late Yesterday, PSU National Convention voted in favour of boycotting November 25th elections. This piece of news, just like any other, has its bad and good spins. Good news, PSU has been, as usual, very open about its proceedings, and the decision to boycott was openly and democratically discussed. If this isn’t free and open partisan democracy, I don’t know what is. Bad news, too, as fellow Blogger Omar El Hayani pointed out (bitterly)

Anyway, by doing so, PSU and the Democratic Alliance lose some support among the more moderate of sympathisers and likely voters. On the other hand, these live (or are registered) in districts PSU candidates, whatever their fame and statutes, will never carry. The decision to boycott elections was, I suspect, a counter-move to appease allies on the left, and perhaps a bid to confirm party strength by postponing the crucial question of radical dissidence or moderate opposition. I fear that with the high spirits gathered during weekly demonstrations, some old-guard PSU are rekindling with their far-left youth. Nostalgia is alright, but not to the expenses of compromising the build up of a strong democratic left-leaning party.

I still believe that boycott decision is just a temporary setback. Come the 2014-2015 local elections, PSU and its Democratic Alliance partners can engage into meaningful campaigning and carry genuine popular support by trying to prove they are fit for office. I submit that a strategy disparaging parliamentary elections as idle and inefficient, while advocating local elections are the real popular test to submit to, is a winning strategy, both on the medium and short run. As for any illusions on the regime’s strength and viability, the impact of boycott on behalf of the radical left remains, truth be told, peripheral.

Yet, for all the unobliging comments the decision has triggered (among others, on the twittoma) the Radical Left can, whenever possible, show some strong numbers when it comes to elections. Once labelled elitists, Left-leaning activists can carry seats other parties fail to woo; Indeed, the candidate’s personality and charisma matter a great deal, but when ideological commitment is conjugated with those essential ingredient, the Radical Left manages to build itself safe strongholds on the electoral map. I suggest it would be a shame to lose both parliamentary and local electoral base there. And I do hope the leadership will have keen insight on the matter. Sooner or later, PSU and its allies (including Annahj by the way) will have to confront itself to the electoral litmus test, and prior local activism or elected offices are going to be crucial to deal with local Moul Chkaras, or very active PJD operatives in the area.

Since they first contested elections in 1984, the average turnout carried by New Left candidates hovered around 150,000 votes. Though the high watermark was recorded between 1993 and 1997, the numbers held steady in 2002, and have even risen in 2007, considering how all major political parties (including PJD) lost votes in the process. And yet, the New Left still fails to rise above the 5-6 seats-odd in parliament house, when its electoral base allows for a dozen seats, even 25-30 commensurate to their electoral base. Indeed, ballot system, and the features of New Left electorate doesn’t allow for an expansion in their caucus, unless the Alliance keeps on growing, a double-edge strategy, since accelerated alliances and mergers within the left-leaning field both provide it with momentum and seemingly political strength, but also makes collective endeavour in electoral competitions very hazardous: in 2007, the Alliance agreed on common tickets over 75% of all contested districts, and separate candidates in the remaining 25%. However, crucial constituencies (like Rabat) were hotly contested by party leadership, because of the symbolism it carries, and as a way to summon up the blood and exacerbate the feud with a weakened USFP. But overall, common campaigning finds favour with the electorate: in 1993, the Koutla effectively campaigned jointly on all districts, and found itself with 1/3 of total expressed popular vote, a result no coalition ever achieved before or after.

But coming back to the implications the boycott induces, I was referring to “going down in style“. Unless the party finds itself an alternative playing field, there is no way we can keep on taking to the streets every two weeks: the party needs financing, visibility on public outlets and measurable strength to submit the authorities to its will, or at least to make its voice heard with strong credibility. Annahj can afford to stand firm on its Refuseniks position because it does not function as a political party. PSU and PADS (and to a lesser extent, CNI) on the other hand, cannot.

The crucial point is, the boycott directive will not be massively followed (to the tune of 200,000 voters) and these released votes will either go into an invalidated ballot, or in favour of a third party.Thousands of these votes will go, depending on the contested district, to one party or the other. The argument is that once these voters commit to these third parties, a scheduled comeback will be as painful, as tedious and as costly as it gets for the new candidates. I suppose the 31 OADP candidates had a hard time looking for votes in 1984, as they have just made the transition from clandestine activism to “normalized” politics. It would have been best that long-term views prevailed over the temptation of getting dragged to the left over this boycott business. In this, I believe Mohamed Bensaïd Ait Idder was right in advocating to keep on campaigning:

Watching Mohamed Sassi and Najib Akesbi advocating (O so bitterly) for electoral boycott was akin to that of a disillusioned lover seeking revenge by vowing celibacy: it hurts twice, and only themselves are to be blamed for it. The 2007 and 2009 poor showing were wake-up calls: I understand the PSU enjoyed a great deal of popularity with many likely voters, and these might -just might- have gone to the polls and slip a ballot endorsing PSU candidates. Perhaps Profs. Sassi et Akesbi gambled upon this momentum to reach out for voters; they enjoy, after all, high profile publicity, immense respect across the political spectrum and with the general public (when they get to know them) and, in Akesbi’s case, a valuable electoral experience as a former USFP local board member in Hay Riad neighbourhood (Rabat). But there is a catch to a political campaign, in Morocco and elsewhere: the financial cost and risk for a candidate to undertake such an endeavour.

Because campaign funding schemes in Morocco are still rudimentary (either because candidates are old-school fund-raisers, or because of the restrictive set of regulations imposed on political funding) candidates frequently need to finance themselves, which involves either a strong belief in winning the seat, or at least to do a 3% showing, necessary to be reimbursed by State funding. PSU (and Alliance partners) failed to capture Rabat seats, and were further humiliated by not passing the 3% threshold. The same story goes for 2009. A university Professor on a MAD 150,000-200,000 annual tenure cannot afford to campaign every now and then, and systematically lose election and money. Boycott makes sense for both our leaders. But by saving money in Rabat, we lose Representatives. Lahcen Fathallah (Chtouka Ait Baha) El Mokhtar Rachdi (Jerrada) and Mhamed Abdelhak (Sidi Bennour-Ouled Frej).

Votes in 2007 encompass the alliance (AGD) and individual votes gathered by PSU and PADS candidates. PS Votes have been accrued as well.

We lose 475 local board members if the boycott applies equally to local elections. In short, an all-out boycott, for the sake of the principle, will loses the only remaining imperfect, but nonetheless the most trustworthy indicator of popularity/political strength, i.e. the electoral base. Supporting bi-monthly demonstrations might be a commendable thing to do, but it goes as far as alienate lukewarm support from otherwise potential activists, opinion leaders, funding sources, good will that isn’t readily available when PSU (and other members of the Democratic Alliance) decides to go back to elections.

Indeed I am not happy with my party’s decision. My dissatisfaction is not out of sheer alacrity for election campaigns, but because of the enumerated facts above, the single genuinely democratic party in Morocco, the party that allows open debate on important issues without stifling dissent (such as my good self in this case) cannot shut itself off the silent majority that might just be successfully wooed by the charms of our unique brand of partisan democracy. I do hope all these elements have been pondered during debate held last weekend during the Convention, and I remain nonetheless optimistic about the prospects. We might be going down with style, but this is not the first time the New Left manages a Phoenix-like comeback. We have started with 30,000 odd electoral base in 1984, we certainly can always do better. And we shall.

I assume this boycott thing is only temporary, just a signal that whatever the party’s support and its size, we are a force to be reckoned with (the party of ideas, for instance) As a matter of fact, we need time to settle down and ponder on the last few months. We need to prepare for an already much postponed conference to renew the leadership. We need to review in depth our political and economic message we try to get across. We need to shift the focus om more down-to-earth issues without losing out of sight those issues that made the “New Left” brand: deep institutional reforms. In a sense, the boycott might just well be this pretext we need to attend to these more urgent tasks. For sure, we have now conceded the next couple of matches to other parties, and this allows them to get the better of us. But then again, we have nothing but time to oppose to their watches. OADP always made it and muddled through in tougher years. We can do just as well.

“I’ll Be Back” General Douglas McArthur, Philippines, 1941.

It might take a while, but it’ll be back.

Polling Day

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on July 1, 2011

Today July 1st is going to be the dénouement of a 4-months long peculiar process: it started with whirling optimism with the Feb20 demonstrations (whose likely induced outcome I doubted, though I felt strong sympathies with the proposed agenda) then the whole thing wildly went off-course when the King delivered his historic speech on March 9th -I, for one, would not mind considering it historic- and from then on, the dark world of crude Moroccan politics took over. Not even boycotting the Abdelatif Menouni Commission managed to restore Feb20’s popularity, mainly because of its unability to offer a viable platform to rally more support to the cause, the movement, it seems, did not expand its support base.

Now with the June 17th speech the draft constitution is most likely to pass by a large margin; the unknown variables are the No-vote and the turn-out. Because polling is severely regulated in Morocco (and outright blocked during election time) there is no way to gauge the mood of electors, so basically, about 14 Mn registered people likely to either vote or abstain, and so would do so for a myriad of reasons, and probably these motives will never be polled, mapped and explained. Every election or referendum in Morocco is a lost cornucopia of information on the political thinking and values among the Moroccan population.

In dire need for Basri expertise in bottling up the Referendum

But I digress. I believe in party discipline as the essential feature of efficient partisan organization. Discipline of course, does not mean systematic suppression of dissent, but insures potential dissent expresses itself and makes sure it does not break away from the party line (and I would welcome the institution of a Whip position within the party). And on the issue of referendum, I unfortunately find myself at odds with the PSU‘s stand on referendum day: the party wants to boycott, I vote today. As I mentioned before, I would agree with 90% of the pro-boycott argument because it makes up my own position on the referendum. I disagree therefore only on the way to voice my discontentment with whole process: I believe a No Vote carries a stronger signal and shows moderation (I cannot believe I am making the case for Moderation) so I cannot understand why PSU and the Democratic Left went with the Boycott Option. Perhaps it might have to do with the very pressuring environment the party needs to cope with within the Feb20 movement;

Otherwise, I believe party leadership -and all the Pro-Boycott people- should observe and study very carefully the 1962 Constitutional Referendum: UNFP party was stronger, more organized, better-led political party and yet, they got beaten. Of course, Hassan II-era tactics are now obsolete: we have reached a level which absolved the Interior ministry from meddling directly with the everyday politics of campaigning. the Local administrative echelon, as well as notabilities acting as local representatives are endowed with a strange sense of patriotic duty, some might describe as a zealous, lick-spittle behaviour, and can thus do their masters’ bidding. And so, they would not hesitate into pouring money -taxpayer’s money- buying off local unemployed and mob to threaten and assault dissidents, or printing pro-Constitution leaflets and signs (the great thing with the Internet, pictures are taken, websites are snapshot, providing ample material for future political LOL) in a grandiloquent flourish the late Driss Basri wouldn’t have disdained.

Civic Nihilism. What Else?

And yet, in spite of all these fine things, I remain true to my word: I have set standards above which I would vote Yes for the new constitution. These standards have not been met, and so I shall express my discontent with the proposed draft. And contrary to some influential bloggers I know, I do not pretend to lead, or to be influential. That is merely my tiny voice expressing what it considers to be the highest legal norm in the realm. I am a fledgeling citizen in a fledgeling democracy after all, am I not?

And so the vote went on. the consulate was apparently closed for the very purpose of Referendum day. Two suits (presumably from the Interior Ministry) oversaw the voting procedure: the first one took the ID card to register the voter the second handed the envelope with the Yes an No bits of paper. I noticed a little counter device over the ballot box (a transparent one) so as to keep count of voters. Unfortunately, I failed to notice anyone acting as a civic watchdog (usually political parties or NGOs delegate individuals to oversee the procedure and the vote count) that might have to do with the fact that these organizations likely to engage in such initiative are calling for a boycott.

Well, speaking for my consulate, the turnout was quite high at 10 in the morning, and the overwhelming majority voted in favour of the draft (the polling booth was filled with the No leaflets) and quite frankly, it is a high turnout. I suppose we will all be updated on the final outcome this evening.

Update —-

Now, according to the figures put forward by the Interior Ministry late this evening, the turnout was 70% (reported by my colleague and friend Hisham) a high figure considering the threat of boycott and the hurriedly put together initiatives from local officials to scramble for voters backing up the turnout.

As for PSU party and our Democratic Left comrades, it is high time we started thinking about real policies. The parties of innovative thinking have been robbed of their salient feature: the stalwart support of constitutional reforms. We would look at best ridiculous if we keep on banging about that reform; As a matter of principle, calling for genuine reforms makes sense (it always does) but in the eyes of Moroccan electorate, that image of “Loony Left” is likely to stick even closer to an already isolated ideal of radical thinking and social liberalism.