The Moorish Wanderer

Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.19

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on November 21, 2011

(A typo has been corrected on the latest “Moroccan Elections for the Clueless” series – 7102 candidates include the 90 national ballot seats, hence a lower competitive ratio over 395 seats. I hope this was not too much of an inconvenience; thank you)

elections2011.gov.ma has finally uploaded all of the electoral map, and they are thanked for it. However, I would be eternally grateful to the Interior Ministry (Yes, GRATEFUL) if they’d care to allow some more friendly-user upload button on their otherwise very nice charts. I am trying to figure out a contact on their website (which as far as I can tell, is just as mysterious as the Ministry overseeing it) and ask them -very nicely- if it is not too much trouble to get the list per constituency, with the standard socio-demographic indicators: age bandwidth, gender, education, prior public service, etc.

So there we are: 7102 Candidates, 32 political parties (which I will try and list later on – and I can already confess I have never heard of some of these) all over 92 districts. There are a couple of V.I.P candidates that might clash over particularly competitive seats, as we shall see as well.

Behold - 31 Political Parties and 6 independent Candidates.

It is worth pointing out that contrary to what one might think, the most competitive seats -those with higher numbers of candidates- are not necessarily located in large urban areas. In fact, it is hardly the case: Fqih Bensalah (Tadla Azilal) district has 112 candidates (28 parties) competing for 4 seats. There is an equivalent number of seats in Rabat-Océan (Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer), and yet about only half of that number competes over these, and 17 parties only put up candidates in what is usually referred to as a “death district” . Casablanca-Anfa (Greater Casablanca) too shows a smaller number of candidates, and even though it remains higher than Rabat’s own candidates’ pool, it is well below Fqih Bensalah’s very attractive 4 seats. It does make sense, since rural districts historically yielded higher turnout, and politics down there do not obey to the constraints of modern politics.

There some interesting constituencies and candidates running for office next Friday. Among others, the quite attractive 23-years old Meryem Daâli, PAM figurehead candidate in My Rashid district (Casablanca). She is mostly likely to lose to more experienced and popular competitors, but PAM operatives have managed to pull off a media bluff that could well boost its appeal among young and women voters.

Candidate Meryem Daâli (PAM- Casablanca My Rashid) the ballot picture doesn't do her justice (Aufait Maroc picture)

As per her own statements to the press, Mrs. Daâli is not some idealistic activist trying to prove herself worthy of public office, but rather because her mother broached her on the subject, and she didn’t mind signing up as a PAM-PAM girl (sorry for the pun, and I can assure the reader there is no misogynist intent behind it)

Pour quelles raisons participez-vous aux élections? Est-ce que votre mère, Farida Naïmi, est derrière votre choix ?

Ma participation aux élections intervient dans la conjoncture que vit le Maroc qui dicte à tous les segments de la société, en particulier les jeunes, de réagir collectivement en laissant de côté la protestation, en contribuant aux réformes politiques et en participant dans des institutions. Et sans rien vous cacher, ma mère, qui est conseillère parlementaire, m’a ouvert la voie vers cette participation sous les couleurs du Parti de l’ Authenticité et de la Modernité.

But families ties in Moroccan politics are not rare commodity. In fact it is hardly the case not to find some remote family connections between candidates and incumbent politicians, sometimes across party lines; I particularly like the PEDD ballot candidates, where it seems -but I am not sure- that two family members have been accredited to contest the same district: MM. Ahmed & Yahya Ouadoudi really do look like Father & Son, don’t they? In a different district, that’s the whole family contesting the election: There are three Bourkalen PAM candidates contesting for Tinghir district (Souss-Massa) and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that n°2 and n°3 and n°1’s offspring.

There are some well-known politicians running for office (yet again) or challenging others to it; Abdelouahed Radi, USFP grandee and Premier is running for a 7th time since 1963 -if he manages to pull this off, he is going to retain his seat for almost half a century. He is standing for the newly re-drawn Sidi Slimane district (Gherb Chrarda) against Ismail Alaoui, former PPS leader, and PJD candidate Abdelouahed Bennani (Princess Royal Lallal Salma’s uncle). Blood ties, it seems, are the best insurance in the business of Moroccan politics.

Some VIP ministers, businessmen and distinguished party leaders are also joining the race:

Aziz Akhnennouch, Gaz distribution tycoon, Agriculture minister and RNI grandee, is the RNI candidate for Tiznit seat, a seat few parties are contesting (although 4 out 5 competing parties are nationwide)

Salaheddine Mezouar, RNI leader and most likely next Head Of Government, is standing as a candidate in Meknes, against PJD challenger (and incumbent) Representative Abdellah Bouanou

Yasmina Baddou, Health Minister and Representative for Casablanca (Anfa – Istiqlal) is standing for re-election, the same as Rep. Ouadi Benabdellah (Anfa – RNI) and Rep. Abdelbari Zemzami (Anfa – PRV)

Rep. Hamid Chabat (Fès – Istiqlal) is also standing for re-election (with an expected comfortable margin of victory) USFP is putting up Immigration Minister Mohamed Ameur as a challenger.

Driss Lachgar (Rabat) Ahmed Reda Chami (Fez) Karim Guellab (Casablanca) Abdelilah Benkirane (Salé) and Mohand Laenser (Boulemane) are but a few party heavyweights rushing for seats, some of them will not successfully carry. Head Of Government hopeful candidate PJD Sâadedine Othamni has changed for the third time his seat, this time standing for Mohammedia seat.

There are also some “Heirs to the Partisan seat” competing for seats, with Istiqlal and USFP: Ali Yazghi (n°2) and Aiman Aghmani (n°17)  for USFP, and n°8 Abdelmjid Fassi (from our very own Kennedy family) to name but a recognizable few.

For more VIP candidates La Vie Eco listed a few of these.

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

28

RCU/PAM – PI – PJD

812000

73000

Rabat

23

PJD – MP

161000

19000

Mohammedia

3

PJD – RCU/PAM

93000

117000

Aoucerd

2

PI – PAM

2400

2400

Tata

2

PI – PAM

40000

33000

Chtouka Aït Baha

3

RCU/PAM – PI

95000

63000

Ouarzazate

5

USFP – MP – RCU/PAM

171000

56000

Zagoura

3

RCU/PAM – PI

101000

48000

Kénitra

4

RCU/PAM – MP – PJD

388000

176000

Sidi Kacem

3

RCU/PAM – USFP

238000

139000

Kelâat Sraghna

4

RCU/PAM – USFP

247000

109000

Jerada

2

RCU/PAM

34000

32000

El-Jadida

3

RCU/PAM – USFP

353000

218000

Azilal

3

RCU/PAM

165000

95000

Rachidia

6

PJD – FFD

187000

54000

Fès

8

PI – USFP – PJD

320000

78000

My Yacoub

2

RCU/PAM – MP

52000

42000

Boulemane

3

RCU/PAM – MP

60000

36000

Al-Hoceima

4

RCU/PAM – PI

139000

57000

Taounate

3

RCU/PAM – PI

231000

127000

Taza

4

RCU/PAM – PI

254000

110000

Larache

4

PJD – PI

166000

68000

Chefchaouen

4

RCU/PAM – PI – PJD

191000

69000

Anjra

2

RCU/PAM

32000

27000

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.