The Moorish Wanderer

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

The House Of Cards and the King of Aces

Constitutional speeches are like Earthquakes, and in every sense of the word: they are earth-shattering, and they often come in a pair: the wave and the counter-wave follow each other and when the magnitude is high enough, the effect on the landscape is impressive. But this earthquake is not one. As a matter of fact, it might very well turn out to be a false alert.

Yesterday evening, the King gave the second speech on the Constitutional Reform, and announced Referendum Day for July 1st, just like what Khalid Hariry tweeted about on May 18th when his colleagues and himself met the Interior minister. At the same time, the speech laid out the essential features of what is essentially the new constitution, which is more than likely going to be voted by a comfortable margin. Before considering the political implications of this extraordinary short time span for political debate and campaigning, as well as the already biased rules of the campaigning game.

Contrary to the constitution circa 1996, the project has been carefully drafted, with a special focus on detailed procedure, perhaps to excessive lengths. Because the past constitutions have been written -and then cosmetically arranged so as to give a façade of democratic constitution- by one man, the late king Hassan II, and by his own admission, the writing process is daunting, but in his case, he managed to produce five constitutions that fit his larger-than-life character and lust for power; The latest of these Hassan II-era constitutional pieces of legislation, the 1996 constitution, was supposed to seal the deal on political transition, the so-called “Alternance Consensuelle“. So compared to the succinct constitutions we have had since 1962, this one is a true constitutional lawyer’s piece of work. Too bad it has been written by mainstream and conservative panellists.

The 180 articles in the new constitution, contrary to what has been speculated upon, do not change the monarchy from executive to symbolic, but rather recognize a de facto actual exercise of power; as we shall see later on, the monarch retains a great deal of appointment privileges, and while he did cede many of his formerly privileges, these concessions are not enough for the new constitution to qualify as that of a parliamentary monarchy. This is so because many of its articles are bluntly contradicting various universal standards of democracy, among others the separation of powers, the precedence  given to and accountability required from the elected representatives of the people. None of these things have been mentioned in the new draft, and that is why I reiterate my stand on voting against the constitution on Referendum Day.

Of these cosmetic changes, there is also much to be discussed; The word cosmetic is used here advisedly, mainly because while they do provide feedback to long-standing grievances, they remain insufficient as to the expected efficiency, or even with regard to the political symbolism from such measures. Contrary to the 1996 vintage and previous, the new constitution admits the diversity of the Moroccan identity, as specified in the preamble:

المملكة المغربية دولة إسلامية ذات سيادة كاملة، متشبثة بوحدتها الوطنية والترابية، وبصيانة تلاحم مقومات هويتها الوطنية، الموحدة بانصهار كلمكوناتها، العربية – الإسلامية، والأمازيغية، والصحراوية الحسانية، والغنية بروافدها الإفريقية والأندلسية والعبرية والمتوسطية. كما أن الهوية المغربية تتميزبتبوئ الدين الإسلامي مكانة الصدارة فيها، وذلك في ظل تشبث الشعب المغربي بقيم الانفتاح والاعتدال والتسامح والحوار، والتفاهم المتبادل بين الثقافاتوالحضارات الإنسانية جمعاء.

“The Kingdom of Morocco is an Islamic state enjoying an unfettered sovereignty, and is firmly attached to its national and territorial unity, and is committed to uphold the fundamentals of its national identity and all its components, Arabic, Islamic, Amazigh, Hassani-Sahrawi, as well as the fruitful African, Hebraic, Andalusian and Mediterranean influences. Furthermore, the Moroccan identity has a special place for Islam, as the Moroccan people are attached to the values of openness, moderation and forgiveness, in addition to the mutual understanding with all human civilizations”. [all extracts are unofficial translations]

This piece of preamble, while signalling a significant shift in the official narrative, because it now recognizes the obvious, and finally admits that diversity does not harm national unity. But the encouraging opening soon fades away, and the disappointing, almost insulting order of precedence reminds all of us who credited the commission with some amount of good faith that the centre of power, with all its legitimacy, is not yet ready to abandon the Arabo-Islamic hegemony. Notice the order: Arabic, Islamic, then Amazigh, Hassani, and the Hebraic heritage is relegated to the rank of a mere “influence”. Though this might sound like a fickle, this ranking is actually important because the preamble does not explicitly put all these ‘fundamentals’ on an equal footing. And judges can justify many of their ruling by this, as it might come up. Consider the example of a citizen suing the local administration because they refused to register their infant’s Amazigh name. Suppose the case goes all the way up to the Courts. It might very well be that the Judge would sustain the administration’s decision by invoking the order of precedence in these fundamentals. And considering how conservative the Judges’ corps are, this instance is more than likely to be observed in the near future.

The New Royal Motto: "Monarchy Rules All, and That's Official Now"

The positive contribution in the preamble is the unequivocal support and endorsement of international treaties on Human Rights and International Law. This was one of the most important pledge activists wanted the government and the regime to honour, without restrictions or reservations. This does not mean the end of police brutality, or the abuses citizens have to endure whenever they need to deal with the local administration. Again, the liberal tendency within the document itself is hurriedly curtailed in the name of sovereignty (and thus, local context, a window of opportunity to conservative interpretation of international law) -Another peculiar article I noticed was the “Right To Live” (Art.20) and yet death penalty is not explicitly mentioned and abolished; alternatively, this could also be a constitutional roadblock against any pro-abortion legislation. In both cases, a well-meaning established principle is going to yield the opposite, reactionary outcome.

The articles themselves operate pretty much under the same mechanism, especially on the executive branch: the King heads the newly-established Security Counsel (Art.54) still retains the General Staff (Art.53) religious leadership (the 1996 Article 19 turns into Article 41) and finally all cabinet meetings where the strategic decisions are made.

الفصل 41

الملك، أمير المؤمنين وحامي حمى الملة والدين، والضامن لحرية ممارسة الشؤون الدينية. يرأس الملك، أمير المؤمنين، المجلس العلمي الأعلى، الذي يتولى دراسة القضايا التي يعرضها عليه. ويعتبر المجلس الجهة الوحيدة المؤهلة لإصدار الفتاوى المعتمدة رسميا، بشأن المسائل المحالة عليه، استنادا إلى مبادئ وأحكام الدين الإسلامي الحنيف، ومقاصده السمحة. تحدد اختصاصات المجلس وتأليفه وكيفيات سيره بظهير. يمارس الملك الصلاحيات الدينية المتعلقة بإمارة المؤمنين، والمخولة له حصريا، بمقتضى هذا الفصل، بواسطة ظهائر

الفصل 53

الملك هو القائد الأعلى للقوات المسلحة الملكية. وله حق التعيين في الوظائف العسكرية، كما له أن يفوض لغيره ممارسة هذا الحق.

الفصل 54

يُحدث مجلس أعلى للأمن، بصفته هيئة للتشاور بشأن استراتيجيات الأمن الداخلي والخارجي للبلاد، وتدبير حالات الأزمات، والسهر أيضا على مأسسة ضوابط الحكامة الأمنية الجيدة.

The innovation in this constitution comes from the appointment of a Prime Minister from the majority party after a general election. The perverse established mechanism is too obvious: should a political party not amenable to the King’s views win a seizable majority of seats, the King, or his advisers, can weaken them by picking a Prime Minister other than the Party Leader. Divide and Rule, so that only obedient Prime Ministers can be appointed. Other than that, the King still retains power to hire and fire Ministers.

On the Judiciary, nothing has been done. Judges are not independent, because the King still chairs the Supreme Judiciary Council (the name changed a bit, but the attributions remain the same)

الفصل 56

يرأس الملك المجلس الأعلى للسلطة القضائية.

الفصل 57

يوافق الملك بظهير على تعيين القضاة من قبل المجلس الأعلى للسلطة القضائية.

Article 64 is a concrete threat to the Members of Parliament’s freedom of speech and immunity. The fact that the article enumerates these highly political cases instead of those potentially related to common law matters is not only a political threat to outspoken MPs, it is also an implicit invitation for the peoples’ representatives not to be bold, and whenever they can get away with it, engage in corruption and other improper behaviour from an elected office.

الفصل 64

لا يمكن متابعة أي عضو من أعضاء البرلمان، ولا البحث عنه، ولا إلقاء القبض عليه، ولا اعتقاله ولا محاكمته، بمناسبة إبدائه لرأي أو قيامه بتصويت خلال مزاولته لمهامه، ماعدا إذا كان الرأي المعبر عنه يجادل في النظام الملكي أو الدين الإسلامي، أو يتضمن ما يخل بالاحترام الواجب للملك.

All in all, the reports on newspapers that the King has curbed some of his powers is an attempt to polish a timid political process, or outright ignorance of Moroccan politics since 1956. While it is true the new articles spend a great deal of lengthy and tedious enumeration of dispositions, they do not bring new concepts other than those necessary for the decorum. Actually, if it was not for these accessories, the constitution just writes down the powers ” The King discovers while He practises them” as Professor Mennouni once said.

This lengthy overview of the new constitution is two-fold: it explains why I stand by my decision to vote against the new constitution, and it describes quite eloquently the new regime we are living under. We have moved from the dictatorial Hassan-II era to that of Soft Authoritarianism. The red lines still exist, but there is no systematic repression on those who cross it. But to these impudent, contentious subjects, the retribution is random and sometimes harsh. In any case, both eras share the random-looking pattern of repression; But now that the Monarchy’s legitimacy is firmly and strongly entrenched, they can engage directly into formalizing their patronage over the other institutions.

From a historical point of view, and bearing in mind the evolution of the balance of forces between the Palace and its real opposition, this new constitution does not take away powers from the King, it does not add up some more (if that was ever possible) it simply recognizes the Regal Hegemony.

There Is No Alternative… and a U-Turn is no alternative, either

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on February 9, 2011

The looks were pretty similar. Baroness Thatcher is not natural blonde, though.

Did you see the picture? Meryl Streep bears striking similarities with the Iron Lady, and I am looking forward to the movie. But that is another matter. What I want to post about is Constitutional Reforms. “Oh, that old pensum”, one might think, that pops around when the left-wing radical has no other idea to discuss. Yes but this time, it’s real politics. And perhaps the chance for the monarchy to choose a different course of action.

It is rumoured, more and more insistently too, that there is a constitutional reform in the offings. The wires might be crossed, but it seems now -and I thank Annouss for this idea- that the new frontier for constitutional change is the extended de-centralization, a devolution as it were, that would end once for all the Sahara problem, and at the same time square the last advocates for real constitutional reforms. The Modus Operandi is still unclear, and the most moderate among the pro-reform radicals are gambling on that to take away the maximum amount of reforms, which ranges from an upgrade version of the 1997 de-centralization bill, to a full, federative monarchy, which would be not only a breakthrough in the MENA region, but would even set the standards in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

To put it bluntly, this regionalism stuff could be either a bitter disappointment or an unexpected stunt. It is high time M. Azimane presented His Majesty, and the nation, with his findings, so that the officials can proceed with the process. (come to think of it, His Majesty might have already received the report…)

Unless the recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, most likely in Yemen or even neighbouring Algeria were putting off the officials from implementing the reforms, for fear it might be construed as panicky concession, thus furthering public thrust for more freedom. The slippery slope, they would argue. (From now on, I’d refer to the officials in charge of policy-making as “the top brass”, just a matter of convenience) Perhaps 2012 is the new deadline; Constitutionally, the King is entitled to call off elections when sees fit -and that resulted in a brawl in the 1980s when rebellious USFP Members of Parliament refused the Regal decision- but still, it would be construed as a cooling-off period for a great design that, in the top brass’s view, should not be sullied by electoral process. Who knows how these people think… (Note: again if they recruit brainy people to sort out the policies, I may be interested… )

Let’s cast aside the prepared February 20th demonstrations and the frenzy of the half-witted ranting tediously against them. Tabula Rasa, ok? I understand my approach is somewhat flawed; Political science and real-life politics do not work like economics. There is no point in trying to isolate effects; This approach however, allows to consider the constitutional reform in a broader sense. As a principle. And when time comes, I’d try to link it up with the current events. First, by conventional standards, it has to be agreed that the current constitutional set is not democratic: the monarchy is constitutional, but the constitutional is not democratic. And the press, as well as the public should do away with the rather cheap argument that ‘our neighbours are worse’. Because it contradicts the other popular argument ‘Morocco is different’. In any case, Morocco might end up in the stead of East Germany: late 1980’s, Erich Hönecker was adamant East Germany already had its Glasnost, and yet, it was the first country on the iron curtain to come tumbling down. Not that I see any parallelism between the MENA region, Morocco on the one hand, and East Germany and Eastern Europe on the other, but I’d broach the top brass to think twice before claiming -or getting their puppets to do so- that Morocco have already implemented its reforms, and that it might not go further.

Going back to the constitutional reform; It is now obvious that not only the reform is necessary, but it is officially considered as a ‘political correct’ kind of political claim, and that even the top brass is getting amenable to the idea. The vehicle to achieve this reform is of course the regionalization card, the last one the official line claims to be the last piece in the grand democracy Morocco is enjoying. The recent troubles are just putting the implementation of such reforms off.

What does the man in the street thinks? Not much perhaps. He or She are more anxious about rising prices -a possible trigger for social unrest- and the immediate measures the government takes to defuse any possible crisis. Plus word have been put on not to antagonize the regular demonstrators. To be ‘nice’ to the underdog for fear they might turn berserk and spark the much feared riots. But then again, the more ostentatious these policies are publicized, the more conspicuous the top brass look in their inability to come up with a more long-term, sensible solution. Unless they would prepare for a stunt in 2012.

So 2012 could well be the constitutional year. A word of caution though: whatever the decision they would come up with, there is a high probability I would find it to be half-backed. Too shy in reforms at best. So I am speculating on 2012 as the possible turning point for the speculation’s sake. So, 2012, instead of delivering an election, would give us a Royal Speech arguing for wide-ranging consultations that would eventually lead to a constitutional referendum on the new de-centralization. The centrepiece would be devolved assemblies with relatively extended powers. A good move to strengthen local democracy, and in the Sahara, undercut separatist claims (an even bolder move is to appeal to Polisario to join in and run these assemblies from within Moroccan sovereignty). In any case, it’s going to be wait and see for 2012: either an election or a constitutional referendum (or both !)

The trouble with such promising perspective, is that it is the final frontier. There is nothing beyond this ultimate set of reforms. The finally final concession -and even yet another harvest of ex-left wing radicals turned zealots for the regime. The question remains: can the regime afford to duck pressing institutional calls for reform by pulling together a half-backed reform? The writings’ on the wall. And failure yet again might just feed growing resentment and increase the likelihoods of a disastrous outcome sensible minds would not contemplate for Morocco.

The Lowest Turnout Ever -Yet

It is a bit early. In facts, too early to say. There is still almost two years to go before the next general election scheduled for 2012 (but the King can always change his mind and call for an early election, just like he would delay it) but the result is fairly easy to anticipate the results: low turnout, a more fragmented than ever parliament, and no real, committed ruling coalition.

Perhaps the now popular PAM (the monarchist Parti Authenticité & Modernité) will be part of it, but it is unlikely to get a large majority to rule by itself. Historic data shows it: no political party can rule Morocco. No coalition has ever done so by itself; We claim to be a constitutional democratic and social Monarchy, yet the power remains, by law, by constitution and De Facto in the King’s hands. In these conditions, voting for a party is meaningless; Why try to give legitimacy to an institution that does not hold real power then? The largest party in the lower house, cannot muster individually more than 30% of the total seats, whatever their political philosophy -when they do have one.

It is spooky how constant the political institutions in Morocco are: apart from the monarchy that is, over a little less than half a century, no political party -constituted political party- has ever managed to reach an outright majority, and as such, all of the governments since the first elected parliament -1963-  all coalitions where too weak to be government majority -as well as being a complete fabrication, the so-called administrative parties-.

1963 Elections. 141 Seats, no outright majority. (Source: Barnabé Lopez Garcia, "Cuarenta anos de procesos electorales" Arabic version, 2009)

The 1963 elections were the first ones in Morocco. the main competitors were the historic main party, the Istiqlal,  its left-wing breakaway, the UNFP (Union Nationale des Forces Populaires, 1959) and the FDIC (Front de Défense des Institutions Constitutionnelles) an aggregate of parties that was put together to provide for a  “workable” majority, to the king’s convenience.  the FDIC was made up with the help of the Mouvement Populaire (MP) that was founded in 1957 to counter Istiqlali influence, the Parti Socialiste Democratique, an empty structure Ahmed Reda Guedira, King Hassan II‘s right-hand man and finally, a junior partner, most difficult to explain, the Choura & Istiqlal Party (PDI), the only partner that can be described as a “national party” (following the canonic dividing line between administrative and national parties in Morocco). This heterogeneous front was supposed to win the elections decisively, but failed in the process, though it managed to get the highest vote count, but still short of the absolute majority.

A. Ouadghiri’s accounts of the campaign are quite edifying:

“[…] à quelques jours de l’échéance, elle se ranime par de nombreux meetings tant des gouvernementaux que des opposants, par des distributions de tracts et de manchettes de journaux […]Au fond, le FDIC n’a pas obtenu après coup la majorité absolue. Il ne la retrouve qu’en racolant quelques indépendants […] l’UNFP, en dépit de la modestie de ses moyens, a un succès incontestable au sein du prolétariat urbain qui lui accorde une confiance massive. La surprise électorale au sein de ce prolétariat urbain, c’est la victoire de Guédira, chef de file du FDIC qui l’emporte à Casablanca dans un quartier d’ouvriers, ce qui fait dire à l’opposition (Ndlr, the UNFP and Istiqlal) que c’est grâce au blé américain distribué “à gogo” aux familles ouvrières casablancaises que le proche collaborateur du Roi a emporté son siège à la chambre des représentans. […] Cette accusation contre Guédira est concrétisée par une démarche effectuée auprès de l’ambassade des Etats-Unis d’Amérique à Rabat par un groupe de 5 Istiqlaliens[…]”. (Le Maroc: de la Mort de Mohammed V à la Guerre des Sables 1961-1963, 1981 Edition)

This election is quite specific: it was the first one, the opposition parties were not even convinced of its validity -because no constitutional convention was held beforehand as they were promised, and the constitutional referendum showdown’s effects were still vivid in their mind. Still and all, the whole thing looked as if the new king wanted a parliament for tactical purposes. facade-wise, it was a good publicity for the newly founded Moroccan democracy: not too conservative, but not too radical either. Anyhow, the balance of power was outside parliament as the years to follow were to show.

Two years after, the king declared a state of emergency after the students riots; On June 1965, he was effectively the absolute ruler of the land. Morocco had to wait until 1977 to get its post-state of emergency elected parliament. The result came as a shock to many parties, especially to the opposition, now gathered within the Koutla: the June 1977 legislative elections delivered some 140 MPs, among which 81 were directly elected, the Istiqlal party was trailing behind with about half the number, and the USFP with 15 members of parliaments. These SAP (Sans Appartenance Politique) were slowly turned out into a party starting from October 1978, when the Rassemblement National des Indépendants was founded and De Facto, the main coalition party under the leadership of the incumbent Prime Minister Ahmed Osman – Hassan II’s brother-in-law. the SAPs, and later on, the RNI, were part of a coalition government that gathered also Istiqlal and the Mouvement Populaire (a workable majority of over 80% seats). But the coalition was fragile: the Istiqlal participation was not wholehearted, and so was the Mouvement Populaire’s involvement (there was a split between the two historic founder Dr El Khatib and Aherdane). it eventually broke down when, shortly before 1984 elections, the RNI suffered a split, when a rogue group of MPs (57 to be precise) founded in June 1982 the Parti National Démocrate (PND). The spin-off was symptomatic of the instability of the ruling coalition and therefore, its weakness in managing the country by themselves.

The same process iterate itself with during the Maati Bouabid government in 1981. Instead of getting non-partisan individuals and then merging them together in a brand new party, the incumbent prime minister was given the task to create a new party ahead of the election. A party ostensibly economically conservative (libéral would be the precise term) Late 1982, he issued a declaration to an array of middle and high-ranking officials, private firms executive officers… the intermediary elite so to speak; the content can be summarized in few bullet points: Monarchy and institutional support and consolidation of the present democracy. There was demur about the project of creating a new party, but eventually, in April 1983, the newly founded Union Constitutionnelle (the name is a sort of a pied-de-nez to the opposition party USFP) was to be the standard-bearer of the policies Morocco has to implement as part of the Structural Adjustment Program imposed by the IMF after the reserve currency and debt crisis Morocco and other third-world countries faced early 1980’s. The party managed to get 55 seats during the 1983 elections, secured 5 portfolios, but was supporting a technocrat prime minister (M. Karim-Lamrani) In short, the 1980’s, besides being a period of confrontation between the left-wing opposition (some USFP MPs refused to keep their seats when the King decided to extend the parliament session) was such that some political parties provided the numbers for legislative process, but had no real say or authorities to that matter. Strangely though, a prominent partner of the Koutla, the Istiqlal party, was member of this government. It just shows how weak coalitions are, whether in opposition or government, there is, as far as the 1980’s were concerned, no stable coalition, a brilliant illustration of cooperative game theory.

Save for the FDIC in 1963, large parties cannot provide for more than 30% of the seats in the lower house (the Parliament, or the seats subject to direct election, following the different regimes between 1963 and 1984)

1993 was, in the King’s own terms, a disappointment. He was expecting an “Alternance” government (and apparently, M. Boucetta was considered a suitable Prime Minister, a position he turned down) but the opposition Koutla, denouncing gross falsifications during the legislative campaign, refused to continue the negotiations with the monarchy about a possible transfer of government (other roadblocks arose, mainly about the interior department that was under the firm hand of Driss Basri) and things went as they were before: obedient administrative parties and their MPs supporting a government that had legitimacy outside parliament, in the King’s trust. Following the 1993 results, the political map of parliament was even more fragmented than before.

Things started to go worse from that time onwards. I wish I wouldn’t say it, but it looked as though at the twilight of his reign, king Hassan II wanted to weaken the political opponents to the extent they would pose no threat to the then crown-prince, now king Mohamed VI. And if there was any such project, it certainly did reach its objective, for the following elections, opening up parliament for opposition parties -admittedly, to prepare the Alternance Consensuelle– increasingly changed into a house of multitude of parties, each pulling for something, regardless of their origin, political loyalty or size. 2002 and 2007 are no difference to that.

Elections. Why Bother?

Why the boring facts and the even more boring history? It is necessary so to show that first, parliamentary parties are notoriously weak. Not that I favour the introduction of chief whip position in Moroccan parliamentary politics -even though it will be of great benefits no doubt- but no party can really claim the full support of their MPs. In facts these very MPs, usually local barons, are the ones controlling the large parties at some point. It has been the curse of the USFP and moderately (and increasingly as their thrust for power grows more insistent) that of the PJD, that for a party to grow beyond a critical threshold, they need the support of local notabilities, and they have to come to terms with them one way or the other, usually at the expenses of their proclaimed principles. So, besides weak discipline among the parliamentary parties, configuration for coalitions are equally weak. Before I elaborate on that, some figures are worth to point out: 5 parties were represented in the 1963 parliament, 8 in 1984, 21 in 2002. In 1984, the three largest parties had 3 seats out of 4 in parliament. In 2007, only 40%. Starting from 1997, the likelihood of a “strong coalition” grew smaller than ever. Coalitions, under formalized conditions, are not meant to be stable when they operate under the rule of a majority, because any junior partner can leave it, thus pulling it apart. And that is particularly true in Moroccan politics. The fact government majority are stable across time in Morocco -as indeed they are- is irrelevant; it is he sheer paradox in their inner composition that should confirms how fragile and volatile they are.

When parliament is not the actual holder of legislative power, and when government does not answer to this very parliament, then there is no need for that body, or rather, there is no need for voting for them. I am quite sure may MPs are of good heart and honourable intentions, but politics is about institutions, ideas and principles. I can see none of those in our بارليمان .

If it is going as usual, I am not voting on September 2012. And I shall derive painful pleasure in watching the Moroccan people given a puppet Prime Minister. You have been warned.

Worthy Of Democracy

Posted in Moroccan History & Sociology, Moroccanology, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on May 5, 2010

Madame Speaker,

I usually do not comment on what my fellow bloggers write on their blogs (but I do leave comments from time to time). Or rather, I didn’t have the chance to discuss things and issues seriously (which is all natural, given that the blogoma, in its huge majority, deals in such simplistic schemes that one cannot but stand idle before it…)

An esteemed blogger posted an article that was the last straw for me to bear, or rather, gave me at last something to write about. You might call it left-wing intellectual arrogance in my tone, I am simply angry that ‘grown-ups’ like Citizen Hmida could speak such foolish things, and confirm this idea of the Blogoma as a ‘garbage idea‘ (which, save for a happy few, do not justice to itself); A stereotype other bloggers are trying to avoid by bringing intellectual uplift, or at least by advocating local, yet noble causes.

Not that I hold anything against the honourable gentleman: everyone is entitled to their opinions –how ever misinformed and superficial it might be- but there are things that make me wonder about the benefits free speech or rather, its necessity: do we give the loonies the right to manage themselves? Well, for the time being, another tribe of well-meaning fools -the Makhzen and their obedient useful idiots- run the country, so the lunatics are trying to see if they can take over the internet beforehand.

Let us turn to the main argument the Citizen Hmida develops about democracy. He is actually targeting the post-Massira young Moroccans (i.e. those born after 1975) and their supposed exaggerated thrust for Democracy: “La génération « post-Massira » considère que la démocratisation de notre pays se réalise mal, ou au mieux trop lentement à son gré!” as he puts it in his unique fashion.

Given he is a man of culture and knowledge, I was surprised how misinformed he was on British politics. Indeed:

“Les élections anglaises se sont déroulées avec les mêmes partis qui subsistent depuis lors : les « torries », royalistes devenus progressivement « conservateurs » et les « wights », libéraux, remplacés au XIXème par le « Labour » travailliste. Un dernier né tente de se faire une place depuis quelques temps et semble y réussir cette fois : ce sont les «libéraux démocrates », des centristes qui semblent en quête d’identité”

Or does it? Early-age Tories are not remembered for their sole monarchism, a minimum knowledge of the English Civil War would teach a lot about that. And about the Liberals, the Whigs and Labour, I wonder how Sir Herbert Asquith would react if he knew he was put with,say, Ramsay Mc Donald in the same political basket? What would David Lloyd George say if he was told the Liberals were ‘replaced’ by Clement Atlee’s chums? and what comments Charles Kennedy would provide if he’d read about his ‘newly-found’ Lib-Dem party, so ‘newbie’ that their are still looking for their political identity? Oh, I am sure it was just a civic slip of the mind (and indeed, of fingers on the keyboard…) but it tells how superficial our colleague could get when discussing serious issues like politics. And he still has the nerves to defend his mistakes; what is it? The elderly pride has been wounded? Can’t the honourable gentleman stand younger people to point out his mistakes?


But that’s not what I want to discuss; I wanted to point out this paternalistic –and frankly, annoying- tone in his article, and in many others, about modern history, democracy, Moroccan politics… No bottom to it, no consistent arguments, no better than the average Moroccan journalist (and they are, just like him, very average).

His main argument –if I understood it well- was that ‘democracy was not built in a day’.

Of course Democracy is not to be of ex-nihilo nature, and of course it is always a bit of a process. However, his flawed argument stands on the wrong idea that democracy is something to be achieved at a definite stage, a sort of a goal really. As if Great Britain is indeed a complete democracy.

I am a great fan of British democracy, and I would love Moroccan politics being run just like in the UK: the King would have honorary duties, respected and revered as a symbol, and not for holding extra-constitutional powers; A government that could be voted against at any moment if they do not have a substantial majority in parliament, and so on and so forth… A strong government, capable of carrying out their policies, the very one they got elected on. Does it mean Britain is an achieved democracy? That is not for him, nor for me, nor for anyone else to say; it’s up to factual history investigation.

(By the way, I think he should read a bit about modern British politics, I think the ‘Very Short Introduction Of’ Oxford Series is a good start) There’s at least one thing about this political regime that is worthy of praises, namely it intrinsically admits its own imperfection (spiritual and temporal theocracies, on the other hand, not so much…) and, through its very own mechanisms, work it out. I shall of course present some academic papers on that particular subject, for the benefit of those of us who lack proper education, or those that lacked rigorous apprehension of political theory and knowledge to that matter.

Madame Speaker,

I believe Dahl (1971) provided some interesting insights on what he calls ‘polyarchies’ since “no large system in the real world is fully democratized”. In a nutshell, democracy is a continuous quantity with an upper bound quite out of reach, the upper bound being function of the general set of references a specific society endorses as are not logically consistent, and ultimately perverted by what K. Popper calls ‘historicism’; Let us for the sake of argument, admit the United Kingdom took three centuries to turn truly democratic (which it didn’t; Lord Melbourne might have been a progressive Primer Minister, he didn’t have much sympathy to the common people).

This does not mean Morocco will have to wait three centuries as well to be in turns democratic as well. This is not catch-up growth theory, nor basic mathematics for him to apply. I do not deny the benefits of looking up history, quite the other way round: I am a staunch advocate of the process, but there’s something odd about this callup, namely that because western democracies took such a long time, we wetheads should not claim democracy too loud, and by this token, should instead be glad to live in a country that is, after all, better off compared to fellow MENA and Arabic countries. Strangely enough, that does remind me of the very official line the MAP (that one always cracks me up) or Le Matin follow: Morocco is building its democracy, and those claiming it is not are either nihilists or traitors, and in any case enemies to the ‘sacred values’ our country holds dear.

The honourable gentleman did sound as though his pre-Massira generation utterly failed to establish democracy, and now wants somehow to put the blame on us (I felt targeted as well as many others) and in any case, the fact that Britain achieved a higher state of democracy does not absolve us from pushing for greater democracy in Morocco. If anything, it is not for the young people among us that need to “se pencher sérieusement sur le problème, d’essayer d’en démonter les mécanismes afin de participer efficacement et à leur manière au long cheminement qui aboutira inéluctablement à la mise en place d’une démocratie viable dans notre pays.” Hmida and many others sharing the same ideology advocating a rewriting of History, either because it didn’t turn out quite as they expected it to, or because they know nothing about and tend to reject anything that contradicts the compulsory national curriculum of civic education circa 1990’s.

It seems he doesn’t understand, or accept that the 5 years following independence were full of political progress, and we achieved more than what we could have ever hoped for in the previous centuries and indeed, in the next decades.

I mean in less than a decade, Morocco has its own pre-constitutional parliament (meant to be a constituent assembly, if it was not for the then-crown prince Hassan) with a good representation of political parties, trade unions, professional trusts and so on (the 76-strong Conseil National Consultatif). In this particular matter –and in many occurrences as well- Morocco catched-up quite quick with the Western democracies, how odd! Why can’t we then advocate for, say, a full secularist judiciary and political legitimization of power, or do we have to wait a couple of centuries as well?

Let us take a look to what the 4th government: Prime Minister Abdellah Ibrahim carried out in less than two years so much workload it can still be felt everywhere: the Moroccan Central Bank, the national Currency, the public companies, the first moudouwana (which, ironically enough was far more liberal than the next one, and, to some extent, the latest amendment) all of that in two years. What the honourable gentleman thinks is impatience is merely anger, or perhaps disappointment to this intellectual waste. One can understand indeed why “La génération « post-Massira » considère que la démocratisation de notre pays se réalise mal, ou au mieux trop lentement à son gré!” as he puts it.

May the house allow me for a conclusion to my long and tedious statement; The bottom line is, democracy is not a ‘steady’ process, and it’s not because far more advanced coutries achieved high levels of democracy that we need to follow the same fashion; I dare say its speed is function of what we Moroccans want to make out of it. I think I can speak for myself and my honourable friends, democracy is here and now, with constant discussions (just like this one) and no self-satisfaction that we should achieve it”.