The Moorish Wanderer

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.

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.

Old Makhzen Never Dies

Posted in Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on June 9, 2011

…And the recent horse-trading these last couple of days reminds us of the one viable rule in Moroccan politics: the Makhzen Giveth and Taketh away. The agenda is set by and not imposed upon the Regime.

The nation-wide road-show Menouni’s commission has engaged in over the last three months, and the rounds of presentations political parties and other organizations did in explaining their respective views on the constitutional reform was initially supposed to be concluded with a circulated draft of the future constitution. We now discover -basically at D Day-2 from the official deadline set for the commission to make public its recommendations, that it would be best for the commission and the abnormal entity attached to it (headed by Royal Counsellor M. Moatassim, as per March 10th Royal Speech) not to circulate a written summary, but rather give a brief oral presentation, included in a 6 hours meetings, during which the invited organizations need to accept it as the accurate description of the upcoming constitution. Parallel to this manoeuvre, the Makhzenite minions are spreading ‘The Good News‘ about the changes made in Article 19, about the new powers the Prime Minister will enjoy, as well as the new concept of regionalism and extended autonomy for local democracy. Overall, and to the public opinion, these little manoeuvres go by unnoticed, while the narrative concentrates on how important the new constitution is going to be. A breakthrough in democracy, as it were.

According to these reports, the 2011 constitutional vintage is going to be unprecedented – Just like the 4 reforms that came before. If the official propaganda was to be traced back as far as 1963, we would have been at the all-times vanguard of a democracy such that no scholar in political science ever dreamt of such edifice.

The Dark Side Of the Commission. Mohamed Moatassim, Counsel to the King (Picture TelQuel)

Today marks the 3-Months anniversary of the King’s Speech on the constitutional reform. Much has been said, written about it. And, truth be told, whatever the plethora of opinions that followed the news, it has been a remarkable exercise of freedom of speech. However despicable and contemptible some of these pieces might have been, they were, quite simply, the true exercise of the most basic civic right: the right to discuss important public matters without self-censorship. And I am afraid the break is not going to last long. The Headmaster is about the blow the whistle and disperse the party; What is truly harrowing is the way the whole thing is carried out: sneaky, basically a Fait-Accompli. The grievances of a large spectrum about the way the commission has been set up have not been heard, and to those who refused to give it further legitimacy, they were criticized for being too ‘dogmatic’ or ‘extremists’ as if Menouni’s real boss, Counsellor Moatassim, was a beacon of democratic proceedings and a transparent operator. The burden of guilt was easily shifted to those who refused to be robbed from the essential claim for a genuine democratic, parliamentary monarchy, and little by little, these have been muted out of what can be charitably called a ‘public debate’.

Well, with these backroom manoeuvres, there is an additional body of evidence that the Regime did not fundamentally change. The traditional opacity and conspiratorial tactics are still employed. The argument, alas endorsed by many well-educated people, is that when it comes to serious stuff, all these noble gestures about democracy and public participation are useless; Writing the constitution is too serious a matter to be left to its citizens. The commission has heard those it considered fit to deliver a meaningful message, and then selected whatever suits the Monarchy best. Menouni is, at best, providing the legal phrasing.

Let us look at the numbers. At a first glance, the argument that we are not ‘ready for democracy’ might find some support in the overall picture of Moroccans’ interest -or rather, lack of thereof- in politics. The values survey has compiled data on Moroccan politics, and although the vast majority of likely voters registered -or had at least one opportunity to vote on a national or local elections, they do not give the impression of active involvement in the said political process. Indeed, 82% of all likely voters registered, and 70% already voted during an election.

But then again, past elections have been so manipulated -by the late former Interior Minister Driss Basri that these numbers might be meaningless, especially when compared to the lack of interest in politics itself: 26% of the polled sample said they “did not care much about politics” (and the proportion goes as high as 35% for rural dwellers) and only 1.7% expressed an interest in signing up for a party. Finally, 1 in 4 admits they cannot assess the state of democracy in Morocco, even though 64% are confident in Morocco’s future. As a matter of fact, there is very little interest in partisan politics: the first quality voters look for in their prospective representative is “Ma’qoul“, or integrity. 63% are unable to think within the Left-Right political spectrum.

That is why the ‘Yes’ vote will win with a landslide majority -perhaps not as large as the ones observed since 1963- because a vast majority of Moroccans -as the numbers show- will register and vote, not out of political principles, but because the vote is still a collective endavour, and not the expression of individual will. as the report notes:

22% des citadins et 35% des ruraux déclarent ne porter aucun intérêt à la politique. Cependant, lorsqu’on prend comme indicateurs l’inscription aux listes électorales et le vote, on remarque que les ruraux sont plus intéressés par la politique que les citadins. 86% des ruraux et 80% des citadins sont inscrits aux listes électorales, 77% et 66% ont respectivement voté aux dernières élections. Deux explications peuvent être apportées à ce fait paradoxal.

On peut supposer que la mobilisation en milieu rural est collective et que souvent le vote est considéré comme un acte collectif guidé par des affinités familiales, de voisinage ou clientéliste. Les gens se déplacent en groupe pour voter. Dans ce cas, il ne s’agirait pas d’un intérêt porté à la politique au sens moderne du terme où l’individu, en tant que tel et de façon autonome, serait libre de participer ou non. […] Dans une société rurale, et dans toute société de face à face où tout se sait, rester à l’écart des processus politiques impliquant sa communauté constitue un grand risque“. (p.54)

It is therefore safe to say that indeed, Moroccan voters are not ready for real politics. But that is confusing the outcome for its cause: Moroccans do not care about politics because they have not been given the opportunity to debate things; they have been prevented from trying to make Cartesian sense out of the political sense. Political apathy is, in short, result of the lack of their involvement in real politics, not the opposite. Indeed, the younger generations were more ready to define themselves on the political spectrum (22%) than their elders (12%) There is a high potential among the 18-35 demographic segment to take their political interest to field application. Now, how could they do so, when, on the instance of the constitutional reform, they are hurriedly prevented from having their say within a nationwide public debate?

The other figures in the report do, in a sense, explain Feb20 demographics, as well as the lack of participation in the last elections, and when one carefully reads them, can explain the need for a genuine constitutional reform, and not that half-backed, crooked deal likely to be imposed on us. Even though 18-24 Moroccans are less likely to register for voting (55%) only 13% of them declare their lack of interest in politics. They are about twice less likely not to situate political parties (29.8%) than their elders from the 45-59 segment (50.2%); Overall the 18-35 are more likely to be interested in politics than the 35+ segment.

A Nihilist Strategy since 1963

Political apathy goes back to the fact that the more educated one is, the more convinced pseudo-representative institutions are unlikely to do their job they grow. A college-degree graduate is almost twice less likely to be optimist about the country’s future (36%) than illiterate Moroccans (70%). The problem is not in voters apathy, it is in the institutions seemingly put together to represent the people. This is why I -and many others- rant against the very short period allowed for the Referendum campaign.

Whether Moroccans are ready or not to democracy is irrelevant (and quite insulting, especially from the sanctimonious bunch that portray themselves as patriotic) because there is no definite state where ‘Democracy’ is achieved. It can be so only through practise, and we are in the process of being robbed away from the perfect opportunity to exercise our civic right.

Wandering Thoughts, Vol.13

Word is out, Mennouni & Co are looking for a few good (wo)men to contribute to their task; After all, those with relevant opinions, the Feb -20 movement and stalwart real opposition parties and NGOs did refuse to meet with them. Let us therefore try and show some good will, and meet them half way, shall we? Of course, they will have to show a proof of good faith beforehand, won’t they?

When the long arm of the law wrestles lawmaking away from the judiciary and the legislative branches

First, Mennouni and his minions need to go back to the palace, and present the King with their collective resignation: if any serious constitutional reforms are to be undertaken, it is not through such a gross mismanagement of such assembly of scholarly notabilities, they are not, after all, properly equipped to dream up a whole new constitution… They are technicians trained to prepare the legal argument for broad principles, not politicians that cannot clutter their thinking with the former, but are able to embody the latter.

I am aware the commission is not very bright; not from an academic point of view of course, but when it comes to new ideas, lawmakers, especially in Morocco, are not, in their large majority, firebrand mavericks, but rather cosy scholars with well-established credentials, intrinsic conservatism and patent hostility towards novelty: when lawmakers like the late Driss Basri preside over the legislative output for more than three decades, the sky’s the limit kind of thinking is not what one would expect from our eminent panellists. And so, the decent thing, if we ever are to have a real democratic constitution, is for these people to resign and let others to design a new constitution, then, if they are asked to do so, give assistance of their judicial expertise over what is essentially a political matter, and when their job is done, retreat peacefully back to their books and wait till a younger, more open-minded and more ambitious generation of lawyers takes over and reform radically the whole set-up. Basri’s influence has a far deeper reach and exceeds the sole legislative paradigm our scholars evolve within; institutionalised corruption and political transhumance are but a few of his masterly works.

He dresses with style, but he is hardly going to get his name in the history books...

Omar Azzimane, for instance, might have been respectable enough in the early 1990’s to  the late King Hassan II‘s transitory reforms, but his ministerial tenure, age and constant compromise for office over principles make him such a poor choice as a panellist. His boss is no better.

But that is not what the regime wants. In fact, for all the stunts pulled these last days, and even though presentational skills have been improved, the very heart of governmental power, those prerogatives related to power-sharing, remain untouched, just as as proximity to power still protects the crooked and corrupt lackeys. On that subject I wonder whether some infighting within the rarefied circles of power has tickled down and fuel attacks on Minister Belkhayat… Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see this smug businessman turned politician out of office, but the intense criticism he is subject to seems to me a prelude to a sacking (either by a demotion of his master or a demise of the said puppet)

I shouldn’t wonder, as even the hyper-mediatized democratic societies resort to such tactics in order to rout out some rival -though when public scrutiny steps in, the culprit, when indeed found, leads the guilty politician to take the humiliating, albeit self-purifying, decision to step down; if the culprit is indeed of a serious criminal nature, then the scapegoat is duly sacrificed to the greater good of the smeared public office the unfortunate politician was holding.

Babyface: "Your money is mine. My Familys and my bosss, anyway."

In our case, not only Minister Belkhayat acts as the middle man for a higher -and much more powerful- politician/businessman/palace favourite/royal minion (Mounir Majidi) he is engaged in some very questionable business dealings, all of which, if he is indeed the new-model politician he boasts to be, should compel him to resign his post and request a full independent inquiry on the subject. Oh, sorry, I have forgotten, we are in Morocco, and ministers do not resign, they get the (Royal, not parliamentary) boot; And this holds especially when the minister has things to answer for. It’s a long way to the top, Minister, but it is reassuring to see that you are not sparing effort to climb the greasy pole. عقبى للوزارة الأولى يا سعادة الوزير but wait: which party will Minister Belkhayat lead to electoral victory? Istiqlal? RNI? sorry, I am a bit confused…

Last item on the agenda, the scare campaign begins only now. The beardy fellow is barely out of jail, and already anathema and excommunication are flying around on the heads of those who happen to disagree with the dogmatic Salafist. And there dividing lines start to make things turn sour: on the extreme end of political islam spectrum, Salafists like Mr Fizazi (and, to  will no rest until they impose on the Moroccan society an Islamic (Islamist) straitjacket that is vry unlikely to improve ‘the morals of our decadent society’ without leading to a totalitarian state, and on the other end (but excluding house-trained PJD), the dissolved party ‘البديل الحضاري‘ progressive islamists (I personally find any synthesis between religion and progressivism very hard to understand) that do not gainsay, in their universal definition, the basics of democracy, and even engaged in an alliance with secular left-wing parties. Incidentally, Al Badil party boss Mustapha Moatassim was portrayed by the prosecution as a dangerous terrorist, which compels us to ask the following questions: if he was indeed so dangerous, why was he released? On the other hand, since he was released, that means the charges against him were fictitious, so someone screwed up (but will never answer for it, unfortunately) In between, Al Adl fluctuates with no definite agenda (has it to do with their self-professed ‘التقية’ ?).

The victims of blind Makhzenian repression (and the idiots utiles malgré eux) are those innocent victims like EMI (Ecole Mohamedia des Ingénieurs) engineer-graduate Mehdi Meliani or apolitical Mehdi Boukillou both illegally arrested and charged under false counts. Makhzen stupidity, far from shielding Morocco from the Islamist threat, only increases it either by radicalising young people, or makes it harder to speed up the necessary secularisation of Moroccan minds.

What Would the Political Landscape Look Like in a Federal Morocco?

As many may already know, one of Morocco’s plight is its abnormal number of political parties. This has been mistaken for democracy -and often used as an argument that ‘Morocco is a democratic exception in the region‘- and often overlooked as the result of a ‘divide and conquer‘ policy from the Makhzen regime to insure its own political hegemony. What follows is a scenario that provides enough conditions to sort out this motley of political parties, and without substantial threats to political diversity but prevents the undesirable outcome whereby small political parties act pivotal in coalition governments, as it is the case in countries like Israel or Italy.

First, we need to point out that many of these political parties have common history, ideology and even leadership at one time. As a matter of fact, many of the breakaways were mainly ego clashes more than anything else. This is mainly due to the fact that political organizations in Morocco, whatever their professed position on the political spectrum, have been strongly identified with their leader. And the lack of internal democracy, as well as non-existent mechanisms for pacific competition and clear rules of power brokerage, or even the refusal of dissent within political parties in Morocco, whether from the National Koutla heritage or ‘Administrative Parties‘, made it possible for ambitious leaders to justify their departure from the mother-ship.

Abdellah El Hammoudi‘s seminal work, “Master and Disciple” finds ample field application here: without too much generalization or extensive use of stereotypes, political parties in Morocco act like ‘Zawyas’ (زاوية) or religious covens, with a father figure(head), a ” زعيم” whose authority, by means of political capital (as a former resistant, or as a proxy for political martyrdom) is unshakable and uncontested. This Zaim has some disciples gravitating around him (for the political world in Morocco is predominantly masculine) and, when the time comes (literally, when the leader is on his deathbed) a Dauphin is chosen. But it is often not the case; the leader clings to power so forcefully that, out of frustrated ambition, a disciple openly defies the master, and when the coup fails, the disciple leaves the political Zawias with his ‘Faithful’ flock and founds a new one, with him as the new Master, and so goes the story.

Foto de Alal al Fassi

Allal El Fassi (Image via Wikipedia)

As a matter of fact, the splits have played a significant part in the founding myths of modern Moroccan politics: it is often claimed that the oldest political party in Morocco was the Istiqlal (founded with the well-known 1944 manifesto for Independence) what is little know was that earlier on, there were other pre-existing political organizations. Indeed, in 1934-1937, there was a rift between two main figures of modern Moroccan nationalism, both Fes-born Allal El Fassi, and Mohamed Belhassan Ouazzani. It seems a conflict of egos (as well as a dispute over Sherifian legitimacy, which Allal El Fassi lacked) led to a split between both man, and each one founded a new party out of the defunct Committee for National Action: El Fassi founded what became later on the Istiqlal and Ouazani Choura (or Democracy) and Istiqlal party.
The sociology of political parties however, is not always that linear. The script is not always observed, as there are from time to time attempts to unite, with a quasi-nostalgia for the ‘old days‘ when Istiqlal and UNFP, in face of adversity, tried as early as 1970 to build up a Koutla (the chosen word conveys the strong feeling about uniting the parties, at least in the leaders’ minds)

These structural weaknesses were exacerbated, if not outright created, by an explicit policy aiming at weakening the political field as much as possible to the benefit of the Monarchy: in 1959 with the UNFP breakaway from Istiqlal party, the Crown Prince was more than pleased to see the Istiqlal juggernaut split between its traditionalist clan and more left-wing faction. Even before, in 1957, and despite pungent opposition from Istiqlal civil servant, the Monarchy offered more than sympathetic support to the foundation of Mouvement Populaire (MP) as early as 1957.

Mahjoubi Aherdane, a former colonial officer (like General Oufkir and Marshall Ameziane) presented with an award by king Hassan II.

These early examples of political intrigue look very benign when compared to the galloping rise in the number of political parties in the late 1990s. the late Interior Minister, Driss Basri elevated these breakaways to rarefied proportions: in the mid-1980s, and because of a minor row between stalwart monarchy supporter -and MP boss- Mahjoubi Aherdane and the late king Hassan II, Driss Basri orchestrated a breakaway led by a relatively young MP leader, Mohand Laenser. Aherdane had to leave and create his own political party, the MP (ever since, both parties, and a third one, Union Démocratique, coalesced back into the original MP)
This policy was even used against political parties that resisted the Royal Will: in 1996, and because of its uncompromising stand on the upcoming constitutional referendum tabled later that year, the Organisation d’Action Démocratique et Populaire (OADP) suffered a spin-off thanks -or because- of a discreet support from the Interior Ministry.

How would the political landscape look like in a federal monarchy? First, the number of political parties is likely to go down, but not in significant proportions: we stand now at about 30 parties, while a reduction to pre-2002 numbers would at least takes us back to more ‘reasonable’ levels.

Hopefully, with more democracy, transparency and accountability in the federal and regional institutions, political parties in Morocco will also learn that dissent within their organization is not a mortal danger, a fitna that needs to be put down as soon as possible, but the basic element of partisan democracy, and, in the long term, the essential ingredient for political vitality and political personal renewal. That would also mean a lowering in the average demographics from 70+ years old -for partisan politics is still, regrettably, a gerontocracy, though it can be argued that with age, wisdom withers away with politicians like Mahjoubi Aherdane, Mohamed EL Yazghi, Abbas El Fassi or the late Union boss Mahjoub Benseddik.

Parliament House, Rabat. Why not: "Federal Houses Of the Kingdom ?"

Some of the small parties have regional strongholds (sometimes because a party figurehead is popular there) and cannot go beyond that stronghold for a variety of reasons: difficulty to attract resources in an other area, not enough grass-roots activists to try and swing target constituencies back from other political parties, demographics, sociology, etc… But still, these parties can perform better, if given the opportunity to focus on local matters rather than over-ambitious nation-wide representation. In a federalist scheme (that has been ultimately rejected by the Regional Consultative Commission) there could be workable scenarii that can allow nationally  small by strongly established in specific regions- parties to have a say in local matters, and at the same time retaining some leverage over federal issues, without stumbling into parliamentary civil war.

There can be no denying that political parties like USFP, Istiqlal, PJD or MP have de facto a nation-wide vocation for governing (real government in a genuinely democratic Morocco is a sine qua none working condition)  In contrast, PSU, PADS and other smaller parties, cannot, with the current political arithmetics hope for sizeable numbers of seats on the federal level,  but do retain strong majorities in specific areas, and could very well end up holding majorities in regional parliaments, or on par with the national parties.

On a local level, coalitions would therefore be established on ideological, rather than crude tactical reasons: I would argue that a left-left coalition in, say the Souss region encompassing the PSU, PADS and USFP would be much more powerful, much more coherent than the existing own between USFP and Istiqlal.  In effect, homogenous coalitions are needed because, under my proposed schemes, regional houses need to send up representatives to the Federal Parliament, and usually these Members of Parliaments are supposed to reflect stable coalitions and some agreed-upon manifesto, all of which will be more difficult to sustain if currently observed patterns of alliances (with bizarre patchworks of centre-right RNI, centre-left USFP and conservative Istiqlal) are retained. Furthermore, and from a purely game-theoretical aspect, homogeneous coalitions (with respect to the local voters’ verdicts in local elections) tend to be closer to the peoples’ will, and for the senior coalition partners, a deterrent from straying away from manifesto commitment -otherwise, smaller parties can threaten to vote out the ‘consensus’ federal representative.

Does it sound familiar? Yes and no. Indeed, small parties will hold considerable leverage on nation-wide ones, directly on local matters, and indirectly by influencing their federal deputies. However, this mutual check mechanism ensures a ‘toe-the-line’ behaviour from the senior partners, something that is at odds with the observed pattern in governmental majorities since 1963 of weak coalitions and similarly weak governments; quite the opposite, I would argue that this seemingly unstable regional consensus ensure coherent nationwide majorities, and following, consistent parliamentary groups in the federal houses, thus enabling the very existence of a strong government. In effect, regional representatives are double checked and, held equally accountable: at a first level from the local constituents, and on a more institutional level, the regional coalition that send them up to Rabat.

With such heavy deterrent (not to mention party pressure to follow the party Whip’s lines) local representatives’ dissent or ‘transhumance‘ as they usually do will come at a high price for coalition partners, and in the intermediate run, to the dissenters themselves. On the other hand, federal representatives also know that their parties’ national majorities, when in government, are function of coalition agreements at a local level, and though deterrent pressure is mitigated as far as they are concerned, they remain equally compelled to bear with their parliamentary benches.

Of course, all of this is all right, but it remains fairy-tale as long as political parties themselves do not take actions in order to put order in their partisan houses: younger leadership, more transparent and meritocratic competition mechanisms, and more importantly, partisan democracy and the elevation of dissent from danger to democratic virtue.