The latest press statement from the Government’s Spokesperson does not deviate from an established line of argument whenever a global ranking does not square with the official claim of Moroccan progress. The latest of such event was the 2014 Freedom House ranking: Morocco ranked 147 out of 197, in the 75 lower percentile for Freedom of the Press. Without prejudice to Freedom House’s methodology, is there any way to verify the claim Morocco’s progress was understated in this ranking? And if so, where would we be?
A preliminary comparison does not put us in such a bad place after all, in view of the Arab Spring aftermath: Morocco ranks well among MENA countries, although this comes hardly as a good indicator, given the dramatic positive changes in Tunisia and Libya since 2010, and on the other side of the spectrum, Bahrain and UAE did worse.
Morocco however did not improve its ranking thanks to government policies, as the communique alleges, in fact, there has been a slight degradation with respect to its pre-2010 score, but not enough to affect its ranking. As the saying goes: in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king.
Taken to the global level, things are not as straightforward: on the one hand, the decline in Morocco’s score is not large enough to label it a regression in press freedom, on the other hand, global trends around 2010-2011 provide a good estimate for what should have been the trend score and ranking. In any case, Morocco did not do well enough, and probably does not deserve the improvement in its ranking.
The communique states:
Force est de signaler que certains pays qui ont connu des arrestations de journalistes, saisies de journaux et fermetures de portails web, ainsi que d’autres qui sont instables, ont toutefois occupé des places meilleures que celle du Royaume, qui n’a pas enregistré de telles décisions, a relevé M. Khalfi.
Of the 14 countries labelled ‘Not Free’ better ranked than Morocco, some did for some register arrests and/or censorship, but the fact of the matter is that Morocco’s weakness comes from its relatively low political sub-score: the final score is summed over three categories (Legal, Political and Economic) and the determining factor had been the sub-ranking on Political Freedom, where Morocco does comparatively worse. Per Freedom House’s methodology, the various initiatives heralded in Morocco do not meet the standard set by, among others, the Universal Declaration of Rights, and so do not register in favour of Morocco’s political sub-score. In short, the post-2011 reforms were not enough to overtake other countries, on par or slightly better ranked.
All of this does not absolve the Moroccan authorities: at the national level, the trend should have been improving since the mid-1990, which is not the case, and at the sample level, comparative benchmark point to a substantial improvement which did not materialize.
The graph on the right plots Morocco’s actual versus hypothetical scores between 1993 and 2013. A downward trend means an improvement in freedom status, and that was not the case for Morocco: the hypothetical trend is derived from the average performance of countries with comparable scores in 1993, and those have improved dramatically their score throughout, even as Morocco recorded a reversal as early as 2001 with no improvement ever since.
The increasing gap between Morocco’s actual and best-case scenario scores describes its failure to push through with the structural reforms carried out during the mid-to-to late 1990s; it also provides a stark reminder the ‘New Era’ of political liberalization started well before 1999, meaning all announcements made since have not translated into reforms strong enough to register as actual improvement in Morocco’s score and rankings.
Score break-down analysis allows to pinpoint the roots of this lacklustre performance, and provide pointers to the Moroccan authorities and the civil society in terms of reform priorities.
Recall overall score is computed on three components, and countries labelled ‘Free’ tend to exhibit a significant effect from the Economic Rights category: Free and Partially Free Countries experience a 24% lower Economic Rights score compared to the rest of the world. This relates directly to the main argument behind Morocco’s, particularly so in light of the established criteria:
1. To what extent are media owned or controlled by the government and does this influence their diversity of views? (0–6 points)
2. Is media ownership transparent, thus allowing consumers to judge the impartiality of the news? (0–3 points)
3. Is media ownership highly concentrated and does this influence diversity of content? (0–3 points)
4. Are there restrictions on the means of news production and distribution? (0–4 points)
5. Are there high costs associated with the establishment and operation of media outlets? (0–4 points)
6. Do the state or other actors try to control the media through allocation of advertising or subsidies? (0–3 points)
7. Do journalists, bloggers, or media outlets receive payment from private or public sources whose design is to influence their journalistic content? (0–3 points)
8. Does the overall economic situation negatively impact media outlets’ financial sustainability? (0–4 points)
These questions only show why the score is comparatively low for freedom of the press from an economic perspective, and those provide a good starting point for genuine reform if the Moroccan authorities were serious about the initiatives they mentioned in the communique.
Malgré toutes ses tergiversations et le lent déclin inexorable de sa crédibilité, M. Boulif va me manquer. Il est désormais effectivement neutralisé, car il ne peut comme parlementaire servir de point d’ancrage au groupe parlementaire PJD, une contribution cruciale vu qu’au moins un membre de ce dernier semble perdu quant à l’évolution de l’investissement public. M. Boulif a aussi perdu de facto toute voix à gérer probablement le dossier le plus épineux des finances publiques. Ceci dit, il serait intéressant de comparer l’évolution des dépenses de compensation entre son passage au MAGG (Ministère des Affaires Générales et de Gouvernance) et la performance de son prédécesseur, M. Nizar Baraka.
La simple comparaison des deux courbes illustre le défaut du mécanisme pré-indexation – une volatilité excessive et en général à effet de retard lorsque le prix du pétrole varie significativement. En d’autres ternes, il est plus fréquent que la hausse de compensation soit plus élevée que celle du prix du pétrole, et une baisse du prix de ce dernier n’est pas répercutée par une baisse équivalente dans la dépense de compensation. Cela cependant est attendu, ne serait-ce que par les rigidités de prix précisément imposées par la règlementation des prix des dérivés d’hydrocarbures, ou de la structure monopolistique de la distribution de ces produits; Il est cependant intéressant de noter que le défaut principal de la caisse de compensation est l’excès de volatilité – ainsi que la relative lenteur de réaction- d’une dépense supposée agir en amortisseur aux chocs importés.
Peut-on cependant comparer l’évolution des dépenses de compensation entre le relativement bref mandat de M. Boulif avec une période analogue du mandat de M. Baraka? La série de graphe ci-dessous permet de comparer le prix du pétrole sur 20 mois pour les deux ministres délégués:
Cette comparaison cependant ne peut conclure à une meilleure gestion de la part de M. Boulif, où la croissance moyenne de compensation a baissé de 40% entre Janvier 2012 et Septembre 2013. D’abord parce que le prix du pétrole ne s’est pas comporté de la même manière en 2007-2009 et 2012-2013, ensuite parce que les choix politiques de gestion de la caisse de compensation n’étaient pas similaires, une différence qu’il faut porter au crédit de M. Boulif, qui avait raison, en 2011, de fustiger le manque de volonté du MAGG à l’époque (dirigé par M. Baraka) à réformer la caisse de compensation.
Pour résoudre le premier point, on se permet de ‘remplacer’ l’évolution du prix du pétrole de 2012-2013 par celle des années précédentes, tout en gardant l’estimation de l’effet-prix sur l’accroissement (ou la diminution) des dépenses de compensation, que l’on décrit sur le graphe ci-contre. Il s’avère ainsi que si effectivement le budget de compensation aurait continuer d’augmenter, la hausse enregistrée serait largement inférieure à celle observée durant la période équivalente sous M. Baraka.
Cette brève comparaison montre qu’à prix constants, et sur une même période, M. Boulif a eu plus d’impact sur la réduction de la tendance croissante des dépenses de compensation que son prédécesseur; on peut aussi déclarer que M. Baraka a eu un impact plus important lorsqu’il était ministre des finances, mais enfin, le résultat de leurs mandats respectifs au MAGG est assez clair pour déclarer que Boulif a obtenu des résultats meilleurs.
Cela d’ailleurs indique qu’une réforme similaire à celle proposée aujourd’hui (indexation ou retrait graduel de la compensation) ayant lieu en 2007 aurait pu économiser des ressources importantes, tout en donnant suffisamment de temps pour proposer une réforme structure en 2010-2011, au lieu de la panique en début 2011.
Dans tous les cas, M. Boulif aura certainement été une victime non méritée du dernier remaniement gouvernemental: s’il a effectivement échoué à réformer en profondeur la Caisse de Compensation (malgré les différentes déclarations optimistes en ce sens) sa performance a été significativement meilleure en comparaison avec celle de son prédécesseur, qui lui, se retrouve récompensé. Le monde est cruel pour les rouquins, y compris en politique.
I apologise in advance to the excessive level of abstract models used in this post, but there is only so much I can take in the current, mainstream political science discourse in Morocco. I mean, I am a great fan of Wijhat Nadar (the review) and writings of heavyweights like Abdellah Laroui, but it would be fun to explore other alternatives, possibly using teachings from game theory. Plus this is High School-level math, so no harm done.
A quick look at a relatively unearthed matter in Moroccan politics can always tell when a consensus crosses party lines, and in this case, it is about the number of seats allocated to each district. Traditionally each and every party vent their respective grievances as to the incumbent districting: smaller parties vehemently oppose high thresholds (PSU found an eloquent advocate against it back in 2007 in one of its prominent leaders, Mohamed Sassi) and larger parties tend to believe their strongholds are undervalued: back then it was USFP in Rabat or Casablanca, nowadays it is PJD in Tangier, Casablanca or Salé. Every election is the same, parties complain to the media, but cannot agree on anything.
In fairness, districting is always a zero-sum game, even if the number of seats in parliament is expanded: a large district benefits some type of parties, and harms others. Better still, some parties have contradicting interests on similar constituencies; for instance, the 2011 general elections pitted Istiqlal and USFP (in Fez), PJD and UC (Marrakesh) RNI and Istiqlal (Southern seats) among others. A slight change in the number of seats, or inter-province districting can tip the balance one way or the other. Political parties in Morocco do look (and act) disorganised and utterly incompetent, but this belies their inner rationality as to their political survival.
Consider a simple model to capture the perverse effect that compels political parties to defer to a benevolent actor e.g. the Interior Ministry. It is the rational course of action for every political party in Morocco: abdicate the possibility of a contentious (but ultimately more democratic) battle over the optimal number of allocated seats per district, for a more peaceful, consensual redistricting under the auspices of a mechanism-designer with endogenous preferences, ultimately the perpetual weakening of that very same political spectrum.
Consider a number of n political parties competing for a fixed (but undefined) number of seats. Each party i derives some utility from contesting elections and having members of parliament elected; three layers of benefits can be listed: first, merely electing a member of parliament, second, electing a caucus with at least 6% of nationwide popular votes, and finally, a benefit from coming on top, or very close. The utility function is thus:
As each party prepares to contest elections, they face a certain fixed cost (typically the deposit required from each and every party candidate/list) but on the other hand, there are benefits attached to large caucuses, either in form of increased monetary compensation, or some utility derived from participating in a government. A simple differentiation pinpoints exactly the conflict of interest:
As one can see, the benefit from one additional seat for a particular party stems from the performance of other parties (a primary evidence of the zero-sum aspect of game elections) and most importantly, is negatively linked to this term . In this particular setting, it refers to a ‘premium’ put on the seat(s) won by that particular party. As it shall be proven later, each and every party has a particular incentive at keeping that parameter exogenous – in this case, defer to a higher authority.
Suppose the premium is set by the final outcome, i.e. suppose the present electoral result decides the next performance and the size of the district. This means:
Now, there are a couple of cases where the last term might differ from the first case to the second. And there comes the Interior Ministry (the shiny knight cloaked in white, one might say) in providing an arbitrage that benefits individual parties, but ultimately harm their collective chances in getting large, stable government coalitions. In this setting, individual parties are better off when the premium is low, in fact when it is lower than the fixed, exogenous term , that is:
Because of the higher competition (captured by a competitive districting) between parties mean the overall benefit from seats won by a particular party is diminished, and coming on top is not worth much.
As the same reasoning is applied to the entire caucus carried by party i, we get:
and there is your proof: on average, a caucus is better off when the districting is exogenous: this is possible because each district is treated the same; the intuition behind it is, preferential treatment for one district cannot be achieved because every other district will have to be treated similarly, and that takes us back to square one. The best response for each political party is thus to support uniform treatment, and as a result their respective caucuses are weakly better of with an exogenous districting.
Suppose we also look at the dispersion of caucuses as well: a larger expectation in caucus size does not mean both cases exhibit equal dispersion around it; in fact, since denotes dispersion around the mean, and since: then
This is an important result, because individual party interest trumps the collective likelihood of having a strong parliamentary majority (due to competitive districting) and the benevolent designer can only minimise the volatility – if it is indeed in their interest.
A candid observer cannot but wonder how Makhzen and Nihilist parties seem to agree on a status-quo that harms representative democracy: true, smaller parties (including PSU) are most likely to be wiped out of the political map if they do not merge or join larger parties, but on the other hand, larger parties also seem to know they are next in line, because the bulk of their seats can be lost if a competitive system were to be introduced, be it an alternative ballot system, or an unfavourable (but impartial) districting.
Authorities on the other hand seem to have some incentive in keeping volatility high enough, so as to deny any potentially rebellious party the possibility of commanding an absolute majority, and hence forming an independent-minded government. It seems political rationality in this setting trumps every possible narrative about ideology, or political history.
Le blogpost s’attache à présenter une évaluation quantitative des déterminants du populisme dans la description de l’idéal-type du leader politique, en utilisant des données sur une population de 599 membres du parlement (chambre des représentants) élus entre 2007 et 2011 sur les listes locales parmi les 295, puis 305 sièges sur les 92 circonscriptions électorales ouvertes. Il en résulte que trois principaux déterminants conditionnent la réussite du ‘Leader Populiste’: parlementaire reconnu, ayant une forte identité idéologique et un engagement syndical important. On s’intéresse ensuite à une description plus détaillée du type de leadership populiste par groupe parlementaire. Enfin, il semblerait aussi que le genre ne soit pas si discriminant qu’on peut supposer, ce qui implique la possibilité de voir émerger une génération de politiciennes sans complexe vis-à-vis de l’utilisation du discours populiste.
Populism in Morocco is a strong word, difficult to define, precisely because it takes so many forms in the speeches and policy announcements, all across the political spectrum. The common denominator remains the claim a populist leader makes, namely the ongoing struggle between the ‘people’ and the ‘elite’ needs strong leadership, and they (usually a he) can deliver against the effete elite: depending on the politician’s favourite target, it ranges from French-speaking high officials and upper classes (a fifth column of sorts), secularists, to big business, and finally, the Makhzen almighty.
As far as the content of this post goes, these differences are of no particular importance: while it is generally quite important to define the sort of populism one talks about, it seems there is good evidence to support the claim that a standardized narrative can be fitted in the Moroccan political discourse, to state that populism among our politicians is driven by three main components: Ideology, Union ties and Parliamentary leadership. These figures are the results of computations (mainly probit estimates) computed over 599 representatives elected between 2007 and 2011 on local ballots over 92 districts.
* Parliamentary Leadership: Perhaps the most inconvertible evidence about populist leadership is surely their position as elected representative. A populist is about 5 times as much likely to be a member of parliament, which makes sense; parliament represents a spring-board as well as free airtime for party leadership to display its effectiveness, and sharpen their oratory skills when in opposition (by the way, being in opposition or government does not change much, even if it is a bit weakened by the USFP-PJD swap from 2007 to 2011 out and in office) As far as predictions go, Habib Malki and Driss Lachgar have equal chances with respect to their presumed leadership bid for USFP because they are both members of parliament (Ahmed R. Chami has the same chances, though these are weakened by the next factor, ideological lingo)
* Ideology: this is not just about each politician’s favoured talking points, although as far as the PJD leadership goes, religious invocations are used more often than not. Ideology, as I defined it in this little problem, has to do with the words used by the potential ‘populist’ politician as well as their party, mainly in their respective electoral manifestos. It may come as a surprise, but the PSU electoral manifesto of 2007 was full of left-wing populist rhetoric. On the other hand, a relatively big party, the Mouvement Populaire, refrains from any populist rhetoric, contrary to another big, ‘administrative’ party, Authenticité Modernité. A populist leader is 1.5 more likely to adopt stronger, more ideological talking points than the others. Abdelilah Benkirane fits perfectly in that respect.
* Union ties: This is particularly true for USFP (CDT-FDT) and Istiqlal (UGTM), but less so about PJD (UNTM) for large parties, which makes sense, since the rules of engagements in union politics require some measure of verbal violence and other tactics from the dark side of politics. In fact, a populist leader is twice as much likely to have union ties, or be a union leader himself, compared to other politicians. This is why perhaps Hamid Chabat holds so strongly during the current Istiqlal leadership bid.
What about other determinants? Interestingly enough, a populist leader is very unlikely to be female, which is tough enough for Nabila Mounib (who is neither a parliamentary representative nor has succeeded in her previous bids for office in the 1990s) but still, the estimates are very shaky, which means gender is not that important a determinant. In essence, it means that being a woman clashes with the populist mantra, but that should not prevent the rise of a new generation of populist female politicians, perhaps formerly of the radical feminist organizations. Out of the 599 representatives in the sample though, there are only 7 women out there, which tends to weaken the interpretation in that respect.
There is seemingly some contradiction between the size of district that sends populist leaders, and the electoral machine that sustains them. First off, there is little correlation between the degree of populism parliamentary leaders display, and the size of their caucus – after all, the RNI-UC joint caucus is large enough, and sends representatives from different districts, yet its populist leadership scores low. First off, populist districts tends to be 3.7% larger than other seats, which makes sense, given the fact most populist leaders come from or represent large districts (large in this case means a district with more than 3 slots) but because the differences in district size are too insignificant, the potential statistical advantage, as it were, that should benefit populist-led seats melts away and weakens beyond measures of critical values (see table below the post)
On the other hand, populist leaders seem to be backed by loose electoral machines. The only credible explanation I can offer is that caucus size influences very little the discourse of political leaders, meaning that even small caucuses can make big noise when needs to be. In fact, the smaller a caucus is, the louder their leader’s voice is going to be (be they inside or outside parliament)
Finally, there are other unobserved variables that might condition populist discourse not capture by the model below, although these account for only 25% of the results, which is encouraging for such uncharted territories.
Results are listed as follows:
Probit regression Number of obs = 599 LR chi2(7) = 533.74 Prob > chi2 = 0.0000 Log likelihood = -88.572232 Pseudo R2 = 0.7508 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ populist_ld | Coef. Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval] -------------+---------------------------------------------------------------- leader_part | 5.022299 .443538 11.32 0.000 4.152981 5.891618 ideology | 1.732932 .1612658 10.75 0.000 1.416857 2.049008 union | 1.178245 .2119222 5.56 0.000 .7628851 1.593605 gov_opp | .9702094 .2272573 4.27 0.000 .5247934 1.415626 district | .0379795 .0571121 0.67 0.506 -.0739581 .1499171 gender | .0456554 .9982751 0.05 0.964 -1.910928 2.002239 e_machine | -.0560076 .0069334 -8.08 0.000 -.0695967 -.0424184 _cons | -2.862084 1.067913 -2.68 0.007 -4.955156 -.7690126 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ populist_ld: populist leadership leader_part: parliamentary party leader gov_opp: government vs opposition district: size of districts held by parliamentary party e_machine: 'electoral machine' number of seats held _cons: intercept