The Moorish Wanderer

La Majorité N’existe Pas

Ou plutôt, il n’est pas nécessaire d’acquérir une majorité absolue pour prétendre à un mandat électoral, ou, comme le terme semble populaire ces temps-ci, une légitimité autre que celle conférée par l’assentiment des rivaux. Et ce constat s’applique aussi aux institutions non-élues.

Si les victoires historiques se décident effectivement par des marges importantes, le pourcentage du vote dans la population totale est en revanche assez faible.

Les victoires historiques se décident effectivement par des marges importantes, le pourcentage du vote dans la population totale est en revanche assez faible.

Pour illustrer mon propos, le premier graphe reprend la marge de victoire d’élections aux Etats-Unis et au Royaume Uni considérées comme historiques: en 1936, avec la réélection de Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1964 celle de Lyndon Baines Johnson, et 1980-1984 la double victoire de Ronald Reagan. En Angleterre, les victoires respectives de Margaret Thatcher en 1983 et Tony Blair en 1997. Si effectivement le pourcentage du vote populaire obtenu est assez élevé (encore que dans le cas britannique, ce pourcentage est plus proche des 40%) le taux rapporté à la population adulte totale est en revanche peu élevé. Cet écart entre démocratie représentative et faiblesse des nombres en absolu vaut aussi pour d’autres pays à tradition démocratique fortement ancrée.

Cet état de fait diffère peu dans des régimes moins démocratiques: dans tous les régimes existe un électorat, c’est-à-dire la masse des individus composant le réservoir de voix, dans lequel le régime politique puise son vrai soutien politique, dénommé ‘séléctorat‘ (un néologisme combinant sélection et électorat) dans lequel ensuite on trouve un sous-ensemble plus restreint qui lui assure dans un premier temps la victoire, ensuite la survie de la coalition d’intérêt dans son contrôle de la distribution des biens publics. La différence fondamentale entre un régime démocratique et un autre plutôt autocratique réside dans le traitement de l’électorat, et le degré d’exclusion autorisé par les institutions du régime en question. La démocratie sous cet angle de vue serait ainsi le régime posant le moins de restrictions possibles pour l’électorat, et cherchant à maximiser la taille du sélectorat, d’abord par l’idée du suffrage universel masculin, puis le droit de vote des femmes, demain peut-être en abaissant l’âge de vote à 16 ans.

Qu’en est-il alors du Maroc? A vrai dire, même les institutions non élues ont besoin d’un certain soutien populaire – ou alors d’un plébiscite de temps à autre, comme le rappelle feu Abraham Serfati dans cet article du Monde Diplomatique:

Il est vrai que M. Driss Basri, ministre de l’intérieur, avait prévenu : « Il s’agit d’un plébiscite. » […]  Précision intéressante, car elle permet de comprendre que le peuple n’est pas consulté pour affirmer le droit mais pour le déléguer, pour aliéner sa souveraineté au profit de celui qui le consulte, qui détient la force mais a besoin de légitimité.

Et cela est bien vrai. Malgré les scores proprement autocratiques des référendums constitutionnels depuis 1962, le Makhzen politique n’aura pas eu besoin de s’assurer d’une majorité absolue importante pour asseoir sa légitimité. Plus intéressant encore, on est tenté d’émettre l’hypothèse selon laquelle la dépendance du Makhzen à une expression de soutien populaire est liée au rapport de force conjoncturel – en l’occurrence, plus la force d’éventuels opposants se fait menaçante, plus le régime serait tenté de réquisitionner un nombre important d’individus pour faire valoir sa légitimité populaire. Mais élu ou non, les forces politiques au Maroc n’ont besoin que d’une relative minorité de voix et de soutien pour faire valoir leur importance; il s’avère aussi que la taille même de ce soutien n’est pas très importante. Est-ce anti-démocratique que de déclarer certaines organisations politiques plus importantes que d’autres malgré leur faible réservoir de voix? Certainement pas, lorsque le lecteur accepte de s’éloigner de la définition étriquée qu’une démocratie est définie par une majorité absolue – et comme le prouvent les statistiques et graphe mentionnés plus haut.

La question de la participation dépasse les considérations éthiques de l’impact qu’un parti élu peut avoir sur la gestion des biens publics, pour s’intéresser au choix offert à chaque Marocain(e) adulte qui ne souffre d’aucun obstacle légal pour s’inscrire et voter. On observe ainsi que dans les référendums, où les taux de participation sont plus élevés et les tendances nettement plus tranchées que lors des élections législatives, il n’est nullement question d’une majorité absolue requise; et si la tendance de déclin de cette majorité est peu robuste, il n’en reste pas moins vrai que le dernier référendum en Juillet 2011 n’aura demandé effectivement leurs avis qu’à 44% des adultes marocains. De même, il est extrêmement difficile de prétendre que le PJD, ou même la coalition gouvernementale actuelle, se prévalent d’un quelconque mandat populaire, puisque leurs votes effectifs dans la population adulte totale ne dépassent pas respectivement 4.85% et 9.72%. Et pourtant, la légitimité de la coalition dirigée par M. Benkirane est incontestable. Si ce n’est le gouvernement par la majorité des voix, de quoi s’agit-il alors?

Et si l’on se proposait de renverser les termes de la question: la légitimité électorale serait ainsi l’expression d’une croyance répandue dans l’électorat, que telle ou telle force politique (ou coalition de celles-ci) est crédible dans sa gestion du bien public. Les forces politiques sont en fait détentrices d’un type de bien public que l’électorat valorise, et ses choix électoraux (sous diverses formes) déterminent le parti ou la coalition d’intérêts considérés aptes à maintenir l’offre du bien public. Ce dernier peut être physique, sous forme de services publics, ou encore symbolique, des légitimités particulières et valorisées dans la société d’électeurs. La majorité des voix compte peu dans ce contexte, le contrôle réel ou supposé du bien public est plus prisé. J’en veux pour exemple la performance électorale du PJD en 2011, et la circonscription-clef qui lui a permis de se classer en premier, garantissant ainsi son rôle de chef de coalition gouvernementale. La carte ci dessous est préparée comme suit: on classe par ordre décroissant les marges de votes PJD tout en procédant à une somme cumulée des sièges par circonscription. Le siège-seuil est donc celui qui permet d’obtenir le nombre cumulé de 85 – soit le nombre de sièges obtenus par le parti pour le scrutin local. La circonscription en rouge, celle de Meknès, représente ainsi la population qui a permis au PJD d’assurer sa victoire – une population enregistrée de près de 100.000 individus, avec moins du tiers des votes exprimés. Une circonscription de taille moyenne, au taux de participation inférieur à la moyenne nationale (41%) aura été le facteur influent dans le victoire du parti de M. Benkirane.

La circonscription de Nador (vert) représente la performance moyenne du PJD lors des dernières élections.

La circonscription de Nador (vert) représente la performance moyenne du PJD lors des dernières élections. Celle de Meknès, la circonscription-clef de la victoire. Légende: Gris – Autre parti en 1ère place. Nuances de Bleu – pourcentage de victoire.

Un dernier mot sur la dépendance au soutien populaire pour une entité non élue: le pourcentage levé ne devrait pas être régi par des considérations de fair play. C’est-à-dire que lorsque les résultats d’un référendum sont discutés, c’est précisément parce que l’expression de ce soutien populaire est vitale pour continuer à rassurer le reste de l’électorat sur la source réelle de la distribution du bien public. Et tant que les partis politiques représentaient une menace réelle (d’aucun diraient existentielle) le régime avait besoin d’une fraction assez importante de la population comme signal de soutien. Les résultats de 2011, qui consacrent près de 40% d’adultes en faveur de la dernière version de la constitution, sont, à mon avis, une expression d’apaisement quant à la pérennité du Makhzen dans son rôle. Il suffit juste de comparer le déclin beaucoup plus important et robuste du soutien populaire exprimé durant les élections législatives pour s’en rendre compte. Et tant qu’aucun parti ou organisation ne portera le projet de généralisation du vote à la plus large fraction de la population adulte, aucune stratégie politique, ni celles de la participation, ni celles du boycott, ne porteront leurs fruits.

L’idéal démocratique dans notre cas de figure dépasse le simple respect du résultat des urnes. Il s’agit d’abord du souci d’étendre la participation aux élections à un nombre maximal d’individus (y compris soutenir le vote des 16 ans, qui me semble au vu des tendances démographiques, un impératif dans le moyen terme) mais aussi de chercher à construire les coalitions les plus larges et les plus inclusives possibles. Sur les deux tableaux, aucun courant politique, encore moins les pouvoirs non-élus, n’aura réussi à adopter une démarche consistante sur ce point.

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Nous ne Voterons plus. Nous n’existerons plus?

Je lis avec attention que les manifestations organisées suite au #DanielGate représenteraient une résurgence de la vraie société civile, celle de citoyens prêts à quitter les milieux virtuels pour porter haut et fort leurs revendications. Je ne sais pas si c’est le cas, je ne sais pas non plus si cette mobilisation a vraiment réussi à réaliser cet objectif. Ce que je sais cependant, ou en tout cas ce que les projections démographiques du HCP indiquent, c’est que la mobilisation-type portée par une jeune génération chante peut être son chant de cygne.

Demography_AJJe commence par un graphe représentant la population des 18-24 ans versus le reste de la population adulte (âgée de 18 ans et plus) on voit ainsi que la taille maximale pour la population jeune aura atteint son zénith en 2012, et ne fera que décroître en valeur absolue et en pourcentage de la population adulte. Cela signifie que nos adultes marocains seront de plus en plus âgés, et de même, la composition du corps électoral s’en ressentira.

J’ai évoqué il y a quelques temps une piste de réflexion concernant la baisse brutale de la taille du corps électoral entre 2007 et 2011 (en réalité, dès 2009) et l’explication démographique semble être convenable: certes, ce n’est pas la première fois que le nombre d’électeurs enregistrés baisse (Cf 1984) mais la ‘disparition’ en deux ans d’un peu plus de 2 millions d’électeurs laisse perplexe, et suggère les théories les plus fantaisistes, nourries par l’opacité maintenue par l’administration en charge de sa gestion, le Ministère de l’Intérieur.

Mais enfin, Nous pouvons montrer sous certaines hypothèses que cette baisse du nombre d’électeurs est due à un non-remplacement des générations passées. En recalculant le taux d’inscription de la population adulte, d’abord sur la base d’une moyenne annuelle mobile, ensuite en faisant de même pour la contribution théorique moyenne de la population jeune dans la croissance de la population inscrite. La principale hypothèse qui justifie ce choix est de supposer que le même nombre de jeunes intégrant la population adulte s’inscrit aussi sur les listes électorales. Il s’avère ainsi que:

1/ La population inscrite en 2011 devait s’élever à 16.06 Millions au lieu des 13.42 Millions

2/ Le déficit d’inscrits jeunes dans les listes électorales (la différence entre contribution démographique et contribution électorale) permet d’expliquer une grande partie de cette baisse du nombre d’électeurs – près de 93%. Rapporté à la baisse réelle, ce déficit d’inscrits peut être expliqué simplement par le décès d’inscrits âgés.

Et voici donc ce que j’entends par ‘Nous ne Voterons plus’: si la jeune population, celle qui arrive régulièrement en âge de voter la première fois lors des élections, décline, alors le stock du corps électoral sera en déclin, puisqu’ils ne peuvent remplacer le flux d’anciens électeurs décédés. L’amplitude de ce déclin peut ainsi être mesurée par la baisse brutale du nombre d’inscrits entre 2007 et 2009. Cette évolution démographique et électorale est ainsi ignorée et négligée par presque tous le monde: les partis politiques, le Makhzen, et même la dissidence.

La question du corps électoral semble unir le champ politique dans le désintérêt: pour les partis politiques, cette évolution est imperceptible et sans importance car leur stock de loyauté électoral en est indépendant des changements démographiques. Le Makhzen parce que la baisse en nombre du corps électoral augmente artificiellement le taux de participation – le nombre absolu de participants ayant voté pour une liste candidate passe de 4.63 Millions à 4.74 Millions, et cela se traduit par une légère baisse du nombre de votants rapportés à la population adulte (de 28.74% à 28.18%) alors même que le taux de participation a augmenté de 37% en 2007, à 45% en 2011. Et si effectivement la tendance projetée pour le corps électoral suggère une hausse du nombre d’inscrits, ce n’est que par effet de longévité des cohortes inscrites après les années 1960, le pourcentage d’inscrits rapportés à la population adulte passera en dessous des 60% dès 2036.

L'écart croissant entre les deux courbes suggère une baisse du taux de couverture de la population adulte.

L’écart croissant entre les deux courbes suggère une baisse du taux de couverture de la population adulte.

Si effectivement cette tendance se vérifie, alors la charade continuera car le taux de participation, insensible jusqu’à présent aux fluctuations démographiques, sera gonflé artificiellement par simple fait de rétrécissement du dénominateur.

Je me tourne ainsi à la seconde partie du titre: ‘Nous n’existerons plus’ qui est de nature plus qualitative: d’abord parce que notre jeunesse ne sera plus qu’une minorité déclinante chaque année à partir de 2011-2012. Et si un mouvement comme le 20 février a été porté initialement par une jeunesse libre ou aspirant de l’être, son déclin en nombre sape sa force politique potentielle. Ensuite parce qu’une coalition néfaste d’intérêts aura réussi à rendre désormais difficile, sinon impossible de croire qu’une démocratie libérale parlementaire, sous forme monarchique, puise être mise en place dans le futur proche ou intermédiaire.

Cette coalition d’intérêt est celle de l’opposition extra-parlementaire, qui, en observant une tradition de boycott et dénigrement de l’institution parlementaire, de l’exercice électoral parce que contrôlé par l’administration, aura découragé la population en âge de voter pour la première fois et la classe éduquée (minoritaire mais influente) , et ce en conjonction avec l’administration et ses affidés, puisqu’un amenuisement de la population inscrite sur les listes électorales détourne l’attention des partis politiques vers le partage d’une peau de chagrin, au lieu de réclamer une extension de la taille du bassin électeur, au prix d’une baisse permanente du taux de participation.

Nous n’existerons plus car nous ne voterons plus. Par paresse, par désintérêt, par dégoût, probablement. Nos nihilistes et notre Makhzen auront obtenu ce qu’ils voulaient finalement.

Across Partisan Lines: Redistricting in Morocco

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:

U(h_i) = \mathbf{1}_{v(h_{i,6})}\{\pi(h_i)+\phi h_i - \max\{h_{-i}\}\}+\frac{v(h_i)}{v(n)} -c_0

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:

\dfrac{\partial U(h_i)}{\partial h_i}=\pi'(h_i)+\phi-\max{h_i}=0

that is:

\pi'(h_i)=\max{h_i}-\phi

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 \phi. 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:

\pi'(h_i)=\max{h_i}-\phi

becomes

\pi'(h_i)=\max{h_i}-[\phi'(h_i) + \phi(i)]

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 \phi, that is:

\phi'(h_i)+\phi(h_i)\geq\phi

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:

\int \phi'(h_i)+\phi(h_i)d h_i \geq \phi \int h_i d h_i

and there is your proof: on average, a caucus is better off when the districting is exogenous: \mathbb{E}(\phi(h_i))\geq\phi\mathbb{E}(h_i) 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 h_i denotes dispersion around the mean, and since: 2 h_i \phi'(h_i)+ h_i^2\phi(h_i)\geq \phi'(h_i)+\phi(h_i) then \mathbb{V}[\phi(h_i)]\geq\phi^2 \mathbb{V}(h_i)

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.

The Determinant Of Populist Leadership in Moroccan Politics: 2007-2011

Posted in Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan History & Sociology, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on September 17, 2012

Résumé

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.

Some ‘populists’: H. Chabat, D. Lachgar, A.Khairat, A.Bouanou, A.Aftati, I. Omari, A. Benkirane. (clockwise) El Omari is the only non-parliamentary leader in the picture

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
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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

What’s Left in Morocco? The Case For Progressive, Ambitious and Assertive Economic Policies

Posted in Dismal Economics, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Read & Heard, The Wanderer by Zouhair ABH on December 31, 2011

Call me pretentious, effete intellectual, but I deplore the absence of a comparable figure with a narrative close to that of Ed Ball‘s in the Moroccan political discourse: the bare-knuckled, assertive, even aggressive economic message pounded away at the media, the established government and those who tend to disparage the left-wingers as either bleeding-heart liberal unable to go beyond the nice but vague rethoric and principles, or corrupt career politicians driven with an insatiable hunger for power and wealth.

A New Hope For Progressive Economics

The late 1950s were about gaining economic independence: big government was needed to monitor and smooth the transition from a French-controlled economy to a more ‘national’, domestic economy. Abderrahim Bouabid, during his tenure as Finances Minister and then Vice-Head of Cabinet (with Premiers M’barek Bekkaï, Ahmed Balafrej and Abdellah Ibrahim) produced what could well be the most prolific executive legislation, ranging from creation of Dirham Currency to that of the future Bank Al Maghrib Central Bank, and various institutions, among others the modern Office des Changes to monitor flows of foreign capital, and make sure the financial instruments needed to carry out monetary policy are mastered and under domestic control. That gilded age of the Left of sorts needs to be restored, not with the same means, but with the same spirit, in resolution and assertiveness.

Big government, strangely enough, is favoured both by the Left (extending as far as Annahj far-left) and Makhzen traditionalists: a strong centre is needed to insure one or the other’s political and economic agenda is well executed. The core difference in their economics matters very little at the end: whether concentrated with a small nucleus of wealthy individuals (the Right and the ongoing pursued policy higher up are keen on supply-side economics) or a core of activists-bureaucrats (The left) there is very little difference but in the quality of the oligarchy.

Half a century of centralized decision-making and, even worse, centralized way of thinking has made public services in Morocco accountable to no one, with ordinary, median/average citizens at the receiving end of both administrative carelessness and more concentrated income distribution (in 1985, Gini Income Index was 0.36; in 2010, it was 0.46) So the justification by the Left of big government and burdensome regulations is void: it did not prevent private monopolies and special interests from taking a slice of the national cake, an increasing slice on top of it, guaranteed and protected by regulations and legislation.

Perhaps the Moroccan Left and Liberals need to accommodate burdensome and embarrassing allies: the corrupt and shady Unions, the powerful corporatist interests they support and count on (Lawyers, for one) and finally the once-loyal support of lower echelon in the Civil Service. The problem with such coalition is that it lacks the actual strength -never mind the consistency- to impose its supposedly progressive agenda; Regarding unions, their massive and disruptive potential has waned and they can no longer muster enough resources to stage demonstrations, let alone force deals for everyone to benefit from. The same goes for the special interest groups, strong enough to block attempts to force the status-quo, but too weak and divided to formulate and impose clear a coherent set of policies.

A coalition needs to be built around the ideals of progress, economic advancement and social justice – in that order. I cannot claim to produce reliable surveys on that topic, but it seems to me that fellow Moroccans I happen to engage with in discussions still view Socialism (that word really has gone out of fashion, hasn’t it?) and its economic policies as mainly Social, i.e. subsidizing the poor and soothing social resentment from inequalities; In other words, my non-representative sample does not believe Socialism can deliver on the economy: high growth, good jobs and high standards of living. I argue it can, but with unorthodox means. That coalition – Unions, Corporatist Interests and the weakened Middle Classes– is the key to the new progressive economic policies.

Food And Balance Of Trade: Imports of Wheat in Morocco amounted in 2010 to MAD 11.85Bn i.e. about 7.5% of Trade Balance deficit. The value per Imported Tone for Wheat is MAD 2.15 per Kg. More importantly, it has also imported MAD 93.6 Mln in various types of flour, We do import some fish flour; around 3 Tons – For all Morocco. And we export 4kgs (filed under FARINE,POUDRE EN PELLETS DE POISSON PR ALIMENTATION HUMAINE). That’s both laughable and symptomatic of a misguided choice of resources allocations.

As per FAO documents, Fish Flour provides superior nutrition value, because it can, if efficiently implemented, make up for a chronically low meat/protein consumption among Moroccan households, thus providing a cheaper and more popular alternative to traditional sources of meat consumption:

Why is FPC a good protein source?

First, of course, because it is concentrated; untreated and unprocessed foods do not generally contain more than about 20 percent protein, whereas FPC contains about 80 per cent. Secondly, the quality of the protein is high; by this is meant that the amino acids which make up the protein are present in just the right balance for human nutrition. Other foods such as cereals may contain useful amounts of protein but are frequently deficient in one or more of the amino acids that are essential for growth.

And there goes a policy that can win favour with a lot of people: all consumers will welcome a new class of flour that would enhance their consumption and increase their standard of living, producers and fisheries would expand their business to meet the demand, and prices of poultry, beef and lamb would decrease too. The one question remains: does Morocco have enough resources to meet the demand of 32 Mln hungry Moroccans?

According to the Russian Soy-Bean Company “Russoya” , The ratio for production is around 1/6, meaning there is a need for 6 Tons of raw fish to produce 1 Ton of pure fish flour. Morocco exports 222,000 Tons of Fishery at a unitary price value of MAD 29 per exported kilogram. If it switches to integral fish flour, it can produce 37,000 Tons at a unitary price of MAD 75 per exported kilogram, or even match up to 126 kg per imported kilogram. This is a win-win policy: in trade, Morocco saves up on differential traded value (on terms of trade) in domestic consumption, it increases protein consumption to higher levels, and in business, it allows for thriving companies to fish, condition and sell the product.

The 2001 HCP survey on household consumption points out that flour makes up for 55% of all wheat household consumption – and that percentage goes higher with the lower-income deciles: the poorer a household, the higher its consumption of flour – 70% for the bottom 20%. By the same findings, poorer households have a lower meat/protein consumption: there is a 1:64 ratio between the bottom and top 20% in terms of protein consumption. Perhaps the wisest and most straightforward policy to increase protein consumption across the board is simply to stop subsidizing wheat flour, and instead improve storage and distribution facilities for Fish flour. The trade-off is such that any anticipated costs for increasing production capacities -for domestic resources- would still be outweighed by the compensation fund allocation to wheat flour -an international commodity with volatile prices.

The rest is history: improving nutrition improves workforce, productivity, growth and leads to an increase in standards of living.

Small Business vs Big Business: I tried in a post earlier this year to explain that smaller businesses tend to do better in valuation and results. We need to do away with the myth of “National Champions” because they only contribute to accumulate wealth with little or no real investment in the economy. Smaller businesses on the other hand, take risks and try to make something real with positive impact on communities and individuals.

Small Cap Index beats MASI Big Business by comfortable margin during 2011

The admission that capitalism is good does not preclude the reservation on the current economic structure of Moroccan business, which is neither capitalism nor beneficial to the many – only to the very few. MASI index -dominated by juggernauts- systematically did worse when compared to smaller cap-based indexes this year.

Still and all, access to liquidity is heavily skewed towards large businesses; credit rationing, with its adverse effects, turns out to harm smaller and riskier businesses, not because of their inherent risk,  but because all liquidity has been captured by failing, larger companies. Regulations as well as dangerous acquaintances between businesses and banks makes access to liquidity discriminatory.

Parallel to an overhaul in credit allocation, there is a need to take on private monopolies and oligopolies: these harm collective welfare and destroy utility in the process: in Telecommunications, Edible food and other sectors, consumers pay more than they should in a more competitive market. Taking on business special interests means breaking up monopolies and concentrated holdings: SNI (formerly ONA-SNI), for instance goes too far in extending its hold on various business, ranging from Air Travel, Milk and Derivatives, Edible Oils, to the Banking industry. It is only populist in naming and shaming particular businesses, but the positive effects of a less concentrated and more competitive market setting will undoubtedly benefit everyone, from unions to end-users.

Agriculture, Taxation with Representation: tax exemption on agricultural products denotes of an obsolete, neoclassical mind-setting, if not outright narrow political calculations to keep off some lucrative rents going on. Taxation, contrary to a belief only too often held by many Moroccans, is not the modern equivalent of a punitive Harka expedition, a fiscal exaction of sorts; it is a policy instrument, that intervenes either to redistribute social surplus or to provide resources to public authorities so as to help what it perceives to be a potential new frontier. Both elements are designed within a political agenda, whose chief executive implements because they have a popular mandate for it.

Agricultural taxation will help overcome its biggest problem: estate domains; because Agrarian Reform still has not gone out of style, the progressive policy seeks to clarify, to introduce transparency on who owns what, on how collective ownership is defined. Because as long as no proper and serious tax proposal is introduced, as long as the tax moratorium is decreed -until 2013, that is- only big, urban-dwellers, export-oriented wealthy farmers will benefit from the opaque estate regulations. The point made earlier on breaking up monopolies fully applies to Agriculture as well.

Breaking the ceiling of Potential Growth: this topic is less obvious to policy-makers because it outlives their short political lifespan; it is about the general trend of education, research, finding ways to improve production and productivity, in short, the institutional elements fit to guarantee a solid base for growth and wealth creation. These are the issues where politics, the rule of law and economic, practical policies meet: the challenge to lay ahead is to produce adequate legislative framework to guarantee the rule of law and minimize administrative discretion over private ventures, to provide efficient and talented skilled workforce with good education and stable prospects, for both labour and business, and finally to find by ourselves, the perpetual ways to improve output and ensure growth does not do away.