The Moorish Wanderer

By-elections: a Case Study

This is a great opportunity for me to apply some of the computations I have elaborated on when I started to lay out the 2016 electoral map.

Al Ahdath Newspaper mentioned 12 seats (from 10 districts) where up for a by-election by next week, and I cannot find all of these, as I have managed only 7, and 2 others I am not sure are indeed contested as well (both PJD). Or perhaps the 12 seats mentioned comprise also those in Tangier-Assilah and an additional seat in Marrakesh-Menara:

909/2012 PPS – Youssoufia

908/2012 PI – Sidi Kacem

907/2012 PA – Azilal-Demnate

906/2012 UC – Settat

905/2012 MP – Moulay Yacoub

888/2012 MDS – Chichaoua

878/2012 USFP – Inzegane Aït Melloul

858/2012 PJD – Hay Hassani

898/2012 PJD – Menara

As I have mentioned several times before, many parties have ‘marginal seats’, i.e seats with barely enough votes to cross the minimum electoral coefficient. And these are more likely than others to fall next election. And as it happens, a couple of these are in play: UC, PA, USFP and PPS could lose their seats with a few hundred votes. But, having a marginal doesn’t translate into a higher probability of losing the seat. Indeed, the following probabilities computed on the basis of each party’s past electoral performance show this is not systematic.

Union Constitutionelle member of parliament Abdellatif Mirdas  for Sidi Kacem, whose seat will be contested is a good example to illustrate my point. He has managed to get a little under 6,000 votes and was subsequently the bottom of the list, very close indeed to the 6% threshold (about 4,800 votes) and his local electoral performance was by any measure a very good one for his party. Yet for this by-election, his majority is very slim indeed. Assuming a turnout similar to 2012, he has an 85.58% chance of losing his seat; roughly the same likelihood of not making it to the 6% threshold. This is not a very informative probability because it is unconditional on the district itself; so there is a need to normalize this probability with local turnout, and how close the party candidate is to the 6% threshold. Adjusting for these elements, UC has therefore a little under 70% chance of losing the seat.

I would suggest this method is naïve Bayesian actually: the probability \mathbb{P}(V_t<V) denotes the probability of getting at most the same number of votes they have got in 2011. It is then finessed by taking into account local factors, and then conditioned (rather than just observed) on past electoral performance, local 6% threshold, turnout, etc: \mathbb{P}_j(V_t|V_{t-1})=\prod_{i=1}^{n}\mathbb{P}_{i,j}(N_{t,i}|\{N_{t-k,i}\}_{k=K}^{0})

The table below uses these computations for the three other parties, although the results for PA and MDS are not as statistically significant as I would like them to be, but it seems many of these seats are going to be very competitive, and many are very likely to change hands. I have also used the same method to compute the likelihood of the other parties whose seats are not marginals, with some tweaking, mainly by normalizing probability to present turnout and when applicable, threshold effect per seat.


Whatever the end result, there will be no big change in parliamentary caucuses – not the largest caucuses, any way. On the other hand, there is good evidence to suggest competitive by-elections in perhaps all but one district (MP- Moulay Yacoub) I will fire off a next blogpost offering some insight as to which parties enjoy the largest probabilities of carrying these seats.

Predictions for the 2016 Elections, Part.3

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on November 10, 2012

Marginal seats per large party turned out to be quite a fascinating subject: each party has its strongholds – even marginals. It also shows that out of the 83 marginal seats, only 36 are actually in play. So here’s my first set of predictions as to the 2016 configuration for parliamentary caucuses:

1/ Barring exceptional surge in favourable turnout, PJD cannot hope to achieve anything near 153 seats on local ballot, for two basic reasons: first, its electoral distribution does not allow systematic strong probabilities to carry at least 2 seats per large district, and second, other parties have stronger probabilities to hold districts quite important for PJD to reach 153. Its best case scenario is that of an increased plurality to 121 – that is, a surge of additional 394,000 voters, either pinched from the competitors in these seats, or new electors.

PJD can expect some pick ups next election, but needs to take a close look at some endangered seats they could lose by less than 2% of the votes.

Either way, PJD cannot perform 30% more in very competitive districts when they find it difficult to deliver a 7.3% nationwide swing. So ix-nay on the Absolute Majority, Morocco carries on with a PJD-dominated coalition government on 2016. This is simple arithmetic: an absolute majority in parliament means 198 seats, or 153 on the local ballot. In order to achieve it, there is the need for each contender party so secure a plurality of votes from the 92 districts. It so happens the present system requires the winner, in order to govern by themselves, to carry at least 47 of the 92 districts to have a chance to get 153 seats on local ballot, on the basis of past electoral performance in turnout (hence controlled for party ‘leadership’) some districts are an absolute winner – because they have a lot of seats, or because registered population and turnout is high enough to make them essential to the ‘winning district coalition’. Alternatively, First Past the Post provides more favourable conditions for strong parliamentary majorities – but then again, this would shake up a consensus across partisan and political lines (Makhzen and many of its dissidents oppose it vigorously)

The methodology is simple enough: start by listing districts with decreasing highest turnout, and sum their corresponding seats until 153 is reached (by the current number of seats, the absolute majority is 155, but that’s close enough) then look at the last district to make up for the absolute majority: Essaouira. Bad news for PJD or PI – the most likely (albeit a small one) to have a certain electoral distribution able to deliver a super-majority.each of these essential districts is controlled by strong majorities of different parties. A simple look at the map opposite shows it: it is even worse news for PJD because some of its regional strongholds (like Tangier) does not account much in the path to 153. This is why I predict, on the basis of its past electoral performance, it cannot acquire the required 65 additional seats.

Essaouira is the last district needed to get the super-majority. A truly stable party government would value its district as much as anything else.

2/ There is a considerable chance PJD, PI and RNI might lose more seats than gain some, because most of their marginals are very competitive – i.e. challengers are close enough to change the electoral outcome in 2016 with only a dozen of votes per district. On the other hand, PAM, UC and to a lesser extent, USFP and MP could gain moderately; Overall, and bearing in mind the initial assumption of a stable turnout, the 2016 parliament ins unlikely to change much, other than transfer 25 seats one way or the other.

Souad Boulaich El Hajraoui: 55 votes majority (0.31%)

Abdellatif Rachid: 722 votes majority (2.02%)

Abdellah Benhammou: 942 votes majority (2.32%)

Mohamed Slimani: 601 votes majority (2.41%)

It is worth pointing out that these predictions do not take into account PPS’ own chances, as well as the expectations for the smaller parties in Parliament. It is clear however these will have slimmer chances to be represented again in parliament.

3/ The majority party with a vote plurality, and leader of the government coalition, PJD, will have to look very closely to 18 districts with 66 seats to achieve the 153-absolute majority threshold, that is, gathering between 217,000 and 268,000 additional votes, while maintaining or expanding their majorities. And again, it is quite unlikely, unless some surge in favourable voter registration and turnout allows it. In absolute numbers, the 2011 election brought to the polls about the same number of voters in 1984, respectively 4.5 Mln and 4.32 Mln (even as registered and likely voters population surged 60% and 67% respectively) Based on weighted averages of past electoral performances (weighted so as take into account time lags) turnout for 2016 is likely to stabilise itself around 4.5 and 5.1 Million votes – that is 38.3% and 42.7% (this does not take into account invalidated ballots, so official turnout could well be a little above 50%) but this turnout sustains itself only through an increased share of disenfranchised Moroccans, where registration rate would drop from 72% in 2007, to 60% in 2011, and a little under 51%.

Overall, it seems unlikely the present parliamentary configuration would change significantly, as far as the big parties (those controlling 95% of the seats) are concerned: there are few competitive seats (of theoretical 92 seats, only 84 could are actual marginals, and only 36 could actually change majorities)