The Moorish Wanderer

Who Will Get The Big Job?

Posted in Flash News, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on December 10, 2012

5 candidates are competing to replace the dean of representatives and incumbent USFP premier, Abdelouahed Radi. 5 candidates with similar and different views, no doubt. And I thought this is the chance to assume, then prove political agents in Morocco are capable of rational strategies and decisions – and that will be put to the test, on the weekend 14-16th of december.

This is textbook game theory, where the game is as simple as it gets: during USFP’s convention, the delegates from all over Morocco need to vote for the candidate they believe can lead them to victory in 2016, or at least be in position to share some of the spoils a strong contender generates. I would like to think the centre-left party would do some introspective thinking about its political philosophy, its alliance strategy, but the would-be leaders would be hard-pressed to deliver results. So, setting aside the assumption of a selfless leader eady to sacrifice their (his) political future for the sake of the party, I would posit all 5 candidates have every incentive to go for -at least implicitely- an immediate positive return.

As mentioned before, the voting game is about declaring preferences. So it is quite possible the next USFP convention would end up in a deadlock – although it has a very low probability of happening:

\mathbb{P}(deadlock)=1-\frac{\max {V}_{i=1}^5}{5!}

(5! is the factorial, with a value 120, as there are 120 different combinations of listing preferences)

and even lower probability if USFP delegates are very adverse to rowdy convention outcomes (and recent history shows), ie. u\left[\mathbb{P}(deadlock)\right] where u(.) is strictly concave to denote this risk aversion.

For each delegate thus, there is a ranking, I would like to add to a small constraint: the delegate has a strong preference for the first choice, their candidate, and then enunciate weak preferences for the remaining four:

V_1 \succ V_2 \succeq V_3 \succeq V_4 \succeq V_5

An equilibrium (the election outcome) does not necessarily mean a majority of delegates select the same first choice. To illustrate this, assume the rules of elections have been altered. Instead, the party convention will go through 5 ballots, each candidate is submitted to approval or rejection. The equilibrium here depends on the candidate order. This step is simply internalised by each and every delegate: they weigh in different outcomes, and eventually come up with a choice that maximizes a series of objectives (party victory, personal gain, idealistic aims, etc.) their respective preferences are solved using backward induction.

Since party convention rules for two ballots, preferences will be broken down in first-hand choices, and second-hand choices if the former fails.

Let us now consider more down-to-earth elements of this election: presumably, USFP needs a strong leader to measure up to Hamid Chabat, or Hakim Benchemas, or indeed the Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane. Meaning their next Secretary General has to adopt opposition-like strategies, including:

1/ Very active and visible on the media

2/ Established access to the same media

3/ A member of parliament (MP)

Point 2 and 3 are correlated – a member of parliament has a privileged access to mainstream media an outsider lacks. As it turns out, this rules out two candidates, Fathallah Oualalou and Mohamed Talbi (Zaidi, Lachguar and Malki being all three representatives) to be first choice for a whole lot of delegates. In fact, the weight party delegate allocate to this quality (being an MP) is roughly equal to the percentage of those delegates whose preferences are based upon that criterion: what is the probability of choosing a member of parliament as a first choice. answer: 60%. That is not to say 60% of the delegates will chose between Zaidi, Lachguar or Malki, but each delegate has a 60% chance of of choosing one of these candidates. But since it is expected some 1200 delegates will attend the convention, my assumption would be that 720 delegates will vote for one of the three ‘premium candidates’, and then scramble for the remaining 480 that votes primarily for the two other candidates, on the second ballot.

Let me make an assumption about the 480 ‘idealists’: presumably, a large percentage of those will vote for Fathallah Oualalou, and his votes will be crucial for the two parliamentary contenders. Notice I mention two, and not three. The proof is in three steps: first, assume all three candidates have equiprobability of getting the 720 votes – this means on average each one gets 240. A winner needs to get at least 361 additional votes, so the other 480 votes are not going to be split evenly across the first three contenders, which means only the first two of the parliamentary contenders really matter.

The crucial player in the two-ballots game is thus M. Oualalou: if he comes in second or first in the first ballot, he will be elected on the second,his support has every incentive to stick by him, in addition, support from his parliamentary competitor’s rivals will consolidate his lead. This is based on the assumption that delegates supporting a parliamentary candidate on the first ballot rank the other two behind M. Oualalou.

On the other hand, if M. Oualalou comes in as a third candidate, his support might make a difference. This is because one of the parliamentary contenders in the run-off could be too polarizing, and even support transferred from M. Oualalou might not be enough. This leads me to lay out some assumption about M. Driss Lachguar, whose own record shows he can be a serious contender, but his polarizing figure could produce a backlash and elevate another, ‘Dark Horse’ candidate to the Premier position.

In many respects, Mr. Lachguar is favoured to be USFP’s next boss: he is a member of parliament, has been involved in the decision to withdraw USFP from coalition talks and join in the Opposition, and rattled sabres over the appointment of M. Karim Guellab as Speaker of Parliament House. Yet many party delegate might not be interested to vote for him on the second ballot (that is, if he makes a first, or close second) and could vote for another, less illustrious candidate in an “Anti-Lachguar” stampede. And yet, there is a chance a Lachguar-Oualalou ticket might get a win, provided the following conditions:

1/ Lachguar supporters stick by him on the second ballot
2/ There is a common pool of Lachguar-Oualalou supporters
3/ Lachguar supporters are expected to cast slightly more votes than Oualalou’s

In fact, the minimum number of Oualalou supporters among the 480 delegates ready to switch on the second ballot, described earlier would be:

240+480\times\alpha-\alpha^2\times (V_{FO},V_{DL})

(this is assumed to differentiate between core Oualalou supporters and those likely to switch support to Lachguar

a simple FOC gives: \max_\alpha V(FO,DL)= \dfrac{\partial V(FO,DL)}{\partial \alpha}=0 yields \hat{\alpha}=19.1\% so Lachguar only needs 20% of Oualalou’s supporters to throw their support behind him to win the ballot, should Lachguar come a close first or second.

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)

Predictions for the 2016 Elections, Part.2

So a uniform swing across all 84 marginal constituencies does not change the picture that much: of the 305 seats, the ranking of the 8 largest parties that concentrate 94% of parliamentary, local ballot selected seats did not change but for two: Because it exhibits a larger than usual number of marginal seats, Istiqlal is bound to lose a net 6 seats, thus leaving RNI as second-in-command. PJD on the other hand, can expect to win a net additional 3 seats, still 65 seats shy of an absolute majority.

2011 and 2002 exhibit similar and almost coinciding density curves.

But this is a highly unlikely outcome, precisely because these swings are assumed to be uniformed: indeed, the discrepancies in voting results do point to heterogeneous outcomes, essentially due to the discrepancies in carried votes between the incumbent marginal and the potential challenger. Let me use an example to illustrate my point: the Speaker of the First Chamber, Karim Ghellab, represents a marginal – voted in with 4,789 votes, a long way behind PJD and UC, respectively 14,853 and 8,925 votes. The immediate competitor to Mr Ghellab is the MP list, with 2,735 votes. What is the probability, ceteris paribus, Mr Ghellab would lose his seat to the MP challenger in 2016?

Consider the party’s past electoral performance. Amazingly enough, Istiqlal’s vote distribution did not vary much if not at all between 2002 and 2011 (the density curves for 2002 and 2007 shows it on the graph). Therefore, it makes sense to assume Mr Ghellab’s margin can be computed in terms of probabilities. And this shows us he would keep his seat with a probability of 46.7%, with a vote tally fluctuating most likely between 3,976 and 5,841 votes, regardless of Mr Ghellab’s or the nationwide electoral performance, he needs to ensure a a marginal majority of 813 votes.

(incidentally, voter distribution per party or per seat exhibits very common forms, as various papers from academia[pdf] testify to that)

How about PJD’s six marginal constituencies? According to the averaged PJD past electoral performances since 2002, three of these are more likely to go over the edge to PJD’s local challenger, and one is a pure, statistical toss-up. This is moderate good news for PJD, because they are assured to keep a comfortable margin, provided 2016 Elections come with no exceptional events (the “Black Swan”) In fact, all three marginals have strictly positive likelihoods to swing against PJD incumbents, but three only of these lean toward PJD’s local challengers, and Laayun remains in a tie (a feat for maverick PJD considering the voting pattern down South)

Of the 6 marginals, PJD has a significant chance to lose three, and a fourth is nearly a toss-up

On the other hand, one could also look at the Head of Government’s own seat in Salé, and while it is by no means a marginal (M. Benkirane got 27,000 votes to a second with a little over 8,000) yet there is a positive (very low) likelihood of losing his seat: less than 3% – precisely because it would entail a huge swing, with a third of Salé voters going over to any challenger.

The Istiqlal party is a peculiar contender: though it ranks a distant second in electoral results, it has maintained its initial strength even as the party led a relatively unpopular government, and has been associated with all government coalitions at least since 1997. It is undoubtedly an establishment party. Yet for its formidable 60-members strong caucus, many of those have been elected on razor-thin margins in very competitive districts, and the Istiqlali challengers have not been numerous enough to make up for the endangered seats. All in all, Istiqlal could well expect a net loss of 6 seats.

The party with the most interesting marginal record is undoubtedly Istiqlal, first, because they have the largest number of marginals, and second, because their electoral performance per district did not change over the years (a remarkable stability given its Establishment status) the odds for and against voter swing in PI-held seats is the perfect case study for the proposed method. As one can see, the initial assumption of a uniform swing across all marginals was unrealistic. By that account, Istiqlal was to expect to net a loss of 6 seats. But now, and according to the computed probabilities, Istiqlal can expect – again, ceteris paribus, to lose only 4 seats, with one is a small district where lopsided swings are expected and observed, and four others with moderate loss expectations. Assouerd is a peculiar seat, because a 200 voter switch is a dead heat, 600 is a landslide (respectively 4.3% and 13% swing)

Aousserd is very competitive, the high likelihood of part swing is due to the small constituency to start with.

Can this set-up deliver reliable results for marginals as well as ‘safe’ districts? The Tangier by-election provides good case study (given the fact polls do not curry favour with our esteemed representatives[pdf]) the model tells PJD was strongly favoured to retain all its Tangier seats, since the probability of losing its majority is so small it is not even statistically significant (larger than 99%) but on the other hand, the model predicts it may lose 12,500 votes (but this is probably due to the fact that Tangier district is a PJD stronghold, and their maximum voter reserve has been reached) so even if it retains its majority almost certainly (and it did) it was expected to lose some votes. The actual results show PJD lost 16,200 votes – a figure statistically close (well within the margin of error) to the projected 12,500 synthetic potential loss.

Howe about the other competitors for the Tangier district representatives? According to their respective results, PAM was the marginal representative, with a potential risk of losing it to UC, with a probability of 17%. So actually, PAM’s marginal Tangier seat was relatively safe, with expected losses of no more than 1,730 votes – it turns out PAM lost only 300-odd votes. The actual loser in this Tangier recall election was RNI, even though it was not a marginal (yet exhibited a loss probability of 9.7%) yet it failed to carry any vote. The model predicted PAM could lose to UC, but since RNI did not get any votes, UC candidate list simply filled in.

Budget 2012 – The Opposition Does NOT Strike Back

Posted in Dismal Economics, Flash News, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on April 6, 2012

But rather runs for cover.

Yesterday the Budget and Finances Committee passed the first part of the Budget Bill untouched -hence rejecting amendments tabled by opposition members.

2012/03/29 : أنهت اللجنة دراسة مواد المشروع .(تم وضع التعديلات بشأنه بتاريخ 02/04/12 من طرف كل من الحكومة وفرق ومجموعتي الأغلبية والفريق الاشتراكي وفريق التجمع الوطني للأحرار وفريق الأصالة والعاصرة والفريق الدستوري).

2012/04/05 : (صباحا): شرعت اللجنة في البت في مواد الجزء الأول من المشروع حيث توقفت عند المادة 7.

2012/04/05 : (مساء): وافقت اللجنة على مواد الجزء الأول من المشروع كما عدلته بأغلبية 24 صوتا ومعارضة 3 أصوات وامتناع 5 نواب عن التصويت.

Tally goes as follows: 24 in favour, 5 against and 3 abstentions. This is quite understandable given the fact that it’s a government bill, and fragmented opposition doesn’t usually get to block or attach important amendments. But it is worth pointing out the Commission is made up of 50 members of parliament, many of whom are senior members of their respective parties (F.Z. Mansouri, A.R. Chami, M. Hazib and H. Chabat, among others) and though this is an important bill, less than two-thirds of the Committee-persons showed up.  That is to say the most important part of the Budget -Part I is about Fiscal and non-Fiscal receipts- has been passed with no amendments at 24 votes out of 50, one vote short of an absolute majority.

I mean, the opposition members do know they have no chance in blocking the Budget if they’d wanted to, but only 5 votes out of at least 15? Way to go.

Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.19

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on November 21, 2011

(A typo has been corrected on the latest “Moroccan Elections for the Clueless” series – 7102 candidates include the 90 national ballot seats, hence a lower competitive ratio over 395 seats. I hope this was not too much of an inconvenience; thank you)

elections2011.gov.ma has finally uploaded all of the electoral map, and they are thanked for it. However, I would be eternally grateful to the Interior Ministry (Yes, GRATEFUL) if they’d care to allow some more friendly-user upload button on their otherwise very nice charts. I am trying to figure out a contact on their website (which as far as I can tell, is just as mysterious as the Ministry overseeing it) and ask them -very nicely- if it is not too much trouble to get the list per constituency, with the standard socio-demographic indicators: age bandwidth, gender, education, prior public service, etc.

So there we are: 7102 Candidates, 32 political parties (which I will try and list later on – and I can already confess I have never heard of some of these) all over 92 districts. There are a couple of V.I.P candidates that might clash over particularly competitive seats, as we shall see as well.

Behold - 31 Political Parties and 6 independent Candidates.

It is worth pointing out that contrary to what one might think, the most competitive seats -those with higher numbers of candidates- are not necessarily located in large urban areas. In fact, it is hardly the case: Fqih Bensalah (Tadla Azilal) district has 112 candidates (28 parties) competing for 4 seats. There is an equivalent number of seats in Rabat-Océan (Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer), and yet about only half of that number competes over these, and 17 parties only put up candidates in what is usually referred to as a “death district” . Casablanca-Anfa (Greater Casablanca) too shows a smaller number of candidates, and even though it remains higher than Rabat’s own candidates’ pool, it is well below Fqih Bensalah’s very attractive 4 seats. It does make sense, since rural districts historically yielded higher turnout, and politics down there do not obey to the constraints of modern politics.

There some interesting constituencies and candidates running for office next Friday. Among others, the quite attractive 23-years old Meryem Daâli, PAM figurehead candidate in My Rashid district (Casablanca). She is mostly likely to lose to more experienced and popular competitors, but PAM operatives have managed to pull off a media bluff that could well boost its appeal among young and women voters.

Candidate Meryem Daâli (PAM- Casablanca My Rashid) the ballot picture doesn't do her justice (Aufait Maroc picture)

As per her own statements to the press, Mrs. Daâli is not some idealistic activist trying to prove herself worthy of public office, but rather because her mother broached her on the subject, and she didn’t mind signing up as a PAM-PAM girl (sorry for the pun, and I can assure the reader there is no misogynist intent behind it)

Pour quelles raisons participez-vous aux élections? Est-ce que votre mère, Farida Naïmi, est derrière votre choix ?

Ma participation aux élections intervient dans la conjoncture que vit le Maroc qui dicte à tous les segments de la société, en particulier les jeunes, de réagir collectivement en laissant de côté la protestation, en contribuant aux réformes politiques et en participant dans des institutions. Et sans rien vous cacher, ma mère, qui est conseillère parlementaire, m’a ouvert la voie vers cette participation sous les couleurs du Parti de l’ Authenticité et de la Modernité.

But families ties in Moroccan politics are not rare commodity. In fact it is hardly the case not to find some remote family connections between candidates and incumbent politicians, sometimes across party lines; I particularly like the PEDD ballot candidates, where it seems -but I am not sure- that two family members have been accredited to contest the same district: MM. Ahmed & Yahya Ouadoudi really do look like Father & Son, don’t they? In a different district, that’s the whole family contesting the election: There are three Bourkalen PAM candidates contesting for Tinghir district (Souss-Massa) and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that n°2 and n°3 and n°1’s offspring.

There are some well-known politicians running for office (yet again) or challenging others to it; Abdelouahed Radi, USFP grandee and Premier is running for a 7th time since 1963 -if he manages to pull this off, he is going to retain his seat for almost half a century. He is standing for the newly re-drawn Sidi Slimane district (Gherb Chrarda) against Ismail Alaoui, former PPS leader, and PJD candidate Abdelouahed Bennani (Princess Royal Lallal Salma’s uncle). Blood ties, it seems, are the best insurance in the business of Moroccan politics.

Some VIP ministers, businessmen and distinguished party leaders are also joining the race:

Aziz Akhnennouch, Gaz distribution tycoon, Agriculture minister and RNI grandee, is the RNI candidate for Tiznit seat, a seat few parties are contesting (although 4 out 5 competing parties are nationwide)

Salaheddine Mezouar, RNI leader and most likely next Head Of Government, is standing as a candidate in Meknes, against PJD challenger (and incumbent) Representative Abdellah Bouanou

Yasmina Baddou, Health Minister and Representative for Casablanca (Anfa – Istiqlal) is standing for re-election, the same as Rep. Ouadi Benabdellah (Anfa – RNI) and Rep. Abdelbari Zemzami (Anfa – PRV)

Rep. Hamid Chabat (Fès – Istiqlal) is also standing for re-election (with an expected comfortable margin of victory) USFP is putting up Immigration Minister Mohamed Ameur as a challenger.

Driss Lachgar (Rabat) Ahmed Reda Chami (Fez) Karim Guellab (Casablanca) Abdelilah Benkirane (Salé) and Mohand Laenser (Boulemane) are but a few party heavyweights rushing for seats, some of them will not successfully carry. Head Of Government hopeful candidate PJD Sâadedine Othamni has changed for the third time his seat, this time standing for Mohammedia seat.

There are also some “Heirs to the Partisan seat” competing for seats, with Istiqlal and USFP: Ali Yazghi (n°2) and Aiman Aghmani (n°17)  for USFP, and n°8 Abdelmjid Fassi (from our very own Kennedy family) to name but a recognizable few.

For more VIP candidates La Vie Eco listed a few of these.