The Moorish Wanderer

New Constituency Seats for Parliament

Looking at the returning results from General Elections in the United Kingdom, I was interested in the idea of ‘University Constituencies‘ where seats are not particularly allocated on a geographical basis, and what is more important to my mind, targeting a particularly homogeneous but ultimately illusive electorate.

As numbers stand now, first-time voters are at dangerously low levels, both as a percentage of total registered voters and in their respective cohort. The danger being, short of a profound reform of electoral rolls, an increasing trend in disenfranchising voters, thus subverting the electoral process and the very idea of representative democracy. The fact the ruling party in the current coalition government has seemingly dropped their support for electoral reform has pretty much precluded any push for renewal in the electoral rolls. Recent comments from the Interior Ministry suggest little or no change should be expected on that front.

As it stands now, the Moroccan parliamentary system exhibits a two-tiers system in its upper house: 305 members of parliament are elected on the local ballot, while 90 are selected on the basis of national results, 60 seats of which are allocated to female-only lists, and 30 for de facto young (under 40) males. Yet these members do not have a constituency, which is both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand, they are free to pursue whatever cause they fancy with no fear of backlash from their hypothetical voters, but on the other hand, they are beholden to their party leadership, for fear of being deselected, or worse still, put at the bottom of the party list, where there is little hope of taking up a seat.

There is also the apropos argument these elected representatives are not “full” members has they do not have a mandate: a recent opinion handed down by the designate constitutional court, striking down the provision of a Women’s Caucus suggests otherwise, since their argument was based on the fungibility of members of parliament, i.e. they are not subject to community allegiances whatsoever. The same line motivated another opinion on the continuity of government as well.

Members of the Court have honoured the French tradition of their curriculae, since by denying the individual qualities of each of the 395 members of parliament, they assert the idea of a homogeneous nation, whose representatives are no longer bound to the local constituencies that got them there. I fear this view is widely shared across the political spectrum, and does weaken the reformist claim many (including political opinions I am partial to) herald as their own.

Let us go back to the idea of university constituencies: obviously the first order of business in parliamentary reforms is to reduce the number of seats, so as to flatten regional discrepancies: sparsely populated areas tend to be allocated more seats per capita than, say metropolitan regions, which gives undue advantage to some parties and candidates, as well as produce counter-intuitive results, for instance during the 2007 elections, where PJD had a slight advantage over the Istiqlal on the popular vote, but was eventually a good dozen seats behind.

Seat allocation does not seem to obey a specific, let alone transparent rule: on the eve of each general election, the same ballet is performed by the Interior Ministry, in charge of rewriting electoral regulations, and political parties, each with grievances that often translate in patchy compromises the current ballot system does nothing to alleviate: as a result,  there is virtually no chance one party could get hold of an absolute majority and form a government on their own.

Nonetheless, a simple rule can be adopted for all future distributions of seats, the statistical distribution of voter registration allocates seats per province, with a minimal number of two per constituency, historically close to 43.000  per seat. This system has the benefit of reducing the local-ballot seats by 51 seats, distributed as follows:

Region 2011 Seats Reform Uni Seats Net Change
Casablanca 34 28 2 -4
Chaouia 19 15 1 -3
Doukkala 18 10 1 -7
Fez 20 17 2 -1
Gharb 18 17 1 0
Guelmim 10 10   0
Laayoune 5 4   -1
Marrakech 28 24 1 -3
Meknes 17 15 1 -1
Oriental 23 18 1 -4
Ouad Dahab 8 8   0
Rabat-Salé 24 19 2 -3
Souss 28 27 1 0
Tadla 16 12 1 -3
Tanger 25 20 1 -4
Taza 12 10   -2
Total 305 254 15 -36

Densely populated regions lose comparatively fewer seats compared to Southern and rural regions, but the results greatly reduces discrepancies of past elections. Furthermore, in the context of a first-past-the-post system list, the requirement of having at least a female candidate for all competing candidate list ensures a minimum 92-strong female caucus, a 36% female representation, double the current 17%, and in line with female labour participation.

The younger generation also need not be granted a quota: university constituencies can serve the double purpose of expanding the electoral roll, as well as provide voting incentives to an otherwise disaffected population: there are about 600.000 Moroccans registered at universities, vocational/occupational schools,  institutes and other high-education facilities, many of whom far from their home towns. Also, instead of having 30-odd members with no fixed constituency to answer for, the Moroccan youth will have a chance to elected their representatives on their own terms and rights. As a result, Parliament would look radically different:


the number of sitting members would be cut from 395 to 269, with 15 University Seats, and at least 92 Female seats, since nothing precludes female university candidates, or winning lists with more than one female candidate.