The Moorish Wanderer

Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.2

Why is it no political party can “rule” by itself? In other terms, how come we always need a coalition (sometimes very heterogeneous) to form a government, even with the Alternance Consensuelle?

To begin with, this has marginally little to do with the number of political parties, in fact, a “weak coalition” setting is multifarious, as it ranges from political gerrymandering to ballot system, from weak root activism to the existence of powerful local notabilities, “Moul Chkaras”. And when the administration meddles with elections for some 30 years, nasty tactics do not disappear by themselves.

Gerrymandering: Opposition parties have always denounced constituency boundaries because many of those reduce their chances to carry seats. The most recent example is the 2007 Elections, where PJD caucus carried 500,000 votes, some 100,000 more than Istiqlal, but the latter has got 46 seats, some 6 more than PJD. Now, this can mean two things: PJD-led districts have delivered higher majorities, or constituencies where PJD was neck-and-neck with competitors (most famously, the Prime Minister’s district, Larache) boundaries over such and such borough in such and such city can be a deciding factor, since most PJD seats represent urban districts.

Gerrymandering, as denounced by many opposition parties over the years, is not the only factor preventing those political organizations -past and present- from what they have considered their right to move into office; indeed, politics of elections in Morocco is hardly a zero-sum game, even though political parties are convinced it is so. While it is true some districts have been allotted with fewer openings for seats, the administrative boundaries do encompass these districts, and administrative provinces have been designed with some other considerations in mind, considerations that rise above petty short-term politics. Security issues, and the need to control rural populations have been more urgent and important to that effect. The traditional dividing line between Useful Morocco vs Useless Morocco was not born out of constituencies’ boundaries.

A straightforward illustration of discrepancies between popular votes and caucus size is to compute the number of constituents per carried seats: the lower the ratio, the more favoured a political party was, relative to the carried constituencies: assuming two parties got similar number of votes, one will carry more seats than the other, because the former has a lower electability ratio than the latter.

Average ratio was, throughout, between 33,000 and 47,000 voters/seat

Many of my off-line friends and acquaintances from Rabat or Casablanca showed a great deal of sympathy towards PSU, and would my party have chosen to contest these elections, their votes would have been cast in favour of PSU or Left-Alliance candidates. It’s all very commendable and laudable (from my perspective anyway) but in these specific constituencies, it is very hard, almost impossible to carry more than one seat; first because competition is fierce among ideologically similar parties, the electability ratio is way higher than the national mean, and it requires a lot more than just a few dozen additional votes to make a difference. In that respect, the boycott option spared PSU-AGD candidates the painful and costly ordeal of campaigning in highly competitive districts.

In Casablanca, a candidate needs to gather around 63,000 votes to get elected. In Rabat city, the number goes as high as 57,000. This explains partly why many members of the Left-Alliance leaned in favour  of boycotting; for it is a suicide mission to go campaign for votes in large cities; true, there are more seats out there to take (Casablanca and Rabat urban rings gather 48 seats) but it is a costly and hazardous endeavour not every candidate can undertake.

Gaming Majorities in Moroccan Parliament House

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on September 22, 2011

La Vie Eco published an interesting projection on the future post-25 November election. More of a speculation really: in the absence of computed swing votes for each party over all opened seats for parliament house, predictions over which party will lead the coalition are meaningless, though they can shed some interesting lights on the future coalition government.

It is safe to say that there are two given in Moroccan politics: first, no political party can pretend to form a government on their own, meaning, no single political party can gather absolute majority – half seats plus one- in both houses, and second, coalitions need not to be homogeneous to work together for a full term. USFP and Istiqlal did manage to work with political parties it has long identified as ideological adversaries and rivals, parties like MP or RNI for instance.

Since 1993, major political parties have failed to grasp majorities with large margins, meaning that as time goes by, majority coalition has increased the number of necessary parties to secure a government. Political problems also increased in forming such a majorities: junior partners need to be contented just as large ones, and opposition parties -those left out of negotiations- need to be isolated, and the negative effect of their size in parliament is blocked away. And so, speculation goes over which party will emerge as the winner, and the subsequent coalition built around the new leader of the house.

The seat allocation changed since then, mostly with a larger Mouvement Populaire caucus and the foundation of PAM

And yet, the same parties keep popping up as candidates for coalition members, even the issue of “leader party” is meaningless, save perhaps for the “President of Government” new trophy position: is it going to be Mezouar? Biadillah? Benkirane? or one of the respective successors of El Fassi or Radi? It goes without saying that ballot system will condition the Premiership allocation to one party over the other, but would have little effect on the coalition itself. So 2011 might very well turn out to be not only predictable as for the majority coalition, but the number of seats can be predicted as well.

So far, parliamentary caucuses of MP (Mouvement Populaire), RCU (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Unifié – RNI and UC Joint-venture) and PAM make up for 150 out of 325, they are favoured as a winning coalition, especially when the outgoing government coalition gathers the support of 140 seats, with all the drawbacks of a motley composition made up of Koutla members and “Administrative Parties”.

Now, gaming majorities in Moroccan politics has been increasingly difficult ever since 1997. First off because administrative meddling with election abated since then, as ballot-stuffing, gerrymandering and other nasty tactics progressively -but not entirely- gave way to a certain degree of freedom and fairness during the campaigns, which does not mean corruption and frequent incidents did not occur over the last 15 years. All in all, these parties that have been kept out in opposition for many years turned out to be quite harmless when they finally came in office, and instead did not challenge the establishment they were so keen on denouncing when they were out, in the wilderness.  Second, turnout started to drop markedly starting from 1997: elections prior the Alternance Consensuelle observed a 58.3% turnout, which have been decreasing ever since: 51.6% in 2002 and finally 37.3% in 2007. The result of the decreasing turnout accrued to that a fragmented political play-field, as 5 major parties are needed to carry an absolute majority. In 1997, 4 parties could have insured that majority. The subsequent splits and spin-offs, as well as the exercise of power have weakened parties, while others stepped in the limelight and quickly became political forces to be reckoned with.

But the new constitution has, for all of its shortcomings, introduced a new variable in the balance: the Prime Minister’s (or shall we say, the President of Government) character: is it going to be an “Iron Gentleman” who elicits the support of his ministers through his charisma, like Abdellah Ibrahim or King Hassan II, or will he be weak character, but nonetheless able to keep a heterogeneous coalition together, like Abbas El Fassi, or Mohamed Karim Lamrani, or perhaps a “team player”, a coalition-building character, like Driss Jettou or Mâati Bouabid. Though it is almost impossible to assess precisely the impact of personality on post-elections government coalition, it surely will play an important role, perhaps even more important considering the constitutional obligation to appoint a President of Government from the majority party (alternatively, the constitutional interpretation of Article 47 could be that of the coalition, instead of party, leader)

Let us now turn to some predictions on the November 2011 Elections: since the new legislation has not yet been processed to this day, we still consider the 295 districts -and their existing boundaries- plus the 30 seats allocated to women as the basis of coalition gaming. The great thing about 2007 elections is paradoxically its low turnout; those districts with the highest abstention rates were precisely the ones carried by PJD vote. Other than that, constituencies East and South the Atlas Mountains have registered relatively high turnout, an average of 57%. On those seats, incumbents are not easily unseated, especially when it comes to challengers like PJD in rural areas and hinterlands. On the other hand, the same party has pretty good chances to carries a majority of seats in Casablanca, Larache, Khouribga and Rabat, but would not, unless exceptional circumstances decide otherwise, carry more than 60 seats, most of which are located in the constituencies mentioned above.

Because PJD would be returning with a larger caucus, USFP and Istiqlal will bear the loss of transferred votes: let us remember that in 2002, Istiqlal Leader Abbas El Fassi carried 15,823 votes, while PJD candidates carried 15,125. In 2007, the same party leader, soon to be a Prime Minister was 2 points behind PJD candidates, a sure sign of weakness, considering the strong electoral base Istiqlal party enjoyed for many years. USFP presence in Casablanca has also been very symbolic, considering the extremely low turnout (less than 2% of the votes across the Grand Casablanca) and might very well be ousted in the next elections. Both Koutla partners will be competing for Sahrawi seats, since both USFP and Istiqlal carried around 25% of votes in all constituencies, though because of their strong foothold there, PAM candidates could prove to be serious challengers. All in all, and because PJD gains would be at the expenses of Koutla members, their combined caucus would not go beyond 60-70 seats. This means USFP loses its remaining Rabat and Casablanca-Anfa seats, and partially make up the loss in Agadir hinterlands, while Istiqlal concedes Mediouna and Hay Hassani.

Because their constituencies are relatively concentrated in similar provinces, RNI, UC and MP can claim to improve their majorities; as far as MP performance goes, Rabat hinterland is now locked-in, with good chances for another seat at Rabat itself. As for RNI-UC, and since they have taken up their electoral alliance a step further, it is not inconceivable to imagine a “Blue-Yellow” coalition, with Blue RNI-UC-PAM making a run for urban and rural districts, while MP carries its traditional constituency in mountainous regions. Indeed, PAM votes deliver the Atlantic coast, Marrakesh and its rural outskirts, with some 25 to 30 seats, although such computations assume commensurable results to the carried votes by previously independent representatives, or candidates from the smaller parties than joined and merged in before 2009. The RNI-UC caucus could gain a dozen of seats in some cities like Casablanca, Kenitra, or rural districts like Sidi Kacem or in the Eastern districts. All in all, the Blue-Yellow coalition could muster 160-170 seats pretty easily, thus insuring a stable and large majority in parliament house.

Proposed scenario for Nov.25th. Smaller parties would be left with 25 to 30 seats

These numbers are not pulled out of a hat, obviously. We consider 128 seats in 24 provinces either because of the important number of carried districts, or the high number of young, less than 30-years old voters. In Casablanca and Rabat, young voters make up respectively about 816,000 and 216,000. That’s more than all turnout voters in 2007, and certainly more than what one party could have gathered. Indeed, Istiqlal and PJD representatives at best, gathered 160,000 votes in Casablanca in 2007, which makes less than 14% of total electoral votes. A larger turnout, in the region of 40-60% could change completely the electoral map in the Grand Casablanca, as well as major urban agglomerations across Morocco.

it becomes apparent that out of these 128 seats, 90 can be delivered with large landslides, were the youth vote turnout to be in line with a nationwide rate (estimated at 58-60%), some 4.5 Million young voters are indeed going to determine both locally and in parliament, the shape of coalition majority and opposition.

Province Seats Competing Parties Young Voters Vote Per Seat
Grand Casablanca

























Chtouka Aït Baha




















Sidi Kacem





Kelâat Sraghna






























My Yacoub








































Now, it has been observed that turnout in legislative elections following constitutional referendums has been on average, higher than those of ‘regular’ elections, by some 18 points-odd margin. And so, an expected turnout of 60% could mean genuine majorities for representatives in terms of popular vote, and not a pyrrhic victory for the last man standing. Furthermore, the table above shows how a candidate can seize a seat with the help of the youth vote. It is not unreasonable an assumption that, since young voter have had in the past a stable, low turnout in general elections, they would participate enthusiastically in large numbers, provided candidates appeal to them and manage to elicit their support.

That’s the ball game: The previous projection is a conservative estimate of what might happen with reasonable prediction over long-term pattern votes. But then again, there are 90 seats around easy to fill with youth vote, for any coalition party ready and willing to do what it takes to get young Moroccans registered and down to polling stations. Other seats can be equally carried with a majority of young voters too.

Going down with style, PSU Boycotts Nov.25 Elections

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Polfiction, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on September 19, 2011

One has to hand it to the comrades: when they go down, they do so in style indeed. late Yesterday, PSU National Convention voted in favour of boycotting November 25th elections. This piece of news, just like any other, has its bad and good spins. Good news, PSU has been, as usual, very open about its proceedings, and the decision to boycott was openly and democratically discussed. If this isn’t free and open partisan democracy, I don’t know what is. Bad news, too, as fellow Blogger Omar El Hayani pointed out (bitterly)

Anyway, by doing so, PSU and the Democratic Alliance lose some support among the more moderate of sympathisers and likely voters. On the other hand, these live (or are registered) in districts PSU candidates, whatever their fame and statutes, will never carry. The decision to boycott elections was, I suspect, a counter-move to appease allies on the left, and perhaps a bid to confirm party strength by postponing the crucial question of radical dissidence or moderate opposition. I fear that with the high spirits gathered during weekly demonstrations, some old-guard PSU are rekindling with their far-left youth. Nostalgia is alright, but not to the expenses of compromising the build up of a strong democratic left-leaning party.

I still believe that boycott decision is just a temporary setback. Come the 2014-2015 local elections, PSU and its Democratic Alliance partners can engage into meaningful campaigning and carry genuine popular support by trying to prove they are fit for office. I submit that a strategy disparaging parliamentary elections as idle and inefficient, while advocating local elections are the real popular test to submit to, is a winning strategy, both on the medium and short run. As for any illusions on the regime’s strength and viability, the impact of boycott on behalf of the radical left remains, truth be told, peripheral.

Yet, for all the unobliging comments the decision has triggered (among others, on the twittoma) the Radical Left can, whenever possible, show some strong numbers when it comes to elections. Once labelled elitists, Left-leaning activists can carry seats other parties fail to woo; Indeed, the candidate’s personality and charisma matter a great deal, but when ideological commitment is conjugated with those essential ingredient, the Radical Left manages to build itself safe strongholds on the electoral map. I suggest it would be a shame to lose both parliamentary and local electoral base there. And I do hope the leadership will have keen insight on the matter. Sooner or later, PSU and its allies (including Annahj by the way) will have to confront itself to the electoral litmus test, and prior local activism or elected offices are going to be crucial to deal with local Moul Chkaras, or very active PJD operatives in the area.

Since they first contested elections in 1984, the average turnout carried by New Left candidates hovered around 150,000 votes. Though the high watermark was recorded between 1993 and 1997, the numbers held steady in 2002, and have even risen in 2007, considering how all major political parties (including PJD) lost votes in the process. And yet, the New Left still fails to rise above the 5-6 seats-odd in parliament house, when its electoral base allows for a dozen seats, even 25-30 commensurate to their electoral base. Indeed, ballot system, and the features of New Left electorate doesn’t allow for an expansion in their caucus, unless the Alliance keeps on growing, a double-edge strategy, since accelerated alliances and mergers within the left-leaning field both provide it with momentum and seemingly political strength, but also makes collective endeavour in electoral competitions very hazardous: in 2007, the Alliance agreed on common tickets over 75% of all contested districts, and separate candidates in the remaining 25%. However, crucial constituencies (like Rabat) were hotly contested by party leadership, because of the symbolism it carries, and as a way to summon up the blood and exacerbate the feud with a weakened USFP. But overall, common campaigning finds favour with the electorate: in 1993, the Koutla effectively campaigned jointly on all districts, and found itself with 1/3 of total expressed popular vote, a result no coalition ever achieved before or after.

But coming back to the implications the boycott induces, I was referring to “going down in style“. Unless the party finds itself an alternative playing field, there is no way we can keep on taking to the streets every two weeks: the party needs financing, visibility on public outlets and measurable strength to submit the authorities to its will, or at least to make its voice heard with strong credibility. Annahj can afford to stand firm on its Refuseniks position because it does not function as a political party. PSU and PADS (and to a lesser extent, CNI) on the other hand, cannot.

The crucial point is, the boycott directive will not be massively followed (to the tune of 200,000 voters) and these released votes will either go into an invalidated ballot, or in favour of a third party.Thousands of these votes will go, depending on the contested district, to one party or the other. The argument is that once these voters commit to these third parties, a scheduled comeback will be as painful, as tedious and as costly as it gets for the new candidates. I suppose the 31 OADP candidates had a hard time looking for votes in 1984, as they have just made the transition from clandestine activism to “normalized” politics. It would have been best that long-term views prevailed over the temptation of getting dragged to the left over this boycott business. In this, I believe Mohamed Bensaïd Ait Idder was right in advocating to keep on campaigning:

Watching Mohamed Sassi and Najib Akesbi advocating (O so bitterly) for electoral boycott was akin to that of a disillusioned lover seeking revenge by vowing celibacy: it hurts twice, and only themselves are to be blamed for it. The 2007 and 2009 poor showing were wake-up calls: I understand the PSU enjoyed a great deal of popularity with many likely voters, and these might -just might- have gone to the polls and slip a ballot endorsing PSU candidates. Perhaps Profs. Sassi et Akesbi gambled upon this momentum to reach out for voters; they enjoy, after all, high profile publicity, immense respect across the political spectrum and with the general public (when they get to know them) and, in Akesbi’s case, a valuable electoral experience as a former USFP local board member in Hay Riad neighbourhood (Rabat). But there is a catch to a political campaign, in Morocco and elsewhere: the financial cost and risk for a candidate to undertake such an endeavour.

Because campaign funding schemes in Morocco are still rudimentary (either because candidates are old-school fund-raisers, or because of the restrictive set of regulations imposed on political funding) candidates frequently need to finance themselves, which involves either a strong belief in winning the seat, or at least to do a 3% showing, necessary to be reimbursed by State funding. PSU (and Alliance partners) failed to capture Rabat seats, and were further humiliated by not passing the 3% threshold. The same story goes for 2009. A university Professor on a MAD 150,000-200,000 annual tenure cannot afford to campaign every now and then, and systematically lose election and money. Boycott makes sense for both our leaders. But by saving money in Rabat, we lose Representatives. Lahcen Fathallah (Chtouka Ait Baha) El Mokhtar Rachdi (Jerrada) and Mhamed Abdelhak (Sidi Bennour-Ouled Frej).

Votes in 2007 encompass the alliance (AGD) and individual votes gathered by PSU and PADS candidates. PS Votes have been accrued as well.

We lose 475 local board members if the boycott applies equally to local elections. In short, an all-out boycott, for the sake of the principle, will loses the only remaining imperfect, but nonetheless the most trustworthy indicator of popularity/political strength, i.e. the electoral base. Supporting bi-monthly demonstrations might be a commendable thing to do, but it goes as far as alienate lukewarm support from otherwise potential activists, opinion leaders, funding sources, good will that isn’t readily available when PSU (and other members of the Democratic Alliance) decides to go back to elections.

Indeed I am not happy with my party’s decision. My dissatisfaction is not out of sheer alacrity for election campaigns, but because of the enumerated facts above, the single genuinely democratic party in Morocco, the party that allows open debate on important issues without stifling dissent (such as my good self in this case) cannot shut itself off the silent majority that might just be successfully wooed by the charms of our unique brand of partisan democracy. I do hope all these elements have been pondered during debate held last weekend during the Convention, and I remain nonetheless optimistic about the prospects. We might be going down with style, but this is not the first time the New Left manages a Phoenix-like comeback. We have started with 30,000 odd electoral base in 1984, we certainly can always do better. And we shall.

I assume this boycott thing is only temporary, just a signal that whatever the party’s support and its size, we are a force to be reckoned with (the party of ideas, for instance) As a matter of fact, we need time to settle down and ponder on the last few months. We need to prepare for an already much postponed conference to renew the leadership. We need to review in depth our political and economic message we try to get across. We need to shift the focus om more down-to-earth issues without losing out of sight those issues that made the “New Left” brand: deep institutional reforms. In a sense, the boycott might just well be this pretext we need to attend to these more urgent tasks. For sure, we have now conceded the next couple of matches to other parties, and this allows them to get the better of us. But then again, we have nothing but time to oppose to their watches. OADP always made it and muddled through in tougher years. We can do just as well.

“I’ll Be Back” General Douglas McArthur, Philippines, 1941.

It might take a while, but it’ll be back.

The Original Sin of Moroccan Politics

So the book should be closed -not on the movement, but on any ground-breaking “changing of the guard” in the political spectrum. This is one of these rare occasions where I take off my “left-wingy, radical nuts” and try very hard to consider Moroccan politics from a dispassionate viewpoint. As it happens, I had little to do these last couple of days, and I thought I should give Jean-Claude Santucci’s paper a good second reading.

Before I start diving into tedious considerations about the Istiqlal split in 1959, or how USFP party, even though priding itself with left-wing credentials, systematically stifled dissent against its leadership, I want to write about that particular issue of political sociology, because in a sense, it contributed a great deal to the rise of Feb20 movement, and might very well be the movement’s caretaker. Alternatively, it can also contribute with the brightest -politically speaking- political personnel in a couple of decades we ever had; “partisan revolution” as it were, is not tabled for the next couple of weeks, much less in the next couple of years. Santucci gets the record straight:

“la revendication constitutionnaliste du mouvement nationaliste était moins liée à la disparition d’un régime despotique et absolutiste représenté par la tutelle ottomane – que le Maroc n’avait pas connue – qu’à l’abolition du protectorat d’une puissance étrangère, mis en cause pour s’être converti en administration directe.”

So it is sheer lack of political knowledge and savyy to believe the Feb20 is likely to force some radical outcome, and it is petty media manipulation to label all of the movement caucuses as firebrand republicans -of course, some of them indeed are, and they deserve every right to voice their opinion without being threatened or indicted under common criminal law-, but the fact of the matter remains, the whole political spectrum, ranging from left-wing national movement parties to administrative parties -including PJD moderate islamists- engaged in a consensus over the political regime; the debate is therefore over which power-sharing scheme between the monarchy and parties is best suited -to whom, or to what, that is the question. Trouble is, these power-sharing schemes have been more than heavily skewed toward the monarchy for the last half a century, and so, “Moroccan exceptional-ism” looked at times -and the current situation is one of these- like a sideshow to the real politics.

“qu’en est-il du cas marocain longtemps érigé en exemple avant d’être réajusté à sa valeur purement symbolique de faire-valoir ou d’instrument de contrôle politique ?”

and there goes our very own commendable model of democracy in North Africa: multipartism is just a decoy to the real politics, one that takes place in rarefied circles and recluse palaces. That’s one of Morocco’s political sins, the other is the lack of internal democracy within political organizations (parties, trade-unions and NGOs alike) that ultimately leaves everyday citizens fed up with political parties, unions and NGOs, in that order.

It is alright to denounce the regime as despotic and authoritarian, but then again, some of these mechanisms that feature best on the Makhzen apparatus can be observed in smaller, (non)partisan organizations, among which the Leader’s supremacy over their flock.

PSU-PADS-CNI pre-electoral rally, August 2007

The point is, many -if not all- of these parties have considered internal democracy and the free expression of diverse opinions as, at best a sideshow, if not a potentially dangerous luxury likely to break party unity. While it is in the Monarchy’s DNA to refuse and suppress the free expression of political and religious beliefs, the blame can be laid -though not equally- on political parties (particularly the National Movement derivatives) that failed somewhat to embody the very democratic methodology they are so keen on promoting. As for the Administrative Parties (i.e. those artificially created to disparage the opposition, or to serve a particular tactical requirement) partisan democracy has been even more of a rare good.

This lacklustre performance on behalf of our political personnel has been used by many commentators, both domestically and abroad, to justify the lack of serious democratic reforms. A recent poll carried out by La Vie Eco newspaper produced staggering results, although these have been consistent with earlier, more far-reaching reports: the Moroccan electorate -young voters are no exception- do not know, or trust -or both- their elected officials.

D’une manière générale et que ce soit en rapport avec le parti ou non, seules 8 personnalités politiques ont été citées par plus de 50 personnes parmi les 1 000 jeunes concernés par cette enquête. Le Premier ministre arrive en premier, avec 209 citations, suivi du secrétaire général du PJD, Abdelilah Benkirane, avec 106 citations.

[…] En somme, les jeunes ne se retrouvent pas dans l’offre politique actuelle. Y a-t-il lieu de s’inquiéter alors que nous sommes à quelques mois des élections législatives ? Oui, soutient le politologue Miloud Belcadi, «il y a péril en la demeure si ces jeunes boycottent les élections. Un taux d’abstention important des jeunes se traduira nécessairement par une balkanisation du futur Parlement, donc un gouvernement faible et éclaté (formé de 6 ou 7 partis politiques). Résultat : le gouvernement sera non seulement fragilisé dès le départ, mais il perdra beaucoup de temps à gérer ses différences internes au lieu de s’occuper des affaires publiques».

In these conditions, it is simply sheer lunacy to allow these politicians to actually govern the country, the “technocratic” argument goes.

And so is the original sin of Moroccan politics: it seems a very static perception of the political struggle has prevailed over the last half a century -and I suspect it has over the couple of previous years, too- following which the immediate objective is to establish a viable or profitable balance of power. Democracy is seen as a temporary luxury, or, at best, an ideal state likely to be achieved later on, and not a parallel process equally important to be strengthen alongside partisan activism.

Ziane's Den.

Partisan democracy is no fancy; indeed, transparent and rigorous mechanisms for leadership selection and transmission of power ultimately lead abler men and women of the said political party to take over the leadership and contest elections with consistent manifestos and ideas. Unfortunately, party bosses in Morocco are not even smart enough to remain in the shadows and act as power-brokers; It is indeed a sad predicament of partisan politics to witness old farts like Abdelouahed Radi (an MP since 1963) to hang on, and basically live on past activism like some retired employee on a trust fund.

And yet, I am confident the Feb20 Movement has created a precedent. In a couple of decades, the 20-something years old figureheads would more than likely have joined political parties – following insisting rumours, 20Feb figurehead Ousama Khelifi will be MP candidate for USFP party for (likely) a Rabat or Sale borough. The new generation at least has a keener interest in promoting democratic mechanisms, a source of optimism and confidence that someday -sooner rather than later- politicians will actually care about principles.

Polling Day

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on July 1, 2011

Today July 1st is going to be the dénouement of a 4-months long peculiar process: it started with whirling optimism with the Feb20 demonstrations (whose likely induced outcome I doubted, though I felt strong sympathies with the proposed agenda) then the whole thing wildly went off-course when the King delivered his historic speech on March 9th -I, for one, would not mind considering it historic- and from then on, the dark world of crude Moroccan politics took over. Not even boycotting the Abdelatif Menouni Commission managed to restore Feb20’s popularity, mainly because of its unability to offer a viable platform to rally more support to the cause, the movement, it seems, did not expand its support base.

Now with the June 17th speech the draft constitution is most likely to pass by a large margin; the unknown variables are the No-vote and the turn-out. Because polling is severely regulated in Morocco (and outright blocked during election time) there is no way to gauge the mood of electors, so basically, about 14 Mn registered people likely to either vote or abstain, and so would do so for a myriad of reasons, and probably these motives will never be polled, mapped and explained. Every election or referendum in Morocco is a lost cornucopia of information on the political thinking and values among the Moroccan population.

In dire need for Basri expertise in bottling up the Referendum

But I digress. I believe in party discipline as the essential feature of efficient partisan organization. Discipline of course, does not mean systematic suppression of dissent, but insures potential dissent expresses itself and makes sure it does not break away from the party line (and I would welcome the institution of a Whip position within the party). And on the issue of referendum, I unfortunately find myself at odds with the PSU‘s stand on referendum day: the party wants to boycott, I vote today. As I mentioned before, I would agree with 90% of the pro-boycott argument because it makes up my own position on the referendum. I disagree therefore only on the way to voice my discontentment with whole process: I believe a No Vote carries a stronger signal and shows moderation (I cannot believe I am making the case for Moderation) so I cannot understand why PSU and the Democratic Left went with the Boycott Option. Perhaps it might have to do with the very pressuring environment the party needs to cope with within the Feb20 movement;

Otherwise, I believe party leadership -and all the Pro-Boycott people- should observe and study very carefully the 1962 Constitutional Referendum: UNFP party was stronger, more organized, better-led political party and yet, they got beaten. Of course, Hassan II-era tactics are now obsolete: we have reached a level which absolved the Interior ministry from meddling directly with the everyday politics of campaigning. the Local administrative echelon, as well as notabilities acting as local representatives are endowed with a strange sense of patriotic duty, some might describe as a zealous, lick-spittle behaviour, and can thus do their masters’ bidding. And so, they would not hesitate into pouring money -taxpayer’s money- buying off local unemployed and mob to threaten and assault dissidents, or printing pro-Constitution leaflets and signs (the great thing with the Internet, pictures are taken, websites are snapshot, providing ample material for future political LOL) in a grandiloquent flourish the late Driss Basri wouldn’t have disdained.

Civic Nihilism. What Else?

And yet, in spite of all these fine things, I remain true to my word: I have set standards above which I would vote Yes for the new constitution. These standards have not been met, and so I shall express my discontent with the proposed draft. And contrary to some influential bloggers I know, I do not pretend to lead, or to be influential. That is merely my tiny voice expressing what it considers to be the highest legal norm in the realm. I am a fledgeling citizen in a fledgeling democracy after all, am I not?

And so the vote went on. the consulate was apparently closed for the very purpose of Referendum day. Two suits (presumably from the Interior Ministry) oversaw the voting procedure: the first one took the ID card to register the voter the second handed the envelope with the Yes an No bits of paper. I noticed a little counter device over the ballot box (a transparent one) so as to keep count of voters. Unfortunately, I failed to notice anyone acting as a civic watchdog (usually political parties or NGOs delegate individuals to oversee the procedure and the vote count) that might have to do with the fact that these organizations likely to engage in such initiative are calling for a boycott.

Well, speaking for my consulate, the turnout was quite high at 10 in the morning, and the overwhelming majority voted in favour of the draft (the polling booth was filled with the No leaflets) and quite frankly, it is a high turnout. I suppose we will all be updated on the final outcome this evening.

Update —-

Now, according to the figures put forward by the Interior Ministry late this evening, the turnout was 70% (reported by my colleague and friend Hisham) a high figure considering the threat of boycott and the hurriedly put together initiatives from local officials to scramble for voters backing up the turnout.

As for PSU party and our Democratic Left comrades, it is high time we started thinking about real policies. The parties of innovative thinking have been robbed of their salient feature: the stalwart support of constitutional reforms. We would look at best ridiculous if we keep on banging about that reform; As a matter of principle, calling for genuine reforms makes sense (it always does) but in the eyes of Moroccan electorate, that image of “Loony Left” is likely to stick even closer to an already isolated ideal of radical thinking and social liberalism.