The Moorish Wanderer

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


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

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

Open Society Project. Part I: The Economy (Continued)

What sort of budget would we have in a Open Society-upholding government? First, as mentioned before, investment budget would be much higher than the current level of expenditure, i.e. less than MAD 54 Billion. The idea is to take investment up to MAD 100 Billion; with a target of MAD 200 Billion over 5 to 7 years, and, more importantly, keep up a long-term average 10-years incremental increase rate of at least 2.77% with an ideal target of 3.93%. The lower bracket corresponds to the average real GDP growth over the last 20 years (thus taking into account depression years of the 1980s) and target level is the average GDP growth over the last decade.

Parallel to this ambitious program, there will be a need to downsize civil service human resources and expenses. Figures show that civil servant are spread evenly with respect to the Moroccan population, but reports also show a great deal of central bureaucracy (cost centres) that do no provide essential services. Furthermore, positions of education, health and local government are relatively underpaid when compared to these very same bureaucratic services. As a matter of principle, government money is taxpayers’ money. The idea that public sector is a last-resort recruiter for misfits should be definitely dropped. Indeed, it is a constitutional right for any citizen to apply for a government job, on the essential condition that they meet requirements, usually determined by their entrance exam results (difficult exams of course) and required degrees; Ideally, government civil service is an aggregate of competent, full-dedicated and bright minds fuelled by their public service spirit. That rules out unemployed graduates that are desperate for a job and settle in -as well as the arrogant Grande Ecole graduate with no idea whatsoever on how to actually run a country (those without the proper training and education, that is).

Whatever political allegiances one might hold and its derived policies on the matter of public administration, our own history with public service (even before 1912) unfortunately compel us to assume its actions to be evil, though the lesser of civil service’s evils is public investments, hence the heavy spendings commitment. Let me elaborate on that: traditionally, and I suspect many radical left-wingers in Morocco still hold it to be a good policy, the Moroccan left trusted the State to be the most efficient tool to achieve their objectives (I direct the reader to have a look to a post I wrote on the various stands regarding civil service). This might be due to a Trade-union tropism – and the history of struggle against the monarchy to take control of what was very early on, perceived to be the most powerful institution in post-1956 Morocco, but nonetheless, efficiency doesn’t compute in their design. What they don’t realize is that it will take on more bureaucracy, more waste of the taxpayers’ money, and ultimately the defeat of their projects. And in that respect, liberal Big-Statists -whether on the Right or on the Left- fail to notice the danger they are running into: behaving just like the Makhzen does, i.e. considering Moroccan citizens as irresponsible, with the indefatigable state intervention to run their lives. A genuine democratization goes through empowerment of communities and individuals, with a light touch regulation and intervention from the state (hence my stand on federalism and downsized civil service human resources).

It is high time the civil service factored in the concept of ‘Taxpayers’ money rather than ‘State money‘ and the promotion of a ‘self-reliance’ culture. Does it sound Blairite and Right-wing? Perhaps. But that is the most straightforward approach to break down the Makhzen system, and free individuals from a culture of dependency. “فلوس الشعب فين مشات” should be the watchword on every government spending.

Now, 2011 Budget figures show the following balance:

Finances Ministry 2011 Budget

Overall, government budget should be increased, but not in a discretionary fashion. Ideally, and alongside the increase of public investment within the assigned target, other government expenditures should be constrained with yearly inflation levels.

One way of doing so is to propose a reduction of central government wages by 5%, a moderate cut in the teaching corps (due to its ageing demographics) so as to match a student/pupils ratio of 12:1 as well as a pay rise to a median wage of MAD 17,000. [similar computations are run and observed on the health service] The first step for this to work is to spend, in two years’ time, windfall taxes from the fiscal reform to pay back the debt and terminate in that amount of time all debt payment (which amount to about xx). This expenditure, besides the positive effects it can have on government budget balance, is a strong signal the Moroccan government is committed to build up a reputation as a thrifty and efficient (in reference to Nigel Lawson‘s “primitive language”, but caring instead). The 5% cut mainly targets the high expenses account, such as the MAD 20 Billion of high salaries and the Civil List’s MAD 2.433 Billion.

There are several loopholes than can be filled, as well as policies that can either boost receipts (policies on income and VAT for instance) as well as reduce expenses (a shake-up of pay wage, or the detail analysis of ‘Charges Communes’). Furthermore, debt expenses should be phased out as early in the government’s legislature as possible, as these expenses represent a double exaction on the nation finances: first, 12.47% of total expenses were channelled to pay for debt; Knowing that about MAD 2.4 Billion of it is foreign-held, that means a direct annual pressure on total reserves of 5.98% which needs to be phased out as quickly as possible.

We need a cross-breed Prime Minister between Abdellah Ibrahim and Margaret Thatcher: strong Liberal credentials and a ruthless leadership

The alternative budget (with 2011 figures and holding all assumptions on Oil price and projected growth constant, as well as retaining specific items) would subsume the following projections:

1/ Military spendings to be cut by MAD 17 Billions, mainly by selling off obsolete or non operational hardware, and a reorganizing the military establishment. That means mainly a reduction in number of servicemen, the phasing out of compulsory military service (and the subsequent closing down of a number of military bases) and a re-organization of military units for more small outfits and more mobile forces. My own proposal for a radical change in defence strategy tries to make the numbers fit in, with an overall target of 2% GDP in defence spendings.

2/ Common expenses phased out: There are some MAD 36 Billion usually earmarked by the Finance Ministry as a common, inter-departmental  expenses. The trouble with such expenses is mainly the opacity.

3/ Reconsider accounting standards for SEGMA departments, if not an outright off-balance sheet outsourcing: this would save the public taxpayer about MAD 2 Billion. Even though SEGMA departments’ books have to be balanced, the budget often makes provision for subsidies, which on the long term weigh on public finances. If anything, an outright privatization of these SEGMA (Secteurs Gérés d’une Manière Autonome) might yield good money instead. For instance:
Golf Dar Es-Salam (receipts for MAD 18 Million)
The National Press (Imprimerie Officielle: MAD 13 Million)
Habous Ministry’s own Pligrimage Agency (20 Million)
Dar Annakhil Press (MAD 2 Million)

Overall reduce expenses by 53 Million, but saves capital account of about MAD 590 Million every year. Though it is difficult to put a fair valuation on these entities, if properly re-structured before privatized, a net yield could be around the Billion at least.

4/ Introduction of flat fees to replace ‘Grima’ applications. According to the 2007 Cour des Comptes audit report, 1749 ‘grimas‘ were delivered in 2007, an estimate of 3000 by 2011  (many of whom where for transport and fishing permits). Assuming a conservative estimated median flat fee of about MAD 10.000 per permit, the new system yields for 2011 about MAD 30 Million. This remains a conservative estimate, since many applicants eventually give up out of frustration (actual figures are more around 9000 applications. A detailed application listing (which doesn’t appear on the report) could allow  finesse discrimination (for instance by charging more on fishing permits than on taxi licenses) could yield even more. This policy -under assumption it remains tax-neutral- can actually contribute efficiently in fighting corruption, and bringing down one of its main features.

Budget balances with larger debt payment. A few items were retained due to a lack of detailed set of data

The Open Society project has the capacity to fund itself for the grand projects that lay ahead. This budget can next be broken down by regions (in accordance with the federalist option). [I haven’t got time for it, unfortunately]. Next piece will deal with the new Social Fabric.