The Moorish Wanderer

Elections – Dewey Defeats Truman. (And a Mea Culpa)

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on December 26, 2012

I should first start by apologising for some shortcomings in my earlier predictions about results in the couple of by-elections that took place last week, as well as those scheduled in the near future. I have realised I was manipulating the wrong codes to generate my results, and so results from the two latest posts on predictions about electoral outcomes may have been false. It is even more of an unforgivable error that I got mixed up in computations; Mea Culpa, as they say.

How clumsy it was too. the line codes I was using read:

# Sample Size
# Data generation on the basis of moments (Median + Standard Deviation)
RNIND<-rlnorm(n, meanlog =7.69802917027281 , sdlog =1.04882476079341)
# This generates a distribution for RNI historical voting performance per district
# Computes the probability of performing a particular score (a margina)
plnorm(8569,meanlog = mean(RNIND), sdlog = sd(RNIND, lower.tail = FALSE, log.p = FALSE)

whereas it should read:

# Sample Size
# Data generation on the basis of moments (Median + Standard Deviation)
RNIND<-rlnorm(n, meanlog =7.69802917027281 , sdlog =1.04882476079341)
# This generates a distribution for RNI historical voting performance per district
# Computes the probability of performing a particular score (a margina)
plnorm(8569,meanlog = log(mean(RNIND)), sdlog = log(sd(RNIND)), lower.tail = FALSE, log.p = FALSE)
# Probabilities are computed on the basis of logged, not level moments.
# Dummkopf.

So this is the brand new method with which I crunch the numbers is simpler and hopefully, more understandable. I should say it has done a good job in “explaining” PJD’s victory in Inzegane (an obvious result as a matter of fact) and why the same party may have lost to RNI in Chichaoua. Since elections in Azilal, Moulay Yacoub, Settat, Sidi Kacem and Youssoufia have not taken place, I would like to redeem myself by offering a more thorough assessment of electoral probabilities in shifting away, or holding in contested seats.

Enrolled voters:                                 197,679
Votes cast:                                       71,608  36.2
Invalid votes:                                    13,580  19.0
Valid votes:                                      58,028  81.0
Party                                         Votes       %        Seats
Popular Movement (MP)                                230  00.4       -
Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM)          2,411  04.2       -
Independence Party (PI, Istiqlal)                  4,958  08.5       -
Party of Justice and Development (PJD)            29,541  50.9       2
Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS)              1,545  02.7       -
National Rally of Independents (RNI)               5,257  09.1       -
Constitutional Union (UC)                            135  00.2       -
Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP)           7,807  13.5       1
Others                                             6,144  10.6       -
Total                                             58,028             3

In essence, I try to provide a probability for a party to win a seat in a particular district, given its past electoral history there, conditioned also on the fact they may or may not have a seat there already. Inzegane was as expected an easy win for PJD because not only they got 2 seats there, but also because they had in 2011 a 21,000 lead over they nearest USFP competitor, whose seat was up for election last week. It would have been enough for the PJD candidate to turn out a fraction of their electoral to carry the seat, most likely with the same votes they got last year. According to the party’s own communiqué, they managed to carry 15,000 votes, which was an overkill, to say the least. It matters little they managed to mobilise only half of their 2011 turnout, it was more than enough to complete its control of all three seats at Inzegane.

Moreover, The probability for PJD of getting at least as many votes as USFP in 2011 was the highest among all competing parties: there was a 46.82% chance of getting at least 7,800 votes, and anything between 7,800 and 21,000 was likely to happen at 44.07%. These results show a very strong lead for PJD compared to other parties: RNI had virtually no chance of getting more than the required 7,800 votes – because its own national and local made it so: the probability of improving its 2011 electoral performance.

And so were USFP’s chances, especially so when its marginal seat in Inzegane ranked in the top 1% districts for the 2011 elections. Istiqlal was the only real contender whose electoral performance allowed it some significant chance to improve its score to 7,807 votes – a probability of 9.4%. In absolute terms, the likelihood of getting more than their 2011 votes was 13.54%, the closest to PJD in this district.

I have some results on Chichaoua as well, which I will be posting later on, with predictions for the remaining seats following shortly.


The Next USFP Premier

It lives! Driss Lachgar has been elected as USFP next boss. A great victory for Game Theory applied to Moroccan politics, and a great victory for the new political order in Morocco.

His moustache is not a new fashion, mind you.

I should perhaps begin by addressing some issues about the numbers: I am still not sure about the total number of party delegates (1,200? 2,000?) though I am enclined to think the total number of votes was close to 1,600 for both ballots. Other than that, my predictions were broadly vindicated: party delegates chose overwhelmingly parliamentary candidates, and the fact that Mr Oualalou failed to muster enough support to carry him through the second ballot translated automatically into a Lachgar coronation.

Furthermore, I suppose Mr Zaidi was hurt by Mr Malki’s candidacy: indeed, I have assumed delegates had some ranking of their choices, and they move to their second choice when their first did not make it through the first ballot. I have further assumed delegates supporting parliamentary candidates prefer would automatically prefer to vote for Mr Oualalou as a second choice, should he make it to the second ballot. It also appears Mr Lachgar was the main beneficiary of these second or third choices, respectively for Mr Oualalou and Mr Malki supporters.

And now to the political conclusions of tonight: This election, I would argue, signifies the end of intellectual politics in the Moroccan political discourse, and especially in a party that prides itself as a cornucopia of intellectuals and thinkers. And though Mr Lachgar is perhaps has a great deal of education (he is a Lawyer after all) he represents, with Messrs Chabat (PI) and Benkirane (PJD) the very idea of anti-intellectualism, and fully embodies populism as an efficient political strategy.

I also argue this is not as bad as it looks for Moroccan representative democracy: It would be foolish to expect our present political system to produce beacons of integrity, thoughtfulness, honesty and competence. On the other hand, the system rewards those with acute instincts for political survivals, and a large subset of the electoral has confirmed the trend. Now, three populist party bosses means Moroccan politics will be a lot livelier than the past decade, which is always good, and it also creates among the electorate, not a new hope, but some level of expectation. And this is the party where democracy, and ultimately citizens, get their rewards.

As I have mentioned before, these populist exhibit remarkable instincts for political survivals, and their rationality is not to be underestimated (whatever numerology mumbo-jumbo Mr Chabat fancies) they do know they cannot promise what they cannot deliver. They also know the limitations of their own political power; the rational course of action would be to look for professional advice, operatives and specialists to support them in their venture to revolutionise Moroccan politics. Indeed, let us not forget they are all in a quest against some corrupt establishment (though they deny charges of disestablishmentarianism)

Middle Class Tax Burden

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

Listening to the Head of Government from time to time is entertaining and instructive at once. Whether one likes him and his politics or not, this is representative democracy at work. But overall he started to make use of statistics to get his points across, which is a marked improvement in his argument, and he is better for it. But he is still light on policy-making however.

There is this specific claim about the middle classes, and his failure to address it -or should I say, the failure of opposition caucuses to confront him on the issue- the tax hike on higher income was a sensible move, but it was not matched with an equivalent tax cut for these middle classes. Which leads me to beg the question: was this government policy to achieve some level of fiscal equity, or was it just a move to increase fiscal receipts? These are the questions I would have liked members of parliament to ask the Head of Government.

I argue here the present tax system, with or without the tax hikes on the top income-earners, is structurally unfair to everyone with an annual income below 300.000 dirhams, and specifically to the middle class (middle class as defined mathematically to be the median income per household in a defined income distribution)

First, I use both Exponential and Log-Normal distributions to prove a couple of nice (and useful) properties; I referred earlier on to the exponential distribution as a possible way to model household income distribution. Yet it misses a particular aspect crucial to policy-making: though inter-decile ratios are not constant over time, they can be proven to be centred around the asymptotic value (notably the \ln(2) between the mathematical expectation and median) but there is little in the exponential distribution for the policy-maker to exercise their social preferences.

Log Normal vs Exponential sample distributions. The Log-normal allows for 'more' high income households.

Log Normal vs Exponential sample distributions. The Log-normal allows for ‘more’ high income households.

The Log-normal distribution is not that different, but it has the advantage (and from a computational point of view, an additional difficulty) of fielding two parameters in its probability density function. As indeed one can see in the following densities:

g(x)=\lambda e^{-\lambda x} the exponential, and

f(x)=\frac{1}{x{\sqrt{2\pi \sigma }}}e^{-\frac{(\ln x - \mu)^2}{2\sigma^2}} the log-normal

Both distributions are different in form, but not so much in sample representations. Indeed, the exponential distribution is reputed to be strictly decreasing. But it can be argued households with no income (i.e. with zero or close to zero annual income) need to be taken out of the population, perhaps because they can always rely on transferred income (or because those with no income do not form a household) in any case, the sample population used to generate the exponential distribution of income does not look like it.

second, let us consider a Taylor approximation around the median point of the proposed distribution, that is:


It computes the marginal income around the median. Marginal income is the key to understand the present taxation system – as it divides up a household income into brackets, each subjected to increasing tax rates. In essence, the derivative around the median gives a fair idea of any additional income for this population (our median class) and how it would be taxed. A ‘fair’ tax structure would minimize the marginal tax burden around the median -namely, the marginal increase in tax rate for these households. In fact, the optimal tax plan would be a flat tax rate for all the median class, because then additional gains around would not be excessively taxed. A numerical example would be that of a household with an annual taxable income of 78,000 dirhams – a relatively small 4% increase (or 3,000 dirhams) is best left taxed at the same rate (or infinitesimally the same) while the present system takes away 940 dirhams from the 3,000 increase. A marginal tax burden of 32% for a 4% increase in income is not exactly fair.

So, the derivative around the median provides a generalized result that can then be compared to the present tax system, and assuming a strictly positive marginal increase in their income, the median household would observe the following result:

f(x) = \dfrac{\partial(\left | \exp \mu \right |\sigma \sqrt{2\pi})^{-1}}{\partial \exp \mu}=\frac{\dot{\exp \mu}}{(\exp \mu) \sigma\sqrt{2\pi}}

once this is plugged back into the earlier Taylor series, the net benefit for a median household is such:

f(x) = \frac{\dot{\exp \mu}}{\sigma\sqrt{2\pi}}\times\frac{(x - \exp \mu)}{\exp \mu}

And this is a pretty neat result in many aspects: the term \frac{(x - \exp \mu)}{\exp \mu} refers to the gross benefit for a median household gaining a supplement of x dirhams. But this needs to be replaced into the perspective of the whole distribution, so it is ‘discounted’ with the impact on the median itself – that’s \dot{\exp \mu} and then weighted by the measure of inequality (or income dispersion) \sigma\sqrt{2\pi}

The impact on the general welfare can then be computed by integrating (i.e. generalizing the individual boost around all median household) around the additional x dirhams to the median:

\int_{0}^{x}(\frac{\dot{\exp \mu}}{\sigma\sqrt{2\pi}}\times\frac{(u - \exp \mu)}{\exp \mu})\mathrm{d}u with an expected welfare gain of \frac{\dot{\exp \mu}}{\sigma\sqrt{2\pi}}\left(\frac{u^2}{\exp \mu}-u \right) which can be verified for u>1 is a net gain (any additional dirham contributes to generate additional welfare, that is).

So there is good evidence that suggests the total income distribution is improved when median income increases. The impact on the average household income is not as high as one would expect (up to a \sigma^2 term) but the general welfare of all individuals close enough to the median definitely improves, and those below the median can expect over time to catch up to it. Obviously, a tax rate that does not take this effect into account might indeed stifle the described effect. And this is what we are set out to demonstrate.

My third and last step involves using logged income to emphasise the effect of tax burden on middle class. This means we are back to the useful bell-shaped curve Gauss-Laplace. The log here does not denote of any particular distribution, but indeed could depict the social preferences a policy-maker needs to display in view of the results computed earlier on: since welfare gains are highest for median households, the policy-maker needs to place a larger emphasis upon them – and the Normal distribution serves this purpose pretty well – in mathematical terms, the tangent is almost flat around the median.

Plotting the densities of tax rates and income provides no particular explanation as to the transfer effect, nor the tax burden per income. For instance, there is no particular correlation between income and their theoretical tax brackets, a strange result given the progressive tax structure in place. Additionally, a supposed preference for median income household (captured by a Normal distribution centred around the median income) contradicts the present tax structure: the average tax rate is 27%, whose corresponding income coincides with income between 60,000 and 180,000 annual income. But since there is not such rate, it has to be a convex combination of the 30% and 34% rates, with the 30% rate falling on income between 60,000 and 80,000 – our median class. The convex combination puts the weight on these households at 57%. In fact, those with income between 74,313 and 77,330 dirhams per annum pay 7% more in taxes than the immediate tax bracket (those with income marginally above 80,000 a year) just because of the present tax system. In aggregate terms, this is almost 4 Bn dirhams in deadweight loss due to the present system.

The main problem with the present tax system is its ‘jumping function’ which results in disproportionately larger tax burden for those at the margins. Unfortunately for the middle class, many of them are on the margin, the closer to 80,000 a year, the higher the tax burden. A good example can be provided for the figures mentioned before: incomes of 74,313 and 77,330 dirhams pay respectively 8,293.87 and 9,198.36. And although the difference in income is merely 4%, the richer household will pay 10% more than their immediate neighbour. In fact, this fiscal injustice reaches its peak around the median.

Quantitative Tales from Moroccan Politics


suite du post précédent, comparaison des caractéristiques des groupes parlementaires entre 2007 et 2011 en utilisant l’analyse de composantes principales. Les résultats démontrent une cohérence entre les hypothèses évoquées plus tôt sur les déterminants du populisme, et permettent aussi une détermination des ‘types’ de groupes parlementaires.

The opposition-turned government PJD displays a significant degree of heterogeneity, just as USFP, but oddly enough, not Istiqlal (PI)

The graph speaks a thousands words: it scatters the selected intake of both 2007 and 2011 parliaments and assigns scores to these (the methodology can be found here, with the Stata functions described here as well)

The score plot displayed above (whose results are listed below this post) shows interesting results as to how our parliamentary caucuses between 2007 and 2011 are listed. These results challenge in part the common wisdom about Moroccan politics; If anything, I would gladly discuss the graph with the PSU/AGD leadership because as far as the pre-2011 elections go, there was potential for greatness. Most of its caucus is close to the bigwigs in parliament (USFP, PAM and the moderate PJD elements) and if it was not for its unrepresented leadership in parliament: Mohamed Sassi should have put a lot more fight in it when he stood for Rabat parliament in 2007, 3000 votes was certainly not enough, and yet splintered votes could have been gathered up:

RABAT MOUHET (212,644 voters)
Party                            |Votes      %  Seats
Constitutional Union             |   3,250  06.4    -
Independence Party               |   2,715  05.4    -
Party of Justice and Development |  14,267  28.2    2
Popular Movement                 |   5,571  11.0    1
Socialist Union of Popular Forces|   5,367  10.6    1
Others (less than 6%)            |  19,384  38.3    -
Total                               50,554          4

Well, that was about the democratic/radical left. The strange thing however (though it is no surprise, given the intellectual leadership controlling PAM caucus and party structures) is how fractured the ‘left-wing caucus’ -if there ever was: PPS caucus, the second-largest sub-caucus after USFP has been so diluted in its membership -as far as the selected parameters are concerned- it is the farthest on the map; ideology, populism as well as parliamentary leadership (neither Ismail Alaoui nor Nabil Benabdellah have succeeded in their respective bids for a seat in 2011 and 2007) so I should perhaps stop considering PPS to be anything near a nature fit in the grand ‘left-wing coalition’ (I was warned to that, but hey, I am a faithful follower of Saint Thomas) so we are left with PT (Benâtik) and PGVM (Fares-Zaidi) in parliament.

RNI-UC does not seem to be such a great fit after all; I had to make do with the available information (the parliament website displayed only caucuses on the database for the 2007 parliament) but then again, the score plot does not seem to splint them apart: most of these are grouped into two sub-groups, the closer one to PAM and others being made up mainly of RNI members, and perhaps those sympathetic to a strong alliance with the said party. (RCU stands for Rassemblement Constitutionnel Unifié, RNI and UC caucus together, though I cannot say if UC used to back up the government when their RNI bretheren were part of it) On the other hand, there is also the effect of RNI going over to the opposition after 2011; this in fact is the main determinant with the RCU cloud is split.

MP stands at odds with the idea of ‘large party’. While its caucus remained constant between 2007 and 2011, and switched sides quite often over the same period of times, it stood far away from the other large parties (those with representatives elected on the national ballot) which makes it similar to PPS, with murky ideology and no purpose as to its existence (its versatile nature in August 2009 and before the 2011 elections) makes it an establishment party, with some degree of internal cohesion, yet with no particular ideology (they should perhaps work on that Amazigh regionalism a bit more)

At least 5 groups can encompass 2007-2011 caucuses.

USFP and PJD’s caucuses ‘splintering’ is partly due to the same effect observed for RCU (their respective government/opposition swap between 2007 and 2011) and partly due to the more heterogeneous nature of their respective caucuses. From what I have heard (of reliable sources) party discipline is very stern in parliamentary proceedings – i.e. members are expected to vote the way their leadership wants, and pressure is eventually exerted when needed, especially for majority members. Yet USFP and PJD members (after they got into office) regularly challenge their leadership; if additional data about the voting record of each member were made available, the same analysis can be conducted to produce more finessed results.

In the finally analysis, it is possible to group caucuses between 2007 and 2011 into 5 large super-groups, the distances between each points providing a measure of distance according to the selected parameters.
This shows for instance a PAM-USFP alliance is not that stupid nor treacherous, and even a second PAM takeover on PSU is plausible enough.

Factor analysis/correlation                        Number of obs    =      599
    Method: principal-component factors            Retained factors =        4
    Rotation: (unrotated)                          Number of params =       26
         Factor  |   Eigenvalue   Difference        Proportion   Cumulative
        Factor1  |      2.19880      0.66075            0.2749       0.2749
        Factor2  |      1.53806      0.42188            0.1923       0.4671
        Factor3  |      1.11617      0.09060            0.1395       0.6066
        Factor4  |      1.02558      0.06937            0.1282       0.7348
        Factor5  |      0.95621      0.28168            0.1195       0.8544
        Factor6  |      0.67453      0.30509            0.0843       0.9387
        Factor7  |      0.36943      0.24820            0.0462       0.9848
        Factor8  |      0.12123            .            0.0152       1.0000
    LR test: independent vs. saturated:  chi2(28) = 1304.63 Prob>chi2 = 0.0000

Factor loadings (pattern matrix) and unique variances
        Variable |  Factor1   Factor2   Factor3   Factor4 |   Uniqueness 
    populist_l~d |   0.8871   -0.2900    0.0011    0.0209 |      0.1285  
        district |  -0.0184    0.1063   -0.3451    0.5929 |      0.5178  
        ideology |   0.5594   -0.6318   -0.0388   -0.0258 |      0.2858  
           union |   0.7074   -0.0433    0.5114    0.2527 |      0.1724  
    leader_par~t |   0.5344    0.4837   -0.4356   -0.1917 |      0.2539  
       e_machine |   0.5529    0.6013   -0.2825   -0.1882 |      0.2175  
          gender |  -0.0193    0.0504    0.3258   -0.6823 |      0.4254  
         gov_opp |   0.0800    0.6661    0.5986    0.2673 |      0.1202  
Scoring coefficients (method = regression)
        Variable |  Factor1   Factor2   Factor3   Factor4 
    populist_l~d |  0.40347  -0.18852   0.00100   0.02043 
        district | -0.00837   0.06909  -0.30922   0.57808 
        ideology |  0.25441  -0.41076  -0.03474  -0.02513 
           union |  0.32171  -0.02815   0.45818   0.24637 
    leader_par~t |  0.24306   0.31447  -0.39026  -0.18694 
       e_machine |  0.25147   0.39092  -0.25306  -0.18353 
          gender | -0.00879   0.03278   0.29189  -0.66528 
         gov_opp |  0.03636   0.43307   0.53631   0.26060 

Who Vote(d) Progressive in Morocco?

I have recently come across some detailed figures on this website, most importantly the complete set of results from the 2011 legislative elections per province, and I wonder how they got hold of these (apparently Attajdid newspaper published them in full)

the story behind those figures is damning to the left: they have lost their historical stronghold a long time ago, and I can recall one statistical evidence that provides a sad indictment to the sorry state of progressive politics in Morocco: in 2007, USFP candidates garnered 2301 votes in Aïn Chok. In 2011, they managed to pull 2304, even as turnout jumped from 22,125 to 41,195. There is a large probability the same people turned out to vote USFP, even as parties like PJD and MP doubled their respective votes from respectively 7,493 and 3,067 to 20,849 and 6,579. This is from a city where UNFP and the progressive parties before 1997 usually carried 37% of the votes, an average of 86,000 votes per election since 1963. In 2011, the total votes in Casablanca for all competing left-wing parties was around 29,500 (6.1% for the Casablanca metropolitan area) an abysmal performance matched only by the 1977 elections, when neither USFP, PPS or UNFP/UMT managed to carry a seat there.

Historically however, the total score of popular vote garnered by all progressive-affiliated political parties is very close to PJD’s feat: PJD carried 22.8% of the popular vote, some 1,080,914 votes, and all left-wing political parties carried on average 1,135,281 votes. It would be interesting to identify those areas that have voted (or still vote) progressive since 1963. Perhaps the evidence shown later would confirm the urgent need to unify all of these political parties into one big tent. The chief benefit of a broad coalition is electoral maths: one party, or at least one cohesive coalition means the perverse effect of the Moroccan ballot system would be alleviated somewhat: two competing left-wing candidates are cancelling each others out. In 2007, the vote was split evenly between USFP and the PSU-PADS-CNI alliance in Essaouira: though both got a seat each, their combined 17,540 votes (out of 66,740) could have most likely carried a third seat from the 4 slots. In 1997, the aggregate progressive vote in Marrakesh was second only to Istiqlal, leaving behind RNI (73,777) and MP (50,800) but because it was fragmented between USFP, PPS and OADP, their electoral performance didn’t amount to much.

There is one instance where electoral cooperation produced impressive results: in 1993, USFP and Istiqlal stood with joint candidates, a strategy that yielded Koutla‘s highest performance ever since it was first formed in 1970: 36.2% with scores as high as 79% in Mohammedia, Essaouira (61.26%) and Alhuceimas (58.1%) Casablanca and Rabat-Salé averaged 56% of popular votes.

Perhaps my definition of ‘progressive’ is too biased: after all, it fails to account for the extra-parliamentary opposition, all those political parties with definite views on the parliamentary system (including PSU since February 2011). But I guess the best analogy to describe the state of the Moroccan left is that of the informal sector: the activity is out there, but because it operates beyond the legal framework, the correct appraisal of the sector’s contribution to legal GDP becomes difficult, if not impossible to perform. Left-wing parties operating outside the mainstream political competition (the electoral process, so to speak) contribute to the Moroccan political life, but because they refuse to submit to the only viable performance indicator around, i.e. elections, they do not influence mainstream politics. Polling is not a thriving business in Morocco yet, so general elections since 1963 are so far the only correct indicator as to how popular progressive and liberal ideas are with the Moroccan electorate. Official figures, electoral official figures in particular are hotly gainsaid by many in the opposition, and in many instances, their accusations are founded. This is an inevitable caveat: to talk about Moroccan elections in a serious fashion is to use official figures, and these are not always accurate. Still, in the absence of an alternative, one has to make do.

the progressive vote “migrates” away from large metropolitan districts to smaller, more rural seats (even a couple in the Sahara) especially since 1993

UNFP/USFP, FFD, PPS, PSD, CNI, PT, PADS, OADP/GSU/PSU, PS, PGVM are all left-wing parties (with explicit references to values of socialism or progress in their respective denominations) with a history of electoral campaigning and for most of them, at least one gained seat since their foundation. Together, they have held between 19.6% and 22.5% of parliamentary seats and 22.8% of popular votes since 1963. Nonetheless, the geographical distribution of their parliamentary caucus has changed a lot over the years. True, the Casablanca-Rabat-Agadir formed much of the middle-class stronghold upon which parties like UNFP, then USFP built their political strength, but there are other places where support has been random: Alhuceimas is the best example of a “swing province”: in 1963, no vote were cast in favour of UNFP, even as USFP and PPS carried about 25% of the votes in 1977, and 22% of all the votes went progressive in 2007, only to swing dramatically to other allegiances in 2011, with only 11.8% of the votes going to USFP, PPS and other competing political parties.

The electoral map shows steady patterns in the progressive vote, both disturbing and hopeful: Casablanca, Mohammedia and Rabat are no longer leaning left, and Agadir itself is becoming less prone to give its votes to the USFP-PSU/PADS/CNI tandem. In fact, these traditional strongholds of middle-class, unionised public service workers have been crumbling since 1993, before the Alternance Consensuelle: the nationwide performance of left-wing Koutla (USFP, OADP, PPS, PSD) in 1997 was around 36.5% of popular vote, but the breakdown per metropolitan areas shows a steep decline, obviously offset by gains from new constituencies in the South and rural hinterlands: Abdelwahed Radi carried around 43,100 votes in his Kenitra constituency for instance. The disturbing part is that mainstream progressives (USFP, PPS and perhaps FFD before 2011) have seen their core parliamentary seats shift from Rabat (7 out of 8), Casablanca (14 out of 31) to other places (the South mainly) leaving the already ambitious MPCD-turned-PJD ample room to fill in the void (in 1997, MPCD already held 6 seats in metropolitan Casablanca). The depressing part is the seemingly delibrate strategy by all left-wing parties (including the Democratic Alliance, with a strong showing in the Ouad Dahab district in 2007) not to take the battle to their former urban stronghold: Casablanca, Rabat, even Agadir are now lost battle to the USFP as well as smaller parties, should PSU or PADS ever go back into parliamentary elections. The obvious advantages to such strategy are easy to enumerate: the required number of votes to carry a seat are much higher in Casablanca than they are in, say Beni Hssen, or Guelmim. There is a clear-cut trend for both the governmental and democratic left in shifting their core votes (and seats) from urban to peripheral-urban and rural seats: their share in parliamentary caucuses has been constant since 1993, which belies the fact that left-wingers are no longer effectively representing their cherished public, the urban middle and working classes: these have been lost around 1993 already.

In many instances, the fact that up to 5 competing left-wing candidates are fighting each other off over 3 slots makes it a pyrrhic victory to however emerges. Sidi Bennour is a great example of how a united left can prevail: in 2007, the Democratic Alliance (PSU/PADS/CNI) garnered 10,559 votes, about as much as USFP as one can see:

SIDI BENNOUR OULED FREJ (226,379 voters)
Party                                Votes   %  Seats
Constitutional Union                 7,990  10.5    -
Independence Party                   9,737  12.8    1 
National-Democrat Party - Covenant  10,006  13.1    1 
National Rally of Independents       3,305  04.3    -
Party of Progress and Socialism      4,804  06.3    -
Popular Movement                     9,700  12.7    -
Socialist Party                      4,292  05.6    -
Socialist Union of Popular Forces   10,297  13.5    1 
Union PADS–CNI–PSU                  10,559  13.9    1 
Others                               5,534  07.3    -
Total                               76,224          4

and yet if both USFP and PSU/PADS/CNI managed to stand with one common list, they would have carried the third seat away from Istiqlal. Another interesting feature of the Sidi Bennour district is the turnout, down 10,670 from 2007 (76,224) to 2011 (65,554). Boycott, in that particular case showed clearly as those  AGD voters preferred not to go to the polling stations. There are 4 seats opened for the left down there simply because they can mobilise around 20,000 voters out of a 193,000. Obviously, they do not have the Rhamna juggernaut at their disposal: in 2007, the so-called independents under Fouad Ali Himma’s leadership carried all 3 seats for the Rhamna district with a whooping majority of 41,265 to a total number of voters around 56,755, a super-majority of 35,187.

regional contribution to historical average: populous regions still contribute more

I mentioned earlier that the historical trend in voting pattern bore depressing features. There are however signs of potential comeback: first, the aggregate vote in urban rings shows as a strong second or third. There is great potential however in smaller cities: Essaouira, Sidi Bennour of course, and other districts usually concentrated in Marrakech-Tensift-Haouz and Souss-Massa. The aggregate vote shows more than often potentially an additional seat should all progressive candidates stood on coalition platforms. In parliamentary arithmetics, that translates into a dozen additional seats from marginals (including PJD’s) and around 5 more with the national ballot automatic transmission effect.

A Koutla of the left can be achieved, and from what I have seen since 1997, there are around 30 districts (meaning, around 45 seats) where at least one party does not carry enough votes to cross the legal threshold for campaign reimbursement. A rational strategy would be to strike a deal in coordinating their choice of candidates, if indeed these parties cannot agree on a ready-made coalition platform.

But then again, as long as the old rivalries persist among all components of the Moroccan left, there is little hope a strong progressive parliamentary party will emerge and present itself as a viable alternative to the Makhzen as well as the PJD.