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