The Moorish Wanderer

Smoke Screen: A U-Turn ahead

Posted in Dismal Economics, Flash News, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Morocco, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on December 8, 2011

El Himma and Znagui appointed advisers to the King, some murky constitutional points have been discussed with the appointment of ambassadors, but not enough attention has been paid to an interview given to Al Massae newspaper by Najib Boulif – quite interesting a read for anyone interested to know what the PJD-led government has in store for taxpayers; and it is not pretty. He was a brilliant debater on public finances issues, and he would do an excellent government official, at the Finance Ministry perhaps.

To his credit, Prof. Boulif (a PJD leader and prominent Parliamentary member) recognized quite candidly that his party’s manifesto will have to be adjusted:

 من المفيد التقديم لهذا الحوار ببعض العموميات، المتعلقة أساسا بكون البرنامج الانتخابي للعدالة والتنمية هو برنامج تقدمنا به للحصول على أصوات الناخبين، وهذا البرنامج الآن من المفروض أن يطرأ عليه بعض التغيير لملاءمته مع برامج الأحزاب الحليفة التي ستشكل الحكومة المقبلة، بمعنى أن برنامجا جديدا سيخرج للوجود، وسيكون أرضية عملية للتصريح الحكومي المقبل.

True. Insofar the macroeconomic performances are quite uncorrelated with the possible permutations in government coalitions, GDP growth projections are not subject to what PJD or Istiqlal (or MP) have promised: 7% as promised by PJD, turned out to be not an average, but, in his own words, “7% growth is a target set by [our] party for the last year in the next legislature i.e. 2016”. Their pledge to increase GNI by 40% however,has flown out of the window now that PJD has reneged on the projections of an average 7% growth; the relationship between GNI and GDP is so obvious that whatever differences in value that might arise on a 5-years period are negligible enough to concentrate on the essential link between high GDP growth and high GNI (even per capita)

GNI and GDP go hand in hand; for PJD to increase GNI, they need to allow GDP to grow at commensurate proportions

So his party’s pledge to increase GNI per capita 40% by 2016 is severely handicapped once he admits the 7% GDP growth is not an average for the next 5 years, but rather an upper bound for what is realistically more around 5%.

More concerning however, is what seems to be a U-turn on the 3% deficit PJD said they would abide by; Boulif walked back on that pledge by saying that it was not ‘sacred’ and would rank second to more pressing targets:

– ما هي الآليات التي ستعتمدون عليها للتحكم في الميزانية في حدود 3 في المائة؟

> من الناحية النظرية، ليست نسبة 3 في المائة أمرا «مقدسا»، ولست من المدافعين عن الأرثدوكسية المالية في هذا الجانب. فإذا كنتم تقصدون نسبة العجز في سؤالكم، فعلى المغاربة أن يعرفوا أن الخصاص الاجتماعي كبير في البلد، وأنه في هذه السنوات المقبلة يجب أن نرفع من مستوى البنيات التحتية الاجتماعية الضرورية، سواء على صعيد الصحة أو المرافق الاجتماعية أو مستوى عيش السكان، إضافة إلى ضرورة فتح أوراش تنموية كبيرة تكون قاطرة للانبثاق الاقتصادي الطموح

Sure, Morocco needs far-reaching structural reforms, but by belittling their commitment to the 3% limit, PJD admits implicitly it will not implement all of the reforms it vows to carry out in their manifesto: rather, they prefer to be a short-term nanny state, and not take on the big subsidies and generous exemptions every budget has in store for real estate developers, big farmers and others enjoying rent-like activities or near-monopolies. It is sad indeed that Rep. Boulif did not put forward any scheduled plan to reform the compensation fund in this interview; he was evasive enough about the outgoing government’s aborted project to set up a 2Bn ‘solidarity fund’ (a fig leaf for the proposed amount really) but did not provide quantitative targets in terms of tax reforms or levied receipts per tax class. I’d prefer not to mention the public debt, first because the re-elected member of parliament for Tangiers didn’t mention it, and second because it is a ticking time-bomb ready to blow in less than 5 years’ time if the next finance minister doesn’t do something about it.

The same evasiveness was displayed when asked about how the next government will raise Morocco’s competitiveness: though his answers were indeed aimed at improving Morocco’s performances in terms of balance trade and payment, but for all the rhetoric about  “improving the domestic economy”, there is a lack of clear policy about how to improve productivity -this, I believe, is what Rep. Boulif might have had in mind- other than provide small businesses with a preferential status for public procurement; and somehow, this failure to put forward precise policies to increase productivity sheds a great deal of doubt on how the next government will get growth rate to the level of 7% – without triggering inflation significantly above BAM’s target rate of 2%.

In addition to what remains very clumsy explanations of what they should do, PJD’s Economist-in-Chief did not care to provide more details about what they will do for middle classes; the question was asked, and here’s his reply:

> لقد اعتبرنا الطبقة المتوسطة ضمان الاستقرار والنمو والتنمية بالمغرب، ولتطويرها اعتمدنا عدة مقاربات، منها ما هو مباشر ومنها ما هو غير مباشر. وبالتالي سنعمد إلى مراجعة فعالة لمنظومة الأجور وفق نظام الأجر العادل والضامن للحد الأدنى للعيش الكريم (الرفع من الحد الأدنى للأجور والمعاشات، السلم المتحرك، التأمين على البطالة)، وربط التعويض على المعاش المترتب عن حوادث الشغل في الوظيفة العمومية بالأجرة والأقدمية عوض الاعتماد على نظام 100 نقطة الأولى من الرقم الاستدلالي، وذلك على غرار ما هو معمول به في القطاع الخاص. كما سنرفق هذه الإجراءات بتنزيل مقتضيات حماية المستهلك ودعم الجمعيات العاملة في القطاع، وتطوير برامج الحماية الاجتماعية في ظل تنامي الفقر والهشاشة، وإنشاء بيت الزكاة وإصدار قانون منظم له مع إخضاعه للمحاسبة العمومية، وضبط وسائل إعادة التوزيع من الفوارق الاجتماعية، وإرساء نظام تدبير عقلاني للأوقاف، وتعزيز دورها في نظام التضامن ورفع دور الرقابة البرلمانية، مع إصلاح صندوق المقاصة بتطوير نظام الاستفادة منه ليقتصر على الفئات المستحقة، وتعزيز موارده بضرائب تضامنية…

And he is right in that a strong and large middle class base is the best way to insure stability and a certain equality in income distribution; but in his view however, achievement of such goal is restricted only to those working in the public sector -presumably, a USFP-turned PJD constituency- he seeks to defend and protect their relatively stable and safe income; but again, he fails to provide comprehensive policies other than placebos: on consumer protection, social security and other equally important issues, though these rank secondary to the crux matter of increase median incomes in real terms, instead of letting them slip behind GNI growth and the more affluent.

There’s a lot to go on about, but my opinion of that interview is that PJD has had quite a harsh reality check. The petulant Head Of Government-elect Abdelilah Benkirane will have a hard time trying to boost the economy as his party experts already go on to tell the press that they have no magic wand; For those first-time PJD voters in the business community, I am afraid the disillusion will be somewhat painful: the new government is as unlikely to take on tough structural reform as their predecessors failed or refused to do so. The first test, as Rep. Boulif put it, is the compensation fund reform: if nothing is done by the end of 2012, then whatever PJD will say and spin about its economic message will be unable to cover their utter incompetence on economic issues.

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“Marginals” and “Safes” – Post Game Analysis

This is not about the election itself, but rather how each caucus holds on to their seats, and more importantly, how strong is the PJD conference. I suggest that their now nationwide appeal is not as strong as it seems, and though they remain by and large the leading political party in parliament, many of their seats are ‘marginals’ and could be turned by PJD’s competitors in 2016 – if they do not perform well. Trouble is, they perform far far better than their competitors; so their apparent weaknesses are of no immediate worry to them.

But PJD’s seats are not the only marginals around: other parties have had a hard time snatching their owns, and in the end, every mainstream party (that ranges from PJD to PPS) have some relatively safe seats, and others their representatives must work hard to retain their constituencies. The very existence of PJD marginals, in my opinion, shows that these elections have been, on the whole pretty open, transparent and ‘clean’: under different circumstances, gerrymandering and other nasty ballot-stuffing manoeuvres (from pro-regime candidates, for instance) would have deprived PJD from a dozen seats we shall have a look at later on. I may be at odds with many who disparaged these elections as non-representative and organized within an undemocratic constitution, but I feel the topic at hand is a very good start of mainstream parliamentary democracies: where are the strengths and weakness of various political forces, and how much does it take to unseat them, as part of the dynamic, democratic renewal of governments.

First off, the present ballot system still handicaps rising challengers; it was, it seems, the only viable compromise between a homogeneous parliament house with large party caucuses, and the possibility for smaller parties with regional appeal to gain representation. We cannot also rule out the need for the Interior Ministry to maintain their grip on various constituencies, and thus predict (if not force some of them) results fitting their own agenda. Once data relative to each seat’s votes are released, we can even dive into interesting simulation of other ballot systems; yes, PJD could significantly improve or downgrade their performance, depending on the selected ballot system; Is there an ideal system that would promote democracy and government accountability? Political scientists tend to think not. But nonetheless, public debate and collective involvement with the decision-making process can insure the selected ballot system would fit the citizen’s needs.

But let us consider the existing ballot used in Morocco – it is proportional with a 6% threshold, and is defined by the Interior Ministry as follows:

Le scrutin a lieu à la représentation proportionnelle suivant la règle du plus fort reste sans panachage ni vote préférentiel.
Toutefois, en cas d’élection partielle, celle-ci a lieu au scrutin universel à la majorité relative à un tour lorsqu’il s’agit d’élire un seul membre.

computed as follows: There are 3 seats in a particular district, and 5 parties are competing for these; they have carried the following votes:

Party A: ……………………….3.000

Party B: ……………………….2.400

Party C: ……………………….1.400

Party D: ………………………….500

Party E: ………………………….120

The electoral coefficient is thus: (3.000+2.400+1.400+500+120)/3=2.473

Party A gets the first seat, and retains 3.000-2.473= 527 votes.

Party B gets the second seat, and retains 2.400-2.473 = 73 votes.

Party A carries the third seat because its residual votes outmatch Party C’s 500 votes (by 27); the district allocates therefore two seats to A and one to B. If Party C had managed to get a dozen more votes, it could have well carried that last seat – their own, marginal seat so to speak.

What’s a marginal in Moroccan parliamentary politics? Let us consider the example of a large district – i.e. with many opened slots for candidates: the newly unified Meknes district has 6 seats, and these have been filled as shown on the picture.

In absolute terms, all parties but PJD are marginals; but because of the proportional ballot system, only MP is.

Now, following the existing ballot system, PJD has most votes, but not enough to capture all available slots, though enough to gain 2 out of 6, a rather strong showing considering how large the district is, and the stiff competition around it (there were 150 candidates competing for 25 parties) MP, on the other hand, has barely got enough votes (just above the electoral coefficient computed to get a shot) Representative Abdelkrim Labrigui (MP – Meknès) holds therefore a marginal seat – the likelihood of losing his seat next election is contingent on a small number of votes; by contrast, outgoing finance minister and maiden representative, Salaheddine Mezouar, has managed to scrap enough votes to elect himself, and it will take more votes to unseat him; the same can be said of Representative Abdellah Bouanou, whose votes have been large enough to get him and his n°2 elected; in that respect, Bouanou holds a relatively ‘safe’ seat – relative to what PJD managed to carry in other constituencies, as we shall see later on.

Fortunately, there are other districts that can illustrate the concept of ‘safe seats’: basically, these are districts where one party has enough votes to carry their entire list on all opened slots, or a significant majority on these seats; PAM and PJD have their safe seats: PJD has carried all 3 seats allocated to Mohammedia and Sidi Bernoussi. In seven districts, PJD collected 2 seats out of three (in Casablanca, Tangier and Marrakesh)

PAM, on the other hand, has relatively weaker safe seats: 2 seats out of 3 in Rhamna (obviously) and the others are all two-seats openings (Bodjour, Jerada, Mdiq-Fnideq, Mediouna and Zag) and remains perhaps the only party with a regional stronghold. Istiqlal has Laayoune (2 out of 3) and that’s about it. USFP, RNI and MP do not get more than one seat per district, and more often than not, they do not get the n°1 seat.

PJD have their own, marginal seats as well: Chefchaouen, Kalaat Sraghna, Khemisset-Oulmes, Laayoune and Nouaceur representatives have had just enough votes to put them in the ballot and carry the last opened seat.

Speaking of marginals, there are three parties, whose caucus is made up of a significant number of highly-fought for seats on local ballot: Istiqlal has 16 marginals (out of its 47) USFP and PAM have each 11 marginals -out of respectively 30 and 35 seats. As far as USFP and Istiqlal are concerned, these are tale-telling sings of weak national parties, in a complete contrast with PJD’s vitality and aggressiveness.

The true landslide: 43% of all 92 districs are headed by PJD candidates

But what would it be if Morocco had a different ballot system? What if we had First Past the Post for instance? This ballot system, used in the United Kingdom, allows for strong parliamentary majorities, but does not help smaller organizations and communities to carry their voice to parliament house. But nonetheless, let us consider the implications of such a system:

– There are 92 districts (divided into 305 seats) on local ballot; national ballot just mirrors the results to provide representation for women and the youth.

– A district is carried only by the leading party, regardless of how many seats it has carried

– We then replicate the percentages commensurate to the 305 opened seats

Results are astonishing: almost half of all 92 districts are led by PJD candidates (now Representatives) and other parties see their parliamentary caucuses go through some dramatic changes; for one, First Past The Post does not reward mediocrity: it is alright to get candidates elected on the second or third opened slot, but it is a bit worrying not to manage to get the lead seat.

These results, I hope will be further vindicated once detailed figures are released, but it is clear PJD is, by far, an underestimated winner. Other parties, if anything, barely held to their seats, and to the seemingly other winners, their marginals -the surest sign of weakening popularity- make up a worrying percentage of their caucus’ seats.

100 Days Are Already Over, Mr Benkirane

So Tuesday the 29th was the day His Majesty the King gave audience to PJD premier and (elections) conqueror Abdelilah Benkirane to form the next government. The mounting opposition, inside and outside parliament will be stiff and resolute no doubt. The 100 days of honeymoon a maiden government usually enjoys with the press and the people will not be for PJD’s to expect: parliamentary opposition already gathers bitter election losers PAM and RNI have announced their decision to join the opposition, and their self-styled ‘natural party of government’ streak will fuel their resentment toward PJD.

The Committee to "Save" Morocco indeed.

(original TIME cover can be found here)

Outside parliament, various civil society groups will also pressure PJD because of the party’s own conservative line on art, gender equality and other issues that alienates them the support, or even remote sympathy from liberal groups. Even those who voted for the party, from all the walks of life with different and pressuring expectations, will not wait long, and I wager many have set the bar very high when it comes to the next government’s performance on the job. And I count myself among them: I abhor the party, their ideology, their social conservatism, and right from now, 2016 should be their demise, but on the merits. They prove to be an adversary of substance (contrary to shallow Istiqlal, RNI or PAM for instance) and that alone is great news, because now a real debate is going to take place.

7% is not going to be achieved for the next straight 5 years. As a matter of fact, it has never been observed ever since 1960 -save perhaps for 1967/1971- and it is very unlikely to kick in again in the next decade.

Above all PJD neglects the effects of GNI growth on decile households: they have pledged a 40% increase in GNI per capita over the next 5 years. But are they going to provide the same increase in GNI to median households as well? This, of course, remains to be seen, and it is easy to check on their promise:

1/ wait for the release of HCP annual survey on social indicators (among others, income distribution)

2/ check whether the trend of impoverished median has been stopped, slowed down or reversed

3/ check whether real GNI per capita per decile below median is positive.

Perhaps Dr. Najib Boulif can shed some light on his party’s proposed 40% increase: assuming their forecast for 7% is not going to happen before 2016, then how will they allow for the 40% increase in average GNI per capita?

Now, assume the next government will do whatever they can to get a certain growth rate between 2013 and 2015, so as to accommodate both 2012 projected rate at 5%, and PJD’s statement on 2016’s projected growth at 7%. Algebraically, it makes no sense: the new government still needs to perform a 7.5% average growth over the three-years period:

That is, of course, the best possible projection, given a very stable (linear, in fact) growth rate at 7.5%. Unless the next Finance Minister prepares for some mini-recession and two-years-long boom to perform a 7.5% average growth (for instance, 4% in 2013, 9% in 2014 and 2015) which might not be a smart move after all – but then again, PJD will have to renege on their commitment to increase average income per capita otherwise.

There is also another occurrence I should perhaps mention, one that wouldn’t reassure on PJD’s supposed economic competence: Mustapha Ramid, an outspoken PJD leader and likely minister in the next government, has dropped in during a Radio interview that his government will not shut down alcohol shops, but would stop delivering licenses to new ones. Supposedly, this is to enforce a certain quarantine on alcohol sales, on the grounds of religious prohibition. This might be alright, but by doing so, PJD is hurting two sides of the Alcohol market: consumers and local producers.

The argument goes as follows: first, assume the administration in charge of delivering licenses to alcohol shops and bars has a precise model that helps pricing these licenses (these are purchases one way or the other, of course) and thus, establish a certain barrier to entry more or less built around projected gains from using this license. So far, these permits limit alcohol-selling markets to an oligopoly, with known profits and exogenous prices (set by the same administration). If indeed no additional licences are sold, then perspectives of incumbent license-holders just become brighter: they know that for a certain period of time, no additional competitor will enter the market and force a redistribution of the existing rent, and instead, they will just keep on sharing the same -if not a larger- alcohol consumption among themselves. Good news for alcohol vendors, bad news for consumers, and PJD has unwillingly helped those they seek to phase out.

Even if the administration does not have a built-in model to price these licenses, the result still holds: incumbent vendors increase their share of profits and surpluses, while consumers have to submit to the paid price, or worse, go for contraband alcohol, hazardous and dangerous.

The other end hurt by PJD’s resolutely ideologically-biased policy is the local production of alcohol in Morocco; in facts, by imposing more and more taxes on their product, they basically help alcohol imports (and these are not always subject to fiat taxation, not as easy as it could be with locally-produced goods) and thus increase slightly trade balance: total imports of alcohol last year were about MAD 500Mln worth of alcohol beverages. At the same time, some MAD 1.14Bn of taxes have been levied on the same class of products (and PJD caucus attached and defended amendments specifically designed to level up these receipts)  most of which goes after locally-made beverages. La Vie Eco newspaper reports that these taxes have virtually forced closure of businesses (thus leading to job destruction not that easily replaceable) even before PJD took office, their relentless parliamentary activism to force amendments on alcohol taxes have resulted in job losses, just think of what their mistaken ideology could do to other businesses suspected to harbour Haram activities: Hotels, Bars, Restaurants…

It is worth mentioning that Moroccan consumers across deciles value: the fourth 20% decile household would spend on average MAD 43 on these beverages, the top 20% MAD 601. But the striking feature is the income-elasticity relative to alcohol:  1.33 across deciles, and while it is understood behaviour toward alcohol consumption is not uniform across households, but urban dwellers as well as rural denizens (Grand Casablanca and Doukkala Abda residents for instance) have a higher than average income elasticity. (numbers are available on HCP households surveys)

This tedious explanation illustrates my point: even if PJD’s policy increases alcohol prices, all data points out to a stable or increased consumption of beverages, provided the +40% in average income is acquired. I fear Professor Najib Boulif has not had a harder look at the regression tables provided by HCP in their household consumption surveys. And there goes my initial argument: it is true the new batch of PJD representatives and maiden ministers earned prestigious degrees and high education, but when it comes to practical, evidence-based policy, Mr Ramid goes off-roads and his fire-and-brimstone rethorics does nothing but harm the economy with no alternative policy to make up for the welfare loss. As for Dr Boulif, his admission of failure to secure the 40% raise in GNI per capita also translates his party’s early loss of what could well be the next election’s campaign theme: the party’s economic competence.

And as they say:

و إنا لكم بلمرصاد

Wrap-up On Elections & Challenges Ahead

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan History & Sociology, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on November 28, 2011

First off, allow me to address the delicate question of turnout, boycott and blank/invalidated ballots: the elections have been won with the voices of a minority of voters, and they themselves are not representative of all Moroccans eligible to vote but did not register (or where not) for elections.

Just a quick run-down on numbers: there are, according to HCP established figures, 32.2Mln Moroccans, among which 21.5Mln eligible voters. Only 13.6 of these have registered, and less than half (6.2Mln) bothered to turn up at polling stations. To make matters worse, some 20% of those made their choices in a very unorthodox manner, which leaves us with  at most 5Mln of healthy ballots; In other terms, only 24% of adult Moroccans voted. Does this invalidate elections? Definitely no. It does not weaken PJD’s legitimacy, nor does it hurt the whole electoral process‘ credibility among international organizations and significant partners; if anything, a clear PJD victory only strengthens the narrative by which the official discourse goes: Morocco is a regional exception, and regulates its own upheavals better than its neighbours.

This could well be true, but when the most resolute Feb20 activists do not tire from pointing out that these elections “do not represent the Moroccan people”, they should be very cautious when they bring up numbers to buttress their claim : in absolute terms, nobody represents “the Moroccan people”, nor the Feb20 movement, nor the electoral process. As long as polls and other precise measurements to capture the mood of the nation are not there, it is wrong to state that any organization, PJD, Feb20 or otherwise can claim a mandate from the people. It so happens that in a large population that seem to display very little interest in politics, a subset has cast the ballot in favour of a party, and in a very clear manner.

Now, I believe in global change to the incumbent institutions towards a more democratic and open system; I also believe that systematically refusing whatever comes from these institutions runs the risk to alienate whatever sympathy left among the apolitical majority they would feel toward Feb20. The boycott option has not worked, on July 1st as well as on November 25th; An all out street showdown, if it is the movement’s real goal, is a losing strategy as far as I can tell. A press conference held today in Casablanca can illustrate my point; fellow Blogger and Feb20 advocate Larbi tweeted about it: The movement does not view itself as a political player with an agenda to bargain with (bargaining means eliciting a compromise or concession for the greater good):

@Larbi_org Larbi.org
Cp #feb20 : “nous n’avons pas de dirigeants ni vocation a dialoguer avec le pouvoir. Le dialogue c’est répondre a nos revendications”

Bottom line: it does not matter whether PJD’s victory was carried with a minority of popular votes relative to the adult population, what does matter however, is that they displayed their actual strength, and it is quite significant, more significant than Feb20’s own -often gainsaid- get-out-to-protest turnout.

Where did PJD gain votes? Popular votes’ figures have not been released yet, but as the complete list of the future representatives has been published, the ballot system allows for a reliable estimation of popular vote per province.

Relative to 2007, PJD has performed extremely well, and could have gained a lot more seats with a stronger ballot system, e.g. ‘First Past the Post’. These results show that PJD was the first beneficiary of an increased house chamber from 325 to 395. The 60-seats on national ballots have usually a neutral effect on larger parties, but these constituencies allocated additional seats happened to be districts where PJD had either a strong incumbent there, or benefited from a surge in sympathetic votes.

results are computed on the basis of the first party to gain the first seat - a sign of majority in FPTP sense

Overall, PJD still lacks the main prerequisite to pose as a “national party”, meaning, with nationwide constituency; true, PJD has expanded its support beyond their 2002 and 2007 strongholds, but rural constituencies are still a tough nut to crack. This however, did not prevent them to carry some tough districts in Casablanca, Tangier and Rabat to name but a few. If PJD manages to pull off a significant agrarian reform, they could well try and perform and even bigger upset by carrying in 2016 a province like Rhamna-Sraghna, Safi or other rural hinterlands.

This leads us to the next two points I wanted to discuss: the challenges laying ahead of the maiden PJD government, and those specific to the Moroccan liberal and left-leaning radical groups. Some have engaged in grown-up politics, others are still entrenched in partisan squabbling and obsolete schemes.

PJD will have to deal with a tough opposition, so as many observers have noted, outside and inside parliament (regardless of their next coalition partners, PAM will be screaming for PJD ministers’ blood during question time) but I see the real challenge elsewhere; “It the Economy, Stupid” all over again: PJD’s message before, during and after the campaign is loud and clear: rooting out corruption will bring prosperity to everyone.

To that effect, their manifesto provided for generous spendings, and a 40% increase in GNI per capita over the next 5 years. The economic message is very important, not because of the author’s interest in the subject, but because the unlikely coalition that brought PJD to power is a motley of interests that unify in only one subject: the economy – how to improve standards of living and bridge income and wealth gap.

PJD has started on the wrong footing: yesterday, PJD representative and heavyweight Najib Boulif (typed off as likely government minister) has clearly stated in a Radio show on Atlantic Radio that the next government might not after all manage to perform the 7% GDP growth, at least not before 2015. This is bad news for the 40% GNI increase, because they now need a lot more than 7% to do so. We shall wait and see what PJD will do on Fiscal policy, whether they will go for economic efficiency, and not succumb to ideological exaction. I am also interested to hear how they will conciliate their pledge not to go beyond a 3% GDP deficit with their liberal-leaning expansion programs.

For those of you still interested in what’s Left (there goes a cheap pun) of the Moroccan liberal/radical current, I have been reviewing PSU’s platform for their next convention (to be held mid-December) and I have to confess my increasing upset at the language and the contents of what should be the party’s ideological line for the next 4 years. A mixture of renewed juvenile idealism, the fear of being outflanked on the left, and a desperate attempt to cling on the movement as a surrogate to what is perceived to be a mass social uprising have led to the release of a bizarre manifesto I absolutely feel will alienate a lot of moderates leaning towards PSU. I do not claim the party’s representative of liberal voices, but I find it quite disturbing parallel drawn between PSU’s increasing political “looneyness” and USFP’s shameless strategy to remain in government as long as possible.

Both will receive retribution for their decisions: the former for the surge in excessive idealism, and latter for squandering what is left of political credibility. The election results and the movement’s entrenched and defiant posture will spell doom upon what is left of Moroccan liberalism, I fear.

This should be my last post on Moroccan elections – I shall now return to my favourite subjects, thank you for your time. In the meantime:

Dieu Et Mon Droit - Up Yours, Opposition.

“Landslide Benkirane”

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on November 27, 2011

A Landslide in Morocco should be construed as an exceptional result compared to earlier elections: at no point in time since 1963 has an opposition party managed to scrap one-third of all seats by itself. “Administrative Parties” (usually dubbed pressure-cooker parties) did better, but they consistently enjoyed strong or discreet support from the Administration. PJD has outperformed Istiqlal and USFP when they were both in opposition. Such a victory, clearly on the merits, needs to be given credit for.

Who's the Captain Of the Gang then?

According to the latest results on invalidated ballots (around 20%) PJD should -but these are not official figures- carry some 1.3Mln votes. And that alone means a lot: USFP -Istiqlal in their best days, managed to set a precedent to PJD’s feat only one time, and that was in 1993. And there were two of them.

First off, I need to atone for my own predictions: RNI and their A8 allies did not come ahead of the polls. PJD tripled their caucus when I was expecting them to merely double it; in my wildest expectations, I was considering a PJD conference of 80 seats on both local and national ballots. And they have done so well, it has left the next party well behind by half the number: 107 to PJD vs 60 to Istiqlal. That’s unheard of when it comes to a former opposition party switching to government benches.

That is why I would call it a landslide: in an electoral map that prevents any single political party to win over an absolute majority, a roadblock of sorts further strengthened with the ballot system, PJD was most unlikely to carry a majority of seats.

So a majority landslide is not what has taken place; it was rather a sudden change of political leadership, with PJD overtaking serious competitors and rising to prominence, with a very strong 7% nationwide swing (a figure that needs to be confirmed once popular votes figures are released); PJD has, it seems, taken seats from almost every other competitor while holding to their owns; I cannot recall, so far, a single PJD seat falling to someone else. Elections have been open, fair and accepted as such by may International Observers. They were not perfect or up to international standards – some 8Mln disenfranchised Moroccan citizens do not have a say, simply because they did not register. But so far, the trend observed since 2002 is vindicated: the administration tampers with elections no longer.

PJD, for its landslide, still needs to govern with allies: PJD triumphant (but oddly enough, not triumphalist) leader A. Benkirane said his party was considering Koutla parties first, and all parties next to form a coalition but the ‘one’, a transparent pique directed to arch-enemy PAM.

Where did PJD win over all of these seats? As far as partial results are concerned, primary gains are centred around existing safe PJD seats: PJD Greater Casablanca delegation was 7-seats strong (out of 29) it has evolved, with district boundaries redrawing and adjusted gains, to at about half of the new 34 opened seats. That’s a net gain of a dozen seats, commensurate gains have also been gained in Marrakesh (formerly a PAM/RCU-controlled district) and Tangiers; smaller gains have been registered in Chichaoua (gained from PAM) Fès, plus a couple of seats in Settat, Skhirat, and more importantly, Laayun and Oued Dahab returned PJD’s first representatives South of Agadir.

Negotiations are already on the way for PJD to attract allies, with Koutla so far favoured as the new junior partner, and PAM officially announcing their decision to be the new Leader of the Opposition.

Overall, we are confident the next parliament will look as follows:

Results according to Maghreb Agence Press - Official News Agency

“Landslide Benkirane” is of course a reference to the United States Presidential Elections of 1964 (Johnson-Humphrey vs Goldwater-Miller)