The Moorish Wanderer

Predictions for the 2016 Elections, Part.1

The proportional vote ballot with a minimum threshold adopted in Morocco has proven to be of weakening effect to representative democracy. Sure, it has allowed more parties to get on the game, and even get a seat or two, but it has definitely weakened government party coalitions, as these grew larger, more heterogeneous and political weaker, beholden to the non-elected part of Moroccan government. Consider the last 2011 elections: PJD came first with 1.08 Million votes with Istiqlal following behind with little less than half the votes – in fact, PJD needed an additional 268,700 votes to get an absolute majority, a 7.33% nationwide swing.

Istiqlal, on the other hand, needs an 18.9% swing to overtake PJD. Where did that figure come from? The proportional ballot system allocates different levels of majorities to each district. In 2011 for instance, the corresponding majority votes would have been 1.35 Million votes, or 28% of the popular vote (I have posted on the reasons behind discrepancies between absolute majorities, plurality and parliamentary seats’ majorities)

The operating principle behind the politics of government coalition is simple enough: since no political party can form a government on their own, they need to build a coalition. In fact, it does not have to be the party with a plurality of votes, as long as the ‘majority swing‘ i.e. the percentage of popular votes needed to attain absolute majority, is significantly low. In 1997, the 40,000 votes difference between USFP and Istiqlal could have put either in charge of the Alternance government (Istiqlal leaders did protest as they felt they had a slight advantage in the popular vote) because these votes made up only .68% of the electoral turnout.

The same goes for 2002, while USFP was again ahead in the returns, the differences with the second ranking party – Istiqlal – were statistically insignificant (less than 2% of the votes) and there was good chance either M. Abderrahmane Youssoufi or M. Abbas El Fassi could have led the 2002 government. History of course shows it was otherwise, the internal squabbles in the Koutla prompted the King to dismiss both and instead appoint non-partisan M. Driss Jettou. In 2007, the re-match was between PJD and Istiqlal, with an even lower margin of .15%, so in truth, the 2007 Abbas El Fassi government could have been the Saad Ed-Dine Othamni government.

2011 shook-up the ambiant 1997 consensus because it was the first time since 1984 one party managed to carry more than one million vote (in 1993, USFP and Istqlal contested elections on joint lists, carrying 1.5 Million votes) and at the same time minimize the majority swing, from 15.72% in 1984 for Union Constitutionnelle, to 7.33% for PJD.

The table reads: “PAM can lose 5 seats to MP” and “MP loses no seat to MP”

This is precisely what is at stake: out of 305 seats on local ballot, 84 of these are marginals, i.e. due to the proportional ballot system, a member of parliament might lose his seat (yes, there is only 10.4% chance to get a female representative elected on local ballot) if only a couple of votes switch to the next party. Incidentally, the ‘real’ number of marginals should have been 92 (for 92 district) the last slot for each one being the ‘marginal’. This proves some parties (PJD, Istiqlal, PAM and RNI) tend to have strong constituencies, and that displacements are not as frequent as one might think they are. On the other hand, as shown on the table above, these displacements are not evenly spread – some marginals are more marginal than others, with various probabilities of vote swing.

Failure to Lead or Failure to Think Outside the Box? A Reality Check for the Government

Posted in Dismal Economics, Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on February 26, 2012

Time and again I like to listen to Abdelilah Benkirane statement to Parliament; the government’s roadmap is more comprehensive than that, but those issues Mr Benkirane talked about are obviously important for him to elaborate on, in his typical, florid style. The latest press conference did not deviate much from that spirit, it seems.

His speech was very much “Back to Basics” of sorts; it seems the PJD-led government’s talking points evolve around economic benefits from anti-corruption policies and small cuts in equipment and procurement budgets, in terms of spurring growth and halving deficits; and while I understand my passion for Debt-related issues isn’t mainstream, I strongly believe it is the government’s duty not to endanger future generations in their livelihoods with irresponsible spendings.

Why do I sound so adamant the new government be held immediately accountable to every policy they announce? Aren’t they supposed to enjoy the 100 days honeymoon? Sure they do, but then again, Mr Benkirane has flip-flopped very early on by emphasising his commitment to pursue past policies; in fact, he boasts most Moroccans were already happy with earlier schemes, among others Plan Maroc Vert, the High-speed TGV line, the future Solar Energy policy and many other Grands Chantiers the public opinion is carefully kept away from discussing before implementation. Since the 27th government has not stated a novel policy agenda, it is only right to hold them accountable on ongoing policies as well. After all, most of the new opposition has been associated with these policies for at least a decade, so actual opposition to government (elected and otherwise) policies has to come from outside Parliament.

The most persistent item in government institutions is the problematic existence of a growing deficit and the mounting public debt; This is certainly no anti-Keynesian rhetoric to denounce a deficit that does not spur growth, benefits a privileged few and encourages rent-seeking economic activities.

Lahcen Daoudi, Minister for Higher Education and PJD Bigwig, has recently unveiled his strategy to reign-in his departmental budget, and it seems the measures he proposes are cosmetic, and if anything are focused on too little too superficial cuts, with no immediate agenda to bolster Higher Education and Research. It seems the Minister, in his maiden set of policies, is convinced he can address his department’s hardships with Mani Pulite measures:

– L’on parle de politique d’austérité menée au sein de votre département. Combien comptez-vous économiser sur les dépenses?

– C’est la chasse au gaspi sur tout, les frais de carburant, les véhicules… Nous comptons serrer la ceinture et économiser autour de 5 millions de DH rien que dans le budget de fonctionnement. Ces économies iront aux œuvres sociales du personnel. D’ailleurs, nous allons ouvrir un restaurant dédié aux 800 personnes qui travaillent au ministère. Il y a aussi des aberrations qui n’ont aucun sens. Imaginez que nous avons un immeuble en location à 135.000 DH alors que le ministère est propriétaire d’immeubles vides!

It looks as though the deficit can be halved with modest cuts; for a government whose only immediate success is most likely to increase the deficit relative to GDP way above the 3% limit they have pledged not to cross (a tale-telling breach of commitment about how serious the government on fiscal responsibility) I would suggest this government has started on a wrong footing when it comes to assert its competence to master economic policy and bring about economic stability. In his latest press conference, Mr Benkirane forecasts an increase in employment and a positive outlook for domestic and investment. I unfortunately do not share his optimism, not with the latest batch of figures HCP released for 2012 at hand:

Le Produit Intérieur Brut (PIB) devrait enregistrer, sur la base des hypothèses susmentionnées, une hausse de 4,5% en volume au lieu de 4,8% estimé pour 2011. Ce scénario moyen de croissance serait réalisé dans un contexte marqué par une légère hausse de l’inflation. La hausse du niveau général des prix, approché par le prix implicite du PIB, passerait de 1,6% en 2011 à 2,5% en 2012.