Looking at the returning results from General Elections in the United Kingdom, I was interested in the idea of ‘University Constituencies‘ where seats are not particularly allocated on a geographical basis, and what is more important to my mind, targeting a particularly homogeneous but ultimately illusive electorate.
As numbers stand now, first-time voters are at dangerously low levels, both as a percentage of total registered voters and in their respective cohort. The danger being, short of a profound reform of electoral rolls, an increasing trend in disenfranchising voters, thus subverting the electoral process and the very idea of representative democracy. The fact the ruling party in the current coalition government has seemingly dropped their support for electoral reform has pretty much precluded any push for renewal in the electoral rolls. Recent comments from the Interior Ministry suggest little or no change should be expected on that front.
As it stands now, the Moroccan parliamentary system exhibits a two-tiers system in its upper house: 305 members of parliament are elected on the local ballot, while 90 are selected on the basis of national results, 60 seats of which are allocated to female-only lists, and 30 for de facto young (under 40) males. Yet these members do not have a constituency, which is both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand, they are free to pursue whatever cause they fancy with no fear of backlash from their hypothetical voters, but on the other hand, they are beholden to their party leadership, for fear of being deselected, or worse still, put at the bottom of the party list, where there is little hope of taking up a seat.
There is also the apropos argument these elected representatives are not “full” members has they do not have a mandate: a recent opinion handed down by the designate constitutional court, striking down the provision of a Women’s Caucus suggests otherwise, since their argument was based on the fungibility of members of parliament, i.e. they are not subject to community allegiances whatsoever. The same line motivated another opinion on the continuity of government as well.
Members of the Court have honoured the French tradition of their curriculae, since by denying the individual qualities of each of the 395 members of parliament, they assert the idea of a homogeneous nation, whose representatives are no longer bound to the local constituencies that got them there. I fear this view is widely shared across the political spectrum, and does weaken the reformist claim many (including political opinions I am partial to) herald as their own.
Let us go back to the idea of university constituencies: obviously the first order of business in parliamentary reforms is to reduce the number of seats, so as to flatten regional discrepancies: sparsely populated areas tend to be allocated more seats per capita than, say metropolitan regions, which gives undue advantage to some parties and candidates, as well as produce counter-intuitive results, for instance during the 2007 elections, where PJD had a slight advantage over the Istiqlal on the popular vote, but was eventually a good dozen seats behind.
Seat allocation does not seem to obey a specific, let alone transparent rule: on the eve of each general election, the same ballet is performed by the Interior Ministry, in charge of rewriting electoral regulations, and political parties, each with grievances that often translate in patchy compromises the current ballot system does nothing to alleviate: as a result, there is virtually no chance one party could get hold of an absolute majority and form a government on their own.
Nonetheless, a simple rule can be adopted for all future distributions of seats, the statistical distribution of voter registration allocates seats per province, with a minimal number of two per constituency, historically close to 43.000 per seat. This system has the benefit of reducing the local-ballot seats by 51 seats, distributed as follows:
|Region||2011 Seats||Reform||Uni Seats||Net Change|
Densely populated regions lose comparatively fewer seats compared to Southern and rural regions, but the results greatly reduces discrepancies of past elections. Furthermore, in the context of a first-past-the-post system list, the requirement of having at least a female candidate for all competing candidate list ensures a minimum 92-strong female caucus, a 36% female representation, double the current 17%, and in line with female labour participation.
The younger generation also need not be granted a quota: university constituencies can serve the double purpose of expanding the electoral roll, as well as provide voting incentives to an otherwise disaffected population: there are about 600.000 Moroccans registered at universities, vocational/occupational schools, institutes and other high-education facilities, many of whom far from their home towns. Also, instead of having 30-odd members with no fixed constituency to answer for, the Moroccan youth will have a chance to elected their representatives on their own terms and rights. As a result, Parliament would look radically different:
the number of sitting members would be cut from 395 to 269, with 15 University Seats, and at least 92 Female seats, since nothing precludes female university candidates, or winning lists with more than one female candidate.
And the Campaign is off! Candidates are competing, parties are trying to lure the voters with not so much clever videos; but nonetheless the campaign has started cahin-caha.
The Interior Ministry released figures on competing parties and their candidates; it is quite astonishing to discover that among those 7102 candidates seeking public office, some odd political parties joining in – CNI (with 300 candidates) a fellow Left Alliance member with PSU and PADS- and smaller, more obscure organizations (among others, Choura & Istiqlal party are endorsing 58 candidates) trying to make their way through a highly competitive, time and resources-consuming campaign.
The good news is, we shall have at least 80% of the next batch of Representatives (on local ballot) with a decent education degree: only 200 of these have no education, and realistically, only 23 to 50 can get into parliament. So on education requirement, the next parliament might well be more prepared to deal with the difficult task of representing the public. 90% of head ballot candidates have at least a High School degree – all 1,422 of them.
Though there is a national ballot list, women are campaigning for local ballots as well, though it is worth pointing out only 5% of those are Women-led. Diversity with ‘young’ candidates (it is a bit of stretch to consider all those 35-yo when the median age among adult population is closer to 30, and overall median age is 20-24) and Women -who are way under-represented with respect to their relative share in total population, i.e. 50.8% of total population, 48.7% of adult population. Perhaps local lists are diverse enough to try to attract gender and demographic votes, but the ballot system is such only n°1 and n°2 are guaranteed a seat if their win is large enough, the others have a much lower chance to make it to Parliament house.
How many of these will manage to get a seat? Well, it depends on only too many things. in any case, there still is a definite strong emphasis on rural constituencies to the expenses of urban districts: following HCP figures, there should be 13Mln Urban adult eligible voters vs 8.5Mln rural potential voters.
Now we don’t have much information about the break-down per registered voters, but all indicators seem to point out that rural constituencies are allocated a lot more seats, in terms of total and adult population that is. Aousserd (pop. 73,000) retains two seats, while My Rachid district (pop. 207,000) retains 3 seats even though total population is 3 times higher. There are indeed some regional balances to be insured, but the fact of the matter is, even with the modest increases of seats in the Casablanca metropolitan area and in other cities (Tangiers and Temara-Skhirat for instance) there still is a sizeable advantage to rural seats, and some parties (PJD) may not, after all, benefit from the changes amid the increase of number of seats from 325 to 395.
The figures are out there, selected candidates denote of some effort put in presentational details, and the public shall see for themselves who is fit for office.