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.


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 

Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.15

The easiest way to remember what a party stands for is, perhaps, to adopt some sort of recognition manual compiling political logos and such.This is especially so, in a country where 44% of adult population cannot read and write; a picture speaks a thousand words, although there are some hidden ideas and symbolism better to be put out there for everyone to see.

As early as 1997, political parties were encouraged to adopt logos instead of pictures -that was eventually put into official use with the 2002 elections. But nonetheless, their choice does try to relate to their identity, ideology or core issues; Here are some parties with their pre-2002 logos.

Koutla Parties

Pre-2002 USFP Logo

USFP- Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires: Ever since its founding convention in 1975, the Socialist party has adopted the European-style “Fist & Rose” that befits its Left-of-Centre credentials and Socialist International member status. Whatever its pre-1997/1998 rethoric about deep structural changes, the party has committed very early on to moderate, even social-democrat policies that sometimes are belied by frequent populist or plain socialist statements by some prominent members ever since USFP turned mainstream.

Official symbol of Socialist International.

The Socialist International (Wikipedia)

But in 2002, the party decides to get rid of the fist and keep the rose; it seems the idea was to ditch the French benchmark -it is worth mentioning that Moroccan socialists kept some close ties with their French comrades, Michel Rocard and Abderrahim Bouabid for instance, were close friends indeed. But that 2002 lifting was perhaps a signal that USFP leadership was more fascinated with the UK Labour Party (whose leader back then managed a second landslide during the 2001 Elections) and thus produced a new logo with the rose alone, purple or pink depending on the circumstances.

If anything, by changing their logo, USFP are perhaps pushing around the idea that not only they have turned mainstream and become good “government coalition” material, they will not challenge the establishment any more; testimony to USFP grandee Mohamed El Yazghi who famously said: “The Makhzen No Longer Exists”

1997 Istiqlal Logo

Istiqlal: It may strike the observe as odd for Istiqlal to adopt the balance as its political logo. The party is notorious for its elitist recruitment, and is frequently associated to Fez and its centuries-long intellectual, financial and political elite, a close environment that has attracted criticism and accusations of nepotism and “family politics”. But the thing is, during the 1970s, Istiqlal ideologues came up with a brilliant concept to attract popularity and votes: egalitarianism.

Istiqlal Founder and figurehead Allal El-Fassi, a Salafi Islamic Scholar and National Movement figure, was at pains to find some suitable strategy efficient enough to block the alluring effects of socialism and Third-World liberation on Moroccan Youth in the immediate years following independence. And then came the idea that every Moroccan is born equal. The concept is too abstract, for it does not come at odds with constitutional principles, or with positions held by other political parties. But it seems there is a sense among Istiqlal High Command that egalitarianism might strike a chord with the electorate. Also, figures like Mhamed Boucetta and Boubker Kadiri for instance, old-guard Istiqlalis and treasurers of “Si Allal” ‘s legacy have maintained that idea all the way, hence the balance symbol. It is as though Istiqlal party has to remind constantly the electorate that they are not the party of the privileged few, a bit like the UK Conservative Party and their “One Nation Conservatism“.

pre-2002 PPS logo

PPS – Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme: the former Communist Party had to chose a neutral symbol for many reasons; contrary to Istiqlal and USFP, PPS had to go through two legal censures (PCM 1960 and PLS in 1968) before it reaches its current form in 1974. From then on, the party has almost reneged on its communist heritage and does sometimes sound a bit like a conservative party on too many issues.

It is a bit strange for them to change the logo so radically from sunshine (or sunset, depending on how one sees it) to an open book. Perhaps the party wanted to emphasis its intellectual roots and revert to more conventional colours (white & blue) Perhaps the ambition for a shining Morocco was cast aside in favour to more down-to-earth issues, to go by the book, so to speak. But overall, the change in logo and political talking points on PPS’ behalf does show a deep re-branding.

OADP - 1997

OADP-GSU-PSU (Organisation d’Action Démocratique Populaire/ Parti-Gauche Socialiste Unifié[e]): First off, PSU is boycotting the election. But one of its ancestors, OADP, has been a Koutla member in 1992, and the candle was kept on as a symbol, but eventually changed progressively in shapes and…numbers.

2002 Logo.

It seems the choice of a candle refers to wisdom, a quest for truth, and underlines one of the core issues heralded by OADP ever since its foundation in 1981: Human Rights. Though it did not participate in the 1997 Alternance Consensuellegovernment, OADP caucus supported on many issues, but eventually joined back opposition after a wide rift on the pace of reforms with

In 2002, OADP merged with three small Radical Left organizations, and then merged with a USFP breakaway in 2005 to create PSU, this time with one candle-again.

“Administrative Parties”

"Haraka Family" pre-2007

MP – Mouvement Populaire & MNP – Mouvement National Populaire: that party has some troublesome history. Originally MP was founded in 1957 as a reaction to perceived Istiqlal hegemony over political legitimacy and administrative control. The “Torch Of Freedom” logo is a reminder of from where MP grandee and founder Mahjoubi Aherdane comes from, as one of the MLA-North leader in 1955. The Moroccan Liberation Army has had a motley of logos and recognition flashes, but one that seemed to create consensus was the Torch of Freedom; in many official visits paid by King Mohamed V to MLA units, their Flag Of Honour (green with golden linings) featured it, many official documents where stamped with it, and so on and so forth.

MNP logo becomes the new MP's in 2005

This MLA legacy is also a response to the Koutla’s favourite criticism of MP and other parties as “Administrative creatures” made up by the Interior Ministry to bar Istiqlal & USFP/UNFP from power. In 1986, Aherdane was kicked out of his party in favour of now MP leader Mohand Laenser; he then proceeded to create his own party (MNP) and chose the Wheat as a symbol to remind voters yet again of MP/MNP’s core constituency, the rural electorate.

In 2002 however, MNP chose to ditch the Torch in favour of the traditional Moroccan dagger -perhaps a younger electorate would not necessarily associate the symbol with MLA since very few heard of it; After the 2005 reunion, the Torch was definitely cast aside, and the rural-oriented Wheat logo was retained.

Pre-2002 RNI logo

RNI – Rassemblement National des Indépendants: these have changed the symbol, but kept the blue colour (somehow associated to conservatism in Europe)

The symbol itself is a bit of a mystery : there’s a flower, and some sort of crescent below; I take it their pre-2002 is some sort of flower of elaborate design they ditched in favour of the more recognizable blue dove. The choice of that particular bird is somehow difficult to read, either as a testimony to the party’s commitment to centrist politics, or as projected image of non-partisan party, a party that puts the good of a nation above that of special interests. On the other hand, the blue colour does denote their commitment to conservative policies, ones they have supported ever since the party was founded in 1978 and in office ever since.

Other party logos will be blog-posted next time.

May Day And the Trade Unions Mafia

Today was the Great May Day with its colourful parades, joyful demonstrations and overflowing bouquets of red flags and roses. These are my child memories of May Day, anyway. Other than that, as far as I can trace back my own recollections of what a union does for a living (so to speak) it is either disinterest or puzzlement to the actual nature pertaining to their work.

UMT Logo, circa 1955

Well, an ill-informed judgement could not explain why unions would exist if political parties, especially left-wing ones, were already in place defending the workers’ grievances. The initial puzzlement might also be explained by the quasi-incestuous relationship many Moroccan political parties entertained (or are still doing so) with our trade unions even before 1956. Unions and Parties act like political mates, a bit like Juno, the two-faced (literally) Goddess. And unfortunately, such unhealthy proximity was operated at the expense of the very workers both political institutions vow to defend. So for all the decorum every May 1st, the parade is just a travesty of Workers’ day. This sounds suspicious of a self-confessed

With no intended pejorative connotation, Moroccan unions are a product of French colonialism. Very early after the Fes Treaty, French unions started to recruit Moroccan workers (against segregationist regulations) who, in turn, established in March 1955 their own union with the foundation of the Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT). In May 1956, the union boasted a 600,000 strong members base, i.e. about 52% of urban workforce; It maintained a close relationship with Istiqlal party, right until 1959 with the UNFP spin-off. The old-style Istiqlal in turns founded its own union in September 1959, (Union Générale des Travailleurs Marocains) UGTM. Even USFP (a UNFP spin-off) did the same in December 1978 and founded the Confédération Démocratique Du Travail(CDT) these instances (and many others) show one thing: national parties cannot thrive without a union support, so they create their own dedicated workers’ support. It looks as though these parties cannot reach out to their electorate without a parallel organization, one conveniently with no direct political agenda, but nonetheless amenable to the party’s ideology, and led by party activists and leaders. Can anyone spot the peculiarity here?

Omar Bendjelloun, the assassinated trade union leader, and perhaps the most respected and well-known of them all.

One way to explain this is perhaps because of the very tense political atmosphere following independence; parties like UNFP were regularly censored, its activists and leaders either arrested (and tortured) or prevented from carrying on their political activities; unions were a very convenient way to continue political activism without much repression; UMT union however, did not always cooperate with left-wingers: Omar Bendjelloun wrote a letter in 1963, describing vicious beating from old UMT boss Mahjoub Bensedik‘s henchmen.

“- j’espère que chacun procédera aux rectifications nécessaires, en donnant leur véritable contenu aux concepts révolutionnaires au lieu de ne s’en servir qu’occasionnellement comme alibis au service de la diffamation,

– j’espère que la lucidité triomphera en fin de compte pour éviter à chacun de devenir encore plus prisonnier d’un engrenage qu’il a lui-même engagé, ou de se laisser mettre de plus en plus devant le fait accompli,

– j’espère surtout que cette lettre soit une participation au redressement de certaines erreurs, afin que rien n’empêche plus les masses populaires sous la direction de la classe ouvrière de se libérer du joug féodal et colonial, et de s’engager aussitôt que possible dans la construction du socialisme,

– j’espère enfin que tout ce qui précède ne soit pas encore une fois mis au compte de ce qu’il y aurait en moi (ou beaucoup d’autres) de “prétentieux”, “extrémiste”, “gauchiste”… Ou tout simplement “salaud”.”

Some good trade-unionist turn out to be like Omar Bendjelloun, while many others acted like Mafiosi, but the former type gets shot or turns into martyr, the later gains comfortable  rent out of a very convenient ‘mutually destructive mechanism’ kind of relationship with the regime: save for the 1967 incident, Bensedik has been in goods terms with the authorities, and over the years, his union and the others suffered from the same ailments: ageing activists’ base and operatives, bureaucratic proceedings within the federations and branches, engagement in dubious management of mutuals and various ministerial offices, etc… This holds for most unions, including the vehement CDT and its own tribune boss, Noubir Amaoui.

What about the workers? Credit usually goes to government when there is a pay rise, and these usually affect only public sector civil servants; the stereotype of these organizations as redoubts for civil servants’ privileges is further strengthen when they join in a chorus gloating about the “victorious concessions unions managed to extract from the government”, all of this, with a shrinking union base, demonises further the very idea of collective bargaining, even though empirical evidence can substantiate the argument for such labour and wage-setting contract. So the question remains: are unions any good to the workers? I guess the same applies to political parties (i.e. are they, too, any good to citizens). The strange companionship party/union goes even further in the observed weaknesses: both organizations suffer from an acute ‘personalization’: the union is automatically identified with its leader, usually the only one since its foundation (Bensedik, Afilal or Amaoui have been quasi-lifetime bosses) and are too subject to spin-offs when some frustrated n°2 decides to jump ship and set up their own organization.

3rd UMT Convention delegates

Both organization sought the support of local notabilities for electoral purposes (in the unions’ cases, a mix between professional and legislative elections) and sometimes come to conflict when politicians want to boycott a particular process when union leaders push for active campaigning. The similarities stop there: unions have been historically more flexible in their slogans. It might have to do with trade-unionist pragmatism, but it certainly is related to the perks each union can lay their hands on; each ministerial department has their mutual fund and charities, usually managed by unions, thus the potential benefits (to the members or to the organization)

Perhaps this is too much of an exaggeration of the dead-weight unions represent. As a matter of fact my criticism is not on the very idea of organized labour, and there is argument for the eminent benefits of collective bargaining in a grand design; indeed, under the assumption of some overhaul like the Open Society project, unions are more than needed to design the nationwide labour contracts needed to redefine labour-employers relationships, conflict-solving mechanisms and finally the wage bargaining process.

Collective bargaining, in this case, brings undeniable benefits. The problem is not the institution, but the men (for trade unions are a very masculine environment) behind them. There is a great deal of corruption and inertia, all of which might -just might- fade away when the pressure for new leadership renewal becomes too much for the old power-brokers to step aside and stop eating their young. A generational gap, once a crippling handicap for unions and political parties might come in handy, solving at once incestuous relationship between party and union, as well as put an end to the corrupt environment where unions evolve. Transparency and Accountability are the watchword for the “Brothers” to heed.

History rather than Law: What needs to be Looked at in Reforming the Constitution

There are so many things to look at, and so little time to do them all.

The constitution embodies past (and present) historical balance of power; and, the way I see it, the 1996 Troïka (Ali Yata, Abderrahmane Youssoufi, M’hamed Boucetta) accepted the new constitution, and its ensuing political ‘Alternance‘ out of a sense of historical duty, that the text itself didn’t matter, and whatever roadblocks, they perceived some good faith from the dying late king Hassan II. Abdellah Ibrahim and Mohamed Bensaïd Aït idder, on the other hand, did not seem so sure or so well-disposed towards the Royal overture.

Hassan II managed a remarkable tour-de-force the 1996 Referendum, by splitting the Koutla over the issue

This might explain why Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires (USFP), Istiqlal (PI) and Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme (PPS) parties engaged enthusiastically in the ‘Yes’ Campaign for the 1996 referendum: after all, their leaders were all prestigious former resistants, statesmen and respected opposition politicians that put principles before interest.Of course, there was a whole-hearted concession that the 1996 constitution was not all that good, but the text didn’t matter much: there was a new alliance with the monarchy, one that is going to oversee transition; the so-called democratic process was going to be the brainchild of these founding fathers of Moroccan modern nationalism.

15 years on, these leaders, and their respective political structures have moved from a status of intellectual and alternative elite reserve, to that of fully-fledged government parties, house-trained to a man and blatantly stifling the very democratic principles they called upon as their ideal not so long time ago:

Istiqlal has never been such a party, and the Alterance Consensuelle did nothing but confirm this image of a mafia-like party, a bit opportunistic when it serves them well (let us remember they have been part of every government since 1977).Paradoxically, its permanent compromise made it look like ‘the natural party of government’, and many Istiqlal grandees were gob-smacked when they realized not enough departmental portfolios were allocated to them.

USFP leadership went against its party base feeling; not necessarily an intrinsic bad move, but did so by antagonising so many factions the party was on a split, and regular breakaways from then on delivered fatal blows amplified by its failure to deliver on their electoral promises.

As for the PPS, its intellectual status was gradually drained by the need to get as many parliamentary seats as possible, simply by endorsing local notables instead of lining up party activists for election.

This strategy also compromised the USFP over the intermediate run, but the PPS’s small intake made it quicker and more flagrant. Further more, the sudden death of Ali Yata, and Moulay Ismail Alaoui as party leader put the final nails on the party’s credibility. Eventually the Alternance Consensuelle did not work all that well, not even on the expected time frame; by 2002, electoral results, the ever-increasing royal intervention by means of non-governmental institutions and extra-constitutional tools, and the growing islamist threat (a threat that culminated with the 2003 bombings). This might explain why some USFP members (whether party grandees or ordinary activists) defend so staunchly their Alternance legacy. 6 years were enough to demonstrate that, while this unspoken pact worked more or less fine with the dying monarch, the age and experience discrepancy between the new King and his ageing Prime Minister and government, as well as the increasing difficulties the ruling coalition encountered, took the consensus to its fail-safe point, broke down and reverted back to the old ways.

That’s what we need: historians rather than constitutional law scholars. The trouble is, modern history has been literally confiscated by the monarchy -by using preposterous concepts like The King’s and People’s revolution, or myths like the Green March, while the Nationalist Parties built their own martyrdom out of their struggle for democracy. There’s a long way to go in order to allow for a fair perspective in historical research, a position until now filled with foreign scholarly work. It is quite disturbing that we need foreign historians and political scientists (bearing all respect due to their academic work and scholarly skills) to understand our institutions. Very few Moroccan nationals have managed to distinguish themselves, but unfortunately their voices are still to be heard.

This might be a way out for a genuine constitutional reform. There is a trade-off to be arbitraged: on the one hand, the monarchy will never allow, in view of the current balance of power, for a constitutional convention that would deliver an outcome the regime cannot predict (or ‘accommodate‘), on the other hand, an appointed commission has lost right from the start any genuine credibility (especially when connected with recent statements from the Ouléma islamic scholars, or the foreign minister’s declarations)  in putting forward sensible recommendations. So a compromise -over which I still have doubts not to be at fault with some professed principles- would be for the King to call upon not the political party leaders, but the intermediate, younger generation of party activists.

When the Koutla was still unified... (Credit to Larbi for the picture)

Outsiders that would have more political courage in speaking their minds. Alongside the political personnel, civil society, human and Amazigh rights activists should be called upon as well, a royal consultation as wide as possible, including the persona non grata Al Adl society. The ensuing constitution is not a boundary, but a frontier: in a pre-specified time frame, the very same gathering would come back with renewed grievances set to be the initial platform for a constitutional convention. Such process, thought lengthy and potential hazardous, has however some benefits: it avoids the monarchy a shameful abdication of powers, while it provides political forces and the civil society a run-up exercise to real power.

So history teaches us some valuable lessons on what ideal institutions Morocco needs: the Monarch ‘Reigns but doesn’t Rule’, A strong Prime Minister, a compact parliament and an independent judiciary.

– The Monarchy: in order to avoid the impact of regal personality, any powers the monarchy might possess should first be specified in minute details if necessary, and then curtailed by even more constraining constitutional dispositions. Never mind historical legitimacy; some sort of amnesty over concepts like “أمير المؤمنين”, hereditary rights are quite enough a symbol for state continuity. Does it sound un-islamic? Well, other contradictions spring to mind: the very concept of hereditary transmission of power, the confusion between Kingship title and the Kalifat, the twisted ritual of allegiance ” البيعة “… instances are numerous when it comes to question the very Islamic essence of the Moroccan monarchy. Since we have gone down the path of westernisation, why not go to the bottom of it, keep so fancy rituals and cast away any extra-constitutional powers the monarchy might derive from the Imarat?

Note that I don’t disagree with the idea of a Parliamentary Monarchy for Morocco. Let’s just say I am agnostic over the matter of specific political regime, with a default setting for a monarchical regime.

– The Prime Minister and their Government: I always like to say Morocco had only two strong Prime Ministers, Abdellah Ibrahim and Hassan II. Though the individual personality somewhat shapes a premiership -and the incumbent prime minister’s diffident personality only justifies the proposed changes- we need institutions that ensures a strong Premier position, closer to that of a German Bundeskanzeler(in) than it is to the French Prime Minister: the head of government is not only leader of a parliamentary majority, it is the working leader of the country (and effectively, co-head of state). The executive branch has extensive powers in law enforcement, though checks and balances will be introduced to ensure governmental doesn’t go off-course or wildly partisan.

My kind of Prime Minister: Strong-willed, principled... and a committed lefty

This is due to the fact that, historically, Moroccan government were -and still are- notoriously weak, either because of the parliamentary backing, or simply because the centre of power was localized somewhere else (i.e. the Monarchy).And when a genuinely democratic government wanted to do things, it could never have its ways, because extra-constitutional lobbies managed to ambush its projects with successful outcomes: between 1959 and 1960, Abdellah Ibrahim was constantly road-blocked by the then-crown prince Hassan and his chums (among which a former Istiqlal security minister Mohamed Laghzaoui, or the Crown Prince’s long-term favourite Ahmed Reda Guedira, or an even closer friend at the time, General Mohamed Oufkir). A similar pattern can be recorded with the Youssoufi early government when it wanted to implement reforms, but to no avail. A strong executive is thus necessary; one way to ensure such a transition is a transfer of Dahir executive powers from the monarchy to the Prime Minister: though it loses some of its powers as a document emanating from the head of the Islamic Community, the executive powers it retains are likely to be very useful to a strong Premier.

– Parliament: Though it is worth noting the main feature of weaknesses that blights the political spectrum is only of relatively recent origin, the inflation of political organization does not serve democracy well. It is true Morocco chose the path of diversity instead of a One Party rule -Istiqlal founding father Allal El Fassi famously once stated: ‘God Unified Morocco under One King, Mohammed V, and under one party, Istiqlal’- diversity served as a façade for local democracy more than anything else. On the other hand, when the new law on political organization was enacted, it has been skewed favourable toward existing large parties, not necessarily a good idea considering how their own internal democracy is defunct. And yet, we need a lower number of political parties in Morocco: 1 Conservative, 1 moderate Islamist, 1 Social-democrat, 1 far-left and a couple of Regional parties would be nice. Stronger government coalitions are usually built with large organizations instead of a motley of heterogeneous organizations, each pushing for a portfolio. A federal bicameral house can be a good compromise: the regional representatives can be part of smaller parties -that can afford only a regional base- and support governments closer to their ideological affinities, while federally-elected members of parliament would support nation-wide parties. The balance is thus preserved: we can afford to have a multitude of political parties, and those able to lift up from a regional level are the ones worthy of leading a federal government, alone or in coalitions.

Overall, parliamentary coalitions are likely to be stronger: first because the main motivation will not be that of a majority at all costs, but that of a homogeneous group. second, because a lower number of federally-represented parties allows for more clear-cut majorities, something Morocco hasn’t witnessed since the very first general elections in 1963.

– The Judiciary: it goes without saying courts and judges need to be entirely independent from the executive branch. In that spirit, I wouldn’t mind abolishing altogether the Justice Ministry. If government wants to prosecute or needs representation for justice proceedings, a general public prosecutor with a rank of secretary of state can do. Otherwise, the Judges’ corps should be entirely independent, appointed only by parliamentary confirmations.

The constitutional reform in Morocco needs to care more about past mistakes and try to scale monarchical powers back and revert them to the people’s representatives. The argument that political personnel is childish, corrupt and incompetent is idle, because the very same can equally be applied to the close circle of his Majesty’s advisers; The difference however, is such that when genuinely elected and accountable before the Moroccan public, the former can quickly adapt and eliminate its incompetent elements. The latter, not so much.