The Moorish Wanderer

Predictions for the 2016 Elections, Part.2

So a uniform swing across all 84 marginal constituencies does not change the picture that much: of the 305 seats, the ranking of the 8 largest parties that concentrate 94% of parliamentary, local ballot selected seats did not change but for two: Because it exhibits a larger than usual number of marginal seats, Istiqlal is bound to lose a net 6 seats, thus leaving RNI as second-in-command. PJD on the other hand, can expect to win a net additional 3 seats, still 65 seats shy of an absolute majority.

2011 and 2002 exhibit similar and almost coinciding density curves.

But this is a highly unlikely outcome, precisely because these swings are assumed to be uniformed: indeed, the discrepancies in voting results do point to heterogeneous outcomes, essentially due to the discrepancies in carried votes between the incumbent marginal and the potential challenger. Let me use an example to illustrate my point: the Speaker of the First Chamber, Karim Ghellab, represents a marginal – voted in with 4,789 votes, a long way behind PJD and UC, respectively 14,853 and 8,925 votes. The immediate competitor to Mr Ghellab is the MP list, with 2,735 votes. What is the probability, ceteris paribus, Mr Ghellab would lose his seat to the MP challenger in 2016?

Consider the party’s past electoral performance. Amazingly enough, Istiqlal’s vote distribution did not vary much if not at all between 2002 and 2011 (the density curves for 2002 and 2007 shows it on the graph). Therefore, it makes sense to assume Mr Ghellab’s margin can be computed in terms of probabilities. And this shows us he would keep his seat with a probability of 46.7%, with a vote tally fluctuating most likely between 3,976 and 5,841 votes, regardless of Mr Ghellab’s or the nationwide electoral performance, he needs to ensure a a marginal majority of 813 votes.

(incidentally, voter distribution per party or per seat exhibits very common forms, as various papers from academia[pdf] testify to that)

How about PJD’s six marginal constituencies? According to the averaged PJD past electoral performances since 2002, three of these are more likely to go over the edge to PJD’s local challenger, and one is a pure, statistical toss-up. This is moderate good news for PJD, because they are assured to keep a comfortable margin, provided 2016 Elections come with no exceptional events (the “Black Swan”) In fact, all three marginals have strictly positive likelihoods to swing against PJD incumbents, but three only of these lean toward PJD’s local challengers, and Laayun remains in a tie (a feat for maverick PJD considering the voting pattern down South)

Of the 6 marginals, PJD has a significant chance to lose three, and a fourth is nearly a toss-up

On the other hand, one could also look at the Head of Government’s own seat in Salé, and while it is by no means a marginal (M. Benkirane got 27,000 votes to a second with a little over 8,000) yet there is a positive (very low) likelihood of losing his seat: less than 3% – precisely because it would entail a huge swing, with a third of Salé voters going over to any challenger.

The Istiqlal party is a peculiar contender: though it ranks a distant second in electoral results, it has maintained its initial strength even as the party led a relatively unpopular government, and has been associated with all government coalitions at least since 1997. It is undoubtedly an establishment party. Yet for its formidable 60-members strong caucus, many of those have been elected on razor-thin margins in very competitive districts, and the Istiqlali challengers have not been numerous enough to make up for the endangered seats. All in all, Istiqlal could well expect a net loss of 6 seats.

The party with the most interesting marginal record is undoubtedly Istiqlal, first, because they have the largest number of marginals, and second, because their electoral performance per district did not change over the years (a remarkable stability given its Establishment status) the odds for and against voter swing in PI-held seats is the perfect case study for the proposed method. As one can see, the initial assumption of a uniform swing across all marginals was unrealistic. By that account, Istiqlal was to expect to net a loss of 6 seats. But now, and according to the computed probabilities, Istiqlal can expect – again, ceteris paribus, to lose only 4 seats, with one is a small district where lopsided swings are expected and observed, and four others with moderate loss expectations. Assouerd is a peculiar seat, because a 200 voter switch is a dead heat, 600 is a landslide (respectively 4.3% and 13% swing)

Aousserd is very competitive, the high likelihood of part swing is due to the small constituency to start with.

Can this set-up deliver reliable results for marginals as well as ‘safe’ districts? The Tangier by-election provides good case study (given the fact polls do not curry favour with our esteemed representatives[pdf]) the model tells PJD was strongly favoured to retain all its Tangier seats, since the probability of losing its majority is so small it is not even statistically significant (larger than 99%) but on the other hand, the model predicts it may lose 12,500 votes (but this is probably due to the fact that Tangier district is a PJD stronghold, and their maximum voter reserve has been reached) so even if it retains its majority almost certainly (and it did) it was expected to lose some votes. The actual results show PJD lost 16,200 votes – a figure statistically close (well within the margin of error) to the projected 12,500 synthetic potential loss.

Howe about the other competitors for the Tangier district representatives? According to their respective results, PAM was the marginal representative, with a potential risk of losing it to UC, with a probability of 17%. So actually, PAM’s marginal Tangier seat was relatively safe, with expected losses of no more than 1,730 votes – it turns out PAM lost only 300-odd votes. The actual loser in this Tangier recall election was RNI, even though it was not a marginal (yet exhibited a loss probability of 9.7%) yet it failed to carry any vote. The model predicted PAM could lose to UC, but since RNI did not get any votes, UC candidate list simply filled in.

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.