The Moorish Wanderer

By-elections: a Case Study

This is a great opportunity for me to apply some of the computations I have elaborated on when I started to lay out the 2016 electoral map.

Al Ahdath Newspaper mentioned 12 seats (from 10 districts) where up for a by-election by next week, and I cannot find all of these, as I have managed only 7, and 2 others I am not sure are indeed contested as well (both PJD). Or perhaps the 12 seats mentioned comprise also those in Tangier-Assilah and an additional seat in Marrakesh-Menara:

909/2012 PPS – Youssoufia

908/2012 PI – Sidi Kacem

907/2012 PA – Azilal-Demnate

906/2012 UC – Settat

905/2012 MP – Moulay Yacoub

888/2012 MDS – Chichaoua

878/2012 USFP – Inzegane Aït Melloul

858/2012 PJD – Hay Hassani

898/2012 PJD – Menara

As I have mentioned several times before, many parties have ‘marginal seats’, i.e seats with barely enough votes to cross the minimum electoral coefficient. And these are more likely than others to fall next election. And as it happens, a couple of these are in play: UC, PA, USFP and PPS could lose their seats with a few hundred votes. But, having a marginal doesn’t translate into a higher probability of losing the seat. Indeed, the following probabilities computed on the basis of each party’s past electoral performance show this is not systematic.

Union Constitutionelle member of parliament Abdellatif Mirdas  for Sidi Kacem, whose seat will be contested is a good example to illustrate my point. He has managed to get a little under 6,000 votes and was subsequently the bottom of the list, very close indeed to the 6% threshold (about 4,800 votes) and his local electoral performance was by any measure a very good one for his party. Yet for this by-election, his majority is very slim indeed. Assuming a turnout similar to 2012, he has an 85.58% chance of losing his seat; roughly the same likelihood of not making it to the 6% threshold. This is not a very informative probability because it is unconditional on the district itself; so there is a need to normalize this probability with local turnout, and how close the party candidate is to the 6% threshold. Adjusting for these elements, UC has therefore a little under 70% chance of losing the seat.

I would suggest this method is naïve Bayesian actually: the probability \mathbb{P}(V_t<V) denotes the probability of getting at most the same number of votes they have got in 2011. It is then finessed by taking into account local factors, and then conditioned (rather than just observed) on past electoral performance, local 6% threshold, turnout, etc: \mathbb{P}_j(V_t|V_{t-1})=\prod_{i=1}^{n}\mathbb{P}_{i,j}(N_{t,i}|\{N_{t-k,i}\}_{k=K}^{0})

The table below uses these computations for the three other parties, although the results for PA and MDS are not as statistically significant as I would like them to be, but it seems many of these seats are going to be very competitive, and many are very likely to change hands. I have also used the same method to compute the likelihood of the other parties whose seats are not marginals, with some tweaking, mainly by normalizing probability to present turnout and when applicable, threshold effect per seat.


Whatever the end result, there will be no big change in parliamentary caucuses – not the largest caucuses, any way. On the other hand, there is good evidence to suggest competitive by-elections in perhaps all but one district (MP- Moulay Yacoub) I will fire off a next blogpost offering some insight as to which parties enjoy the largest probabilities of carrying these seats.

Tangier By-Election

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on October 8, 2012

So results from the Tangier and Marrakesh by-elections are up; PJD holds on to these, but the 25/11 effect has most likely waned out.

First off, let us just make sure to point out some summary statistics about the Tangiers-Assilah district; there are 407,042 eligible adults for registration (computed from the 2004 Census) and only 269,000 to 299,000 registered voters. When it comes to the overall weight the PJD vote carries up North, about 1 adult in 9 voted PJD in November, and only 1 in 15 during this by-election. So clearly, just as it was the case for last November 25th, actual majority votes are not registered anywhere, and certainly not in the Tangier-Tetuan region.

These figures are too aggregated to allow for any meaningful, detailed analysis of the local political landscape, and certainly are not detailed enough to provide input for a ‘mid-term’ assessment of PJD’s electoral popularity; yet it looks as though this is some high watermark many observers have been looking for, though I would wait for the local elections (presumably scheduled for 2013) to make that judgement; but from what looks to be final results, there has been a swing of 15% against PJD and in favour of its nearest competitor. In absolute terms, while PJD maintains its hegemony as the main party, its lead over the second competitor narrows down from 33,000 to 14,800 – though there has been a swap between UC and PAM. In terms of electoral coefficient, the swing has been weakly more moderate – about 12.5%, which translated into losing one seat, thus gaining only two of the three opened slots.

In absolute numbers, PJD has undoubtedly lost votes: they had 43,000 in 2011, now they managed only 26,000. In relative contribution to turnout decline, smaller and other non-competing parties account for almost half the 41,030 shortfall in voters; on the other hand, PJD’s own vote decline accounts for 40%; when only those parties with more than 6% threshold are considered, about 84% of the overall turnout decline can be attributed to the sole PJD electoral performance. In short, this means the fall in turnout from last year is due to disaffected PJD supporters, who did not bother to turnout to polling station.

A lower 6% threshold should have guaranteed all seats for PJD, but because their turnout was weaker than aggregate results, they failed to do so.

One last comment: because smaller parties decided to get out of the race this year, the competition over the district suddenly the relative performances of the main parties (PJD, UC, PAM) becomes more prominent, as measures of concentration attest to that. It is getting less competitive in terms of number of competing parties, but the margin of victory (so to speak) has significantly narrowed for PJD in a reputed stronghold.


Glimpses of Morocco’s History Vol. 3

March 30th is only days away. March 30th, 1912, a rainy and sad day, Imperial Sultan Moulay Abdelhafid signed the Fes Treaty, thereby abdicating Morocco’s sovereignty to France and to Spain. Immediately after word has it the Sultan, ‘أمير المؤمنين’, the First Imam, sold the country to the Christians. neighbouring tribes rebelled and marched on Fès, where the few European residents were massacred by the local populace. The soon-to-be Résident Général, Gen. H. Lyautey, directed a column to break the encirclement and free the city.

Who signed the Treaty? Who Sold Morocco? Who is a Traitor to the Nation? (Picture Wikipedia)

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the treaty a representative of the Alaouite family signed -in exchange of 40.000 pounds. Judas Iscariot sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, so obviously Morocco is a bit above the going rate (and modern valuation techniques were not fashionable at the time). I wonder whether some kind of celebration will be organized; Remember the pompous celebration of Fès‘ 1200th birthday, preposterously portrayed as ‘1200 years of Moroccan history‘, as if nothing happened before, or simply as if Morocco did not exist before Idriss 1st had Fès built in 808, or as if nothing existed before Okba Ibn Nafii conquered the Far-West (المغرب الأقصى).

In view of obvious facts however, especially those documented by other sources, bending history is no longer viable, and again, I wonder how things are going to be spun, especially when one considers that Sultan Abdelhafid is directly related to Hassan II  (as in his Great-Uncle) So when Moncef –it’s high time you packed up and got the hell out of your ministry– Belkhayat starts accusing people of High Treason, I would suggest he takes a closer look to pre-1912 history before he starts sprouting his baseless accusations.

I apologize for the heinous introduction. That’s because I can’t stand the Makhzen myths (and take great pleasure in challenging them)

Morocco in 1912 was less a country than a formal sovereign entity: large parts of its territory was De Facto occupied by both France and Spain, and Tangier was already an international city, with delegations -and their ‘protected’ enjoying total impunity from a Makhzen shadow of its former self. Historians like to date back this Götterdämmerung of sorts to the death of Hassan Ist (1894). Court intrigue and a youthful successor did nothing but exacerbate colonial appetites over Morocco: the French and Spanish of course, but the British were still considering their chances as well, and the Germans too thought of Morocco as their first attempt to build an overseas colonial empire. If anything, Morocco was, in its own right, the next Sick Man of North Africa (after Tunisia in 1883). These tumultuous circumstances saw the enthronement of Moulay Abdelhafid (after an ambivalent, even murderous, interregnum) on the condition that He, defender of the Moroccan Umma, denounces all past signed treaties with the Christian nations, re-affirm the Imperial sovereignty over contumacious tribes and gain back those territories the French and Spanish expeditionary forces have occupied. He was preferred over his brother Moulay Abdelaziz for his supposed piety and orthodoxy. He was confirmed as the new Sultan by Fès’ scholars, and:

‘Fez accepted him as Sultan, on the distinct condition that the city was to be exempted from all taxation. This His Majesty solemnly promised and he kept his promise for a few weeks, until, in fact, he was strong enough to break it and then he collected taxes, legal and illegal [Note: The Maks was considered un-Islamic, hence its status as illegal tax], with gusto never before experienced’. (W. Harris, Morocco That Was)

Later on however, he realized the Imperial treasure was empty, and perspective of levying new taxes, or even collecting taxes were bleak, as effective Imperial authority was limited to the few kilometres surrounding some urban centres. Moulay Abdelhafid started his bid for power, but soon realized he was as powerless as his brother before the tribes and the western powers.

Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey

Maréchal De France, Hubert Lyautey, Pacifier of Morocco, first "Résident-Général" Image via Wikipedia

The reason why the old Imperial authority died away so rapidly was mainly due to the its foundation on the religious prestige of its rulers (Sultans direct descendent of the Prophet)as well as Morocco’s isolation, and fanaticism of its people (and the ensuing repression in tax collecting Harkas) postponed the inevitable and kept a certain degree of independence. Now that money could not be levied and troops not paid, tribes and zawyas could riot and declare autonomy from the Makhzen authorities, while French troops steadily progressed accros the desert from the South, and in 1907, from the Eastern border. Now, the main argument regularly invoked to justify the treaty was that ‘it held Morocco together’. This statement overlooks the fact that Morocco as a sovereign entity was a purely nominal concept: true the Imperial Court and its protocol were upheld, and ambassadors paid their respect in Fès -and later on, in Rabat- to the Sultan. Other than that, real power, the violent exaction of taxes on the Moroccan nations, the only real symbol that asserts Imperial sovereignty, disappeared De Facto, and with Western occupation, De Jure as well.

The newly appointed Resident-General Hubert Lyautey, accompanied by French minister Henri Regnault proposed to the Sultan a deal, whereby his nominal authority would be preserved, or as it will come to be known, ‘protected’, in exchange of an explicit recognition of France’s and Spain’s rights over Morocco. The recognition was to be formalized in a treaty, presented March 13th, effectively signed March 30th in the Imperial palace at Fès.

Obediently, the Sultan succumbed, but the protectorate [did not] resemble […] the British veiled protectorate in Egypt that would have granted the Makhzen autonomy in areas like Justice and Administration, but the French protectorate in Tunisia, where the Bey was reduced to a cypher. (C.R. Pennell, ‘Morocco Since 1830, NYU Press. 2000)

Why, in light of the above-described circumstances, did Sultan Abdelhafid signed the treaty? Why did he sign his abdication act? ‘the official document of abdication was handed over. In return he received a cheque of 40,000, the last instalment of the agreed sum of money which the new Protectorate Government of Morocco had undertaken to pay him.‘ (Harris, 1921). Isn’t that a wilful treason, selling His throne and Morocco in exchange of an estate in Tangier and a pile of Cash? A lucid observer can conclude the Sultan signed the treaty to protect the Throne, and not Morocco.

How is that for ‘The Glorious Sherifians Throne’ ?