# 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.

## Elections, Vote Spread and District Representation

Posted in Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan History & Sociology, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on October 19, 2012

The post was going to be about yet another (boring) summary of parliamentary politics, supplemented perhaps with equally boring statistics about why opposition parties find it so though to get a majority, regardless of institutional motives. My assumption about the whole thing in Moroccan politics is that institutional barriers – corruption, gerrymandering the historical tampering of the Ministry of Interior in each and every election up to, say 2002, are secondary to statistical realities.

First off, consider the number of invalidated ballots between 1963 and 2011, both in absolute terms and relative to valid ballots. It went from 3.67% in 1963, to 24.4% in 2011. The last Tangier By-election produced a little over 26% of invalidated ballots. Nonetheless, I for one would buy into the ‘nihilist’ viewpoint on turnout and invalidated ballots: by every measure of vote dispersion, these have proven to be potential vote winners, ‘King-makers’ as a matter of fact.

Multipartism hurts strong majorities: between 1997 and 2007, spread votes (the percentage of invalidated ballots relative to votes’ dispersion normalised to the number of competing parties) increased significantly, and could have been higher if more political parties participated in the 2011 Elections.

Let me explain: in all the ballot systems the Moroccan elections tried over the past half a century, the common element was for a candidate (or a list of candidates) to get most votes, but also to make their margin is large enough. Roughly speaking, Block Vote, Party Block Vote and Proportional Representation are conditioned on four factors: the winning majority, the margin with respect to the second candidate, the minor’s performance, i.e. the closest contender to the electoral threshold, and finally the number of competing candidates.

The two last factors seem contradictory, but in most districts, the cumulative share of ultra-minor parties (those with less than 6% of the total vote) is close to or larger than the candidate list with a plurality of votes. To sum up, the politics of legislative elections between large and small parties is that of a zero-sum game. Every vote cast in favour of small candidate lists tend to increase voter dispersion, and deprive larger, national parties from getting a seat on the margin, especially so when the competing lists have some ideological affinities.

Consider the first general election of 1963: Invalidated votes could have bridged about a third of aggregate dispersion of electoral votes.

In 5 provinces, these votes could have decided between the contenders, meaning the election was close enough for the invalidated ballots to matter: these provinces accounted for 31 seats out of 144 in the new Parliament, and could have delivered an absolute majority to a UNFP-Istiqlal coalition, or indeed consolidate FDIC’s own plurality. And there goes my argument: aside from gerrymandering, voter intimidation and disenfranchisement, the surest way to ‘control’ the outcome of an election at the local level remains more effective, more discrete and less controversial than any other strategy to manipulate elections. After all, representatives of Interior are registrars in all polling stations, and depending on the district, they have the final say as to how a ballot should be examined. If anything, there goes hard proof of election meddling: exceptionally high percentages of invalidated votes can be reasonably considered to be an indicator.

There is an ever more insidious way to manipulate elections, and it has shown its effectiveness in 2002: there were about 26 parties competing for 295 seats on local ballot, and as a result, the dispersion of votes increased, rendering invalidated votes even more important in determining the winner of a closely (and bitterly, like the Rabat 2007 Election) contested election. The 2002 Election outcome was perhaps the best argument for election reforms. Speaking of which, I have found some interesting results as to how the number of seats should be allocated, given some nation-wide indicators.

It is pretty much a given to allocate the most populated districts with the largest number of seats. Yet there are some instances where small districts get about the same number of seats than those in metropolitan areas. Consider Azilal and El-Jadida districts: both have been allocated 6 seats each, yet El Jadida has twice as many registered voters. Same goes for Oued-Dahab (registered population: 19,000) with two seats, same as Tata (registered population: 60,000). So the proposed idea is to get rid of arbitrary distribution of seats, and instead use the nation-wide distribution to get a standard figure per seat: 43,000 votes per seat (plus or minus 139 votes). Assuming a fixed minimum number of seats per district (there are about 16 districts out of 92 with a registered population of less than 43,000) the number of representatives elected on local ballot can be brought down to 282 or 289 (depending on the minimum number of seats)

``` Local  |Votes/|Min |Max |Spread|Seats|
--------+------+----+----+------+-----|
Existing|43,847|  2 |  9 |18,626| 305 |
--------+------+----+----+------+-----|
Option 1|43,391|  1 | 10 | 139  | 282 |
--------+------+----+----+------+-----|
Option 2|43,391|  2 | 10 | 139  | 289 |
--------------------------------------```

In electoral terms, this means 34 seats are going to be deflated to 16, so as to get near-commensurate representation.

As it happens, these changes have a net neutral effect on the largest parties’ electoral advantages – this is particularly true given the fact that most gains are centered around the Souss-Massa, Tansift-Haouz and Doukkala regions, all of which have a relatively homogeneous representation in Parliament (most of the big political parties have at least one representative from their districts) yet the changes operated prior to the general election last year were modest.

As one looks upon the districts with most losses, those in the South for instance, their over-representation is tightly linked to their turnout: Taounate had a 45% turnout and Azilal a little under 70%. As for the Southern districts, their average turnout was around 62%. So this is perhaps the internal logic to the distribution of seats per district: those regions with higher turnouts tend to be allocated disproportionately larger number of seats, even as their populations (registered or otherwise) are smaller than nationwide means. A rational politician (and Istiqlal, USFP and RNI have been quite clever at this) do their best to control these districts – because they get seats with a minimal number of votes.

There are 55 seats eliminated from 38 districts, and 32 seats added to 22 districts.

## Lower The Age Vote to 16 – Why It Could Bolster Turnout over the Long Run

Posted in Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan History & Sociology, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on March 8, 2012

Vote at 16. Why not?

I guess the first counter-argument goes on how critical these new electors can be on the overall turnout. What if in spite of this new enfranchised population, turnout was still low? Well, we can always run the numbers and prove that an election does not need to carry more than 51% of total votes to be popular. I posted on it a couple of months ago, but we can go over it once more: the present system both restricts and allows for an absolute majority with fewer votes.

Computations assume full turnout, full registration of all Moroccan adults per HCP estimates.

In fact, the computations hold even as the current district boundaries allow for significant discrepancies between allocated seats and its demographic size: Tan-Tan has a population of 70,000 including 40,000 adults and gets 2 seats. Mohammedia has 3 seats even though is has a population of 321,000 including 200,000 adults. Mohammedia has one additional seat even though its adult population is five time that of Tan-Tan. Obviously,  a candidate in the former needs only 18,000 votes to gain a slot, 37,000 to carry both. A Mohammedia candidate needs to carry 62,000 for one seat, and 188,000 for their ballot list to carry the whole district. Volatility around the nationwide 28,700 mean does not, however, preclude, at least on paper, the possibility of one party, or a smaller pre-electoral coalition, to carry an absolute majority at Parliament House.

If 20% of all Moroccan adults alone, under the assumption of full turnout, can provide enough votes for a strong majority, there is little to fear from expanding the size of this electorate. In fact, it brings 1.8 Million additional voters, and as it may please sceptics, their relative weight will tend to decrease, from 7.56% of the new total electorate in 2012, to 6.7% of the potential 2016 electorate, an annual average demographic decline of  0.9%. It is quite obvious that their immediate impact in terms of a first-time ‘protest vote’ is quite harmless, since their weight is dangerously close to the 6% threshold. Unless they can mobilize more enthusiastically and make up for a low turnout from other demographic populations. And the whole idea gambled upon is to boost turnout over the years young 16 years-old go to polling stations. Studies show the younger generation is keener to get involved in civic activities, and lower the mandatory age for voting rights can influence this civic enthusiasm to political activism.

Are political parties interested in disenfranchising electors? It seems not. As a matter of fact, they would fight it with all the energy their special interests can summon; most parties do not have active youth organizations, and those who do are often at loggerheads with youthful rivals to an otherwise political gerontocracy. Yet it would serve a lot the political mainstream to mobilize young people very early on; they can build on some strong support that can carry them across elections, a readily available stock of grass-roots activists, and perhaps more ambitiously, to hand-pick early on potential leaders – that is when our political leaders finally come to the conclusion they are not immortals, and their heirs need not be systematically with biological ties.

While 16 years-old can be allowed to vote, can they also stand as candidates? Well, if the case for the voting right gets its point across to the public opinion, I suppose there is little to prevent it as well. After all, the books of law do not explain why the age of 18 was arbitrarily selected, do they?

## Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.14

Posted in Flash News, Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccanology, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on November 6, 2011

There are going to be 13,626,357 registered voters going (or not) to the polls; since the last parliamentary 2007 elections, some 1,836,005 voters have vanished away from the then 15,462,362 registered voters. This post will try to find out what happened.

How can a Moroccan citizen lose the right to vote? Short of dying or serving a prison sentence, there are very few ways a Moroccan citizen would be denied registration. In fact, those cases where registered voters have to undergo some administrative changes have been listed in a communiqué from the Interior Ministry:

### أما بخصوص التشطيبات التي باشرتها اللجان المذكورة، تنفيذا لأحكام القانون المنظم لعملية تجديد اللوائح الانتخابية العامة، فقد بلغت في المجموع 694.594 شطبا، منها 284.360 تهم حالات نقل التسجيل، و136.718 تهم الأشخاص الذين تأكد للجنة المختصة أنهم لا يستوفون شرط الإقامة الفعلية بتراب الجماعة أو المقاطعة، و95.704 تتعلق بعدم إثبات الأشخاص المعنيين بالأمر لهويتهم استنادا إلى بطائقهم الوطنية للتعريف، و63.740 تهم حالات الوفيات، و60.578 تتعلق بحالات فقدان الأهلية الانتخابية، و53.374 تتعلق بالتسجيلات المتكررة، إضافة إلى 120 حالة شطب استنادا إلى أحكام قضائية.

Those changes that actually reduce the number of registered voters are those unable to produce compelling ID documents (95,000) those who passed away (63,000) and those ex-voters who lost the right to vote (60,000). The other cases only re-arrange the total electoral corps. These changes, incidentally, are relative to the last time Electoral lists have been updated, and that was on May and June 2011, prior to the July Constitutional Referendum.

18-35 make up the bulk of total voters. But where are the first-time voters?

The communiqué boasts an additional 1,214,003 new registered voters, but one needs to take into account those crossed off the electoral list, which means that the actual new batch of fresh registered voters is only 519,409 and the sad news is, that’s roughly the number of voters PJD candidates got in 2007. More saddening is the fact that out of 21,586,000 adults (according to HCP computations) only 13 Million will be allowed to vote: more than a third of eligible Moroccans will not vote, and that alone says it all: our fellow citizens are not interested in national politics. While it might be true that 56% of those voters are less than 35years-old, it does not provide enough insight of how many of those first-time voters (specifically the 18-25 bandwidth) make up; more specifically, how many of the 4,453,000 young, first-time voters Moroccans are registered in these 7Mln?

With these figures at hand, I have to admit all those computations and speculations about the Youth vote, the Turnout and related indicators have been built out of thin air, and therefore lose all meaningful purpose, just like the next elections; this is the defeat of political activism on behalf of all political blocs before political apathy: Feb20 activists failed to enlist Moroccans in their struggle for democracy and their challenge to the regime; Officials failed to convince Moroccans to register en masse and thus buttress the claim these elections will have granite-solid legitimacy, and finally, political parties who did not seem interested in widening their popular base, and instead went for knifing each others – like in this unfortunate video where a petulant Benkirane blows off unnecessarily:

This still does not explain how 1.8Mln voters vanished away from the registrars’ books, but it rather points out the way to explain it: fewer young voters are making up for the elderly -necessarily registered- who pass away. It is a known fact older people have higher registration rates; as reported by the RDH50 Report. While this does not show political apathy per se, it does however stress the lack of confidence partisan politicians enjoy among that population, one that makes up for 1/3 of total population.

The same HCP projections show that adult population aged less than 60 increased 1.4Mln between 2007 and 2011. The elderly population (60 and above) on the other hand, increases some 282,000, and among those aged 65 and above only 100,000. In other terms, the population that expericenced high levels of registration (a 60years-old Moroccan would have been a registered voter in 1972 with a much higher proportion back then) is giving way to one wtih much lower registration rates; indeed, while the elderly scored a 11% increase, the number of first-time voters (the 18-25 interval) managed only a third of this growth rate; so the replacement ratio, so to speak, does not apply; even under the most optimistic projections, only one out of three old voters is replaced at the other end of the age spectrum; When the mortality rate (around 120 per 1,000 adult) is computed on the elderly population (around 300,000) we can account for 1.2Mln out of the missing 1.8Mln. The rest being mainly split across population deprived from civil rights (with a prison population standing around 63,000 according to reports) and the migration effects.

But one can be sure of it: the decline in the electoral corps is due to the non-replacement of old voters by the new generation; While it is true those born after 1975 make up half of total voters, those born in the 1980-1990s did not register in commensurate proportions to make up for demographic decline, and they certainly did not register in large numbers enough to match the adult population.

## What’s Next?

Posted in Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on July 15, 2011

Jed Bartlet‘s favourite catchphrase applies fully to the post-referendum environment in Morocco. Both domestically and abroad, Makhzen authorities have reasserted their strength and mastery of the national political agenda. I will certainly have an opportunity to go back on more details regarding the turnout, its geographical distribution and how its significance is more important as a symbol than their intrinsic levels.

First off, let us have a look at the various feedbacks to our Basri-era phenomenal figure of 73.46% and:

Rabat – Le nombre des votants qui se sont prononcés en faveur du projet de nouvelle constitution a atteint 9.653.492, soit 98,50 pc, selon les résultats provisoires du référendum constitutionnel du vendredi, a indiqué, samedi, le ministre de l’Intérieur, M. Taieb cherqaoui. […] Selon les résultats provisoires du référendum tel que proclamés par les 39.969 bureaux de vote mis en place sur l’ensemble du territoire national, le nombre des inscrits a été de 13.451.404 électeurs, dont 9.881.922 votants, soit un taux de participation de 73,46 pc, a ajouté le ministre. (MAP Communiqué)

— Rabat. the total number of voters supporting the new draft constitution amounted to 9,653,492, i.e. 98.5% following provisional results from Referendum Day held on Friday. Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui announced on Saturday. […] provisional results are proclaimed accross the 39.969 polling stations spread across the nation. Total number of voters amounted to 13,451,404 among which 9,881,922 showed up, reaching a turnout of 73.46%

“Selon les résultats partiels donnés par le Ministère de l’intérieur marocain, le pourcentage des votants qui se sont prononcés en faveur du projet de nouvelle constitution a été de 98,49 pour cent des personnes inscrites sur les listes électorales. Le nombre des votants s’est élevé à 9.228.020, soit un taux de participation de 72,65 pour cent.

Nous devons bien entendu attendre les chiffres définitifs, mais il apparait d’ores et déjà que le peuple marocain a pris une décision claire et historique. […] La révision de la constitution a été conduite à partir de consultations étendues, associant tous les partis politiques, les syndicats et une large palette de représentants de la société civile.

Nous saluons la forte participation du peuple marocain à ce référendum. Elle a donné lieu à des débats animés et substantiels, reflétés dans les médias et notamment sur internet.[…]La France se tient naturellement aux cotés du Maroc pour l’accompagner dans cette nouvelle ère et forme des vœux pour que la mise en œuvre de cette nouvelle constitution s’accompagne de nouveaux progrès et de nouvelles réussites.”

As for the United States State Department, the language was equally praising and very supportive of the Referendum, but more cautious and overall non-committal to the whole process, indeed:

The United States welcomes Morocco’s July 1 constitutional referendum. We support the Moroccan people and leaders in their efforts to strengthen the rule of law, raise human rights standards, promote good governance, and work toward long-term democratic reform that incorporates checks and balances. We look forward to the full implementation of the new constitution as a step toward the fulfilment of the aspirations and rights of all Moroccans.

Short, succinct and positively abstract. The State Department commits to nothing and keeps its options open.

Finally, the European Union press release doesn’t deviate from the quasi-unanimous praises of our referendum:

“We welcome the positive outcome of the referendum on the new Constitution in Morocco and commend the peaceful and democratic spirit surrounding the vote,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and neighbourhood policy commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a joint statement. […]

“The reforms proposed in it constitute a significant response to the legitimate aspirations of the Moroccan people and are consistent with Morocco’s Advanced Status with the EU,” the said. “Now we encourage the swift and effective implementation of this reform agenda,” the statement said.

[…] “The European Union is ready to fully support Morocco in this endeavour.”

So in diplomatic terms, our significant partners are basically accepting the result, and this international support -some might consider it to be a blank check- makes the regime more secure and confirms its hegemony over the Moroccan political discourse.

"How on earth did they manage such a score?"

This is even more obvious domestically: even though charges of ballot-stuffing and incoherent figures tarnished the referendum’s credibility, lambda Moroccans will not gainsay the result. The typical Moroccan voter (Male, Father of three children and living in a rural or sub-urban area) is more than likely to have voted for the constitution, not because what they would have read was interesting and appealing to their grievances, but because of multifarious factors: their social environment does not allow for criticism, individual decision-making or the use of Cartesian logics. Do I sound elitist and full of contempt? Perhaps I do. But the figures speak for themselves: the highest turnout figures were recorded in regions like Oued Ed-Dahab-Lagouira (92.19%) Guelmim-Es Smara (86.76%) Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia el Hamra (84.05%) and Doukkala-Abda (80.06%) All three regions are very tribal, and rely heavily on Makhzen administration for favours and other privileges, thus the higher outcome compared to national turnout. Conversely, low turnout in Casablanca and Rabat (respectively 57.17% and 72.39%) are thus because of its more individualistic, or shall we say more community-oriented settings, plus local administration has less leverage over its denizens, and so less likely to persuade them to vote (one way or the other).

The pro-democracy platform needs to pack up and look for new issues to campaign on, simply because the showdown that took place ever since February 20th is coming to an end, and not the movement’s advantage. The referendum might have been fixed, perhaps there will never be a solid body of evidence to suggest a nation-wide ballot-stuffing, and the absence of impartial scrutiny has a lot to do with it -perhaps if the retained option was a No-vote instead of an all-out boycott, there would have been some civic control over referendum proceedings. Furthermore, and because of the comparatively few people who took to the streets last week and today only confirm Moroccan apathy -and implicit acceptance- towards the referendum results.

The whiff of fresh air brought by the Feb20 demonstrations into the hermetical Moroccan political house, it seems, is losing speed. The long overdue New Politics many of us have been awaiting is yet again postponed to an unspecified date. Subsequently, there is a need to turn the public’s attention to more relevant issues: the national economy and the economics of national debt; the crumbling standards in public sector departments like Health and Education. More down to earth, issues that matter to the public are few and pressing: employment, standards of living and education for the future generations.

Paradoxically, these are the issues that explain the already existing and dangerously exacerbated social tensions between the haves and havenots. In between, our very own “squeezed middle” are the ones paying for these tensions, whether in demonstrations or just as a scapegoat for social resentment. I wish there was some sociological review of Feb20 prominent members; I would bet good money that many of these are of Middle-Class background, and those attacking them -the so-called “Baltagyas”- are from lower income and social classes. In any case, waging a political agenda does not seem to gather a lot of durable support, and that is why something else needs to be done.

Constitutional reforms can no longer be used as flag to rally dissatisfied individuals and communities. Rather, a more down-to-earth set of agenda focused on these immediate needs can win favours and support to build on more political and strategic grievances later on.