Categorized | South Asian Politics

Move Towards Elections

Posted on 28 February 2013 by admin

       Dr. Hasan Askari

 The doubts about the holding of the general elections are over now. The dismissal of Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s request for the dissolution of the Election Commission by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has set aside the major threat of delay of the elections. The military top leadership also expressed its support to the holding of the elections on time in a statement issued on February 21. It also rejected the impression widely shared in the political circles that the military wanted to set up a technocratic setup for an extended period. Some circles were arguing that the sectarian killings of the Hazara in Quetta and other sectarian attacks or killings in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and interior Sindh aimed at causing uncertainty to delay the elections. Now, all this speculative reports have been set aside and all politically active circles have realized that the elections are coming. If there is strong violence in some constituency for any reason in the course of the elections the polling can be postponed in that particular constituency or if the polling is disputed due to violence, re-polling can take place later. Rest of the country can have elections on time.

  The political parties are now taking initial steps for preparing themselves for the elections. The decision of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on February 16 to withdraw from its partnership in power with the PPP and quit the federal and the Sindh provincial governments can be explained in the context of the forthcoming elections.

 The MQM has its secure constituencies in urban Sindh, especially in Karachi and Hyderabad, with huge concentration of Urdu-speaking populace. It does not need any political party’s support to win in these constituencies. Now, being the single largest party in the Sindh Assembly, its leader has become the leader of opposition in the provincial assembly. This gives the MQM a role in deciding about the caretaker chief minister for Sindh in consultation of the PPP chief minister.

 The MQM will be free to negotiate partnership with any party that gets the highest seats in the National Assembly in the elections for the formation of the federal government. In case the PPP does not sustain its position of having the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, the MQM will be free to negotiate a deal for partnership with the PMLN or any another party that leads the new coalition government.

 The PPP had passed a law to establish a dual local government system in Sindh in September 2012 on the demand of the MQM. This alienated a good number of political circles in interior Sindh because they were opposed to the dual local government system. This encouraged the Sindhi nationalist groups, the Muslim League led by the Pir of Pagaro and the PML Nawaz Sharif to make an attempt to win over the political activists alienated from the PPP. After the MQM ended its partnership with the PPP, the latter abolished the dual local government system on February 21 and reintroduced the modified version of the 1979 local government law that was favored by Sindhi groups and parties. This change is going to enable the PPP to win-back those in interior Sindh who were unhappy with the PPP for introducing dual system of local government.

 Some Islamic parties have created electoral alliances and partnerships with the hope that they perform as good as these did in the 2002 elections. There are no signs that their dream can realize in the forthcoming election.

  A number of political leaders are shifting from one party to another mainly to counter the possibility of being dropped by their original party from nomination as the party’s candidate for the elections. At times, these shiftings take place because of local factionalism. If one faction in the party gets an upper hand in electoral politics, the rival faction may (not always) decide to move to another party.

  In the Punjab, the PMLN continues to sustain its leading position and the recent defections from the PPP have been a morale booster for the party. The PPP is struggling hard to overcome its leadership crisis in the Punjab which has caused mobilization problem in and outside the party. It can benefit from fact that a large number of political parties with Islamic and Right wing political orientations are competing with one another. These include various Islamic parties, Tehrik-i-Insaf and different factions of Pakistan Muslim League. If Dr. Tahirul Qadri decides to enter the elections by activating Pakistan Awami Tehrik, this will be another entry to the above category. To the PPP advantage, Dr. Qadri’s party is expected to adopt anti PMLN disposition.

 The PPP is hoping the competition among the Islamist and the right wing political parties would give it an advantage. Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf is expected to cause more vote losses to PMLN than the PPP. The Tehrik-i-Insaf’s political fortune has decline over the last six months. It is expected to be present in the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly. However, it is not expected to displace the two leading political parties which are the PPP and the PMLN.

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