Categorized | South Asian Politics

‘Stealing of Electoral Mandate’

Posted on 29 May 2013 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

Lahore

 The 10th general elections in Pakistan, held on May 11, showed the strong determination of the people to be part of the election process despite the threats from Tehrik-i-Taliban-e-Pakistan to disrupt the elections by using violence. The people voted in large number. This time the voter turn-out was 55.2 percent as compared to the voter turn-out of little over 44 percent in the 2008 elections.

 The negative side of the elections is that every party is talking of manipulation of electoral process in some constituencies. It seems that it has become fashionable to talk about the ‘stealing of electoral mandate.’ Even the political parties that are expected to set up the new governments at the federal or provincial levels are spending a part of their energies in delegitimizing the electoral process that has set the stage for their assumption of power.

 Most political leaders and parties are focused on their narrow and immediate gains – how to win the election after losing it. They do not have a long term perspective. By blowing the irregularities out of proportion they are making their own mandate doubtful. If they delegitimize the democratic process in a bid to outbid each other, all of them will lose. The future of political leaders and parties is closely linked with the working of democracy. If they are unable to manage one of the basic requisite of democracy, i.e. elections, how can they manage democracy?

  The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan is more vocal than any other party in projecting itself as an aggrieved party in most constituencies it has lost the elections. It held dharnas (sit-ins) in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, asking for recounting or holding of new elections. Other parties or candidates who lost the elections have framed similar charges against the PTI’s winning candidates and the winners of the other parties.

 Even the PMLN which is going to set up the federal government and it is expected to head provincial governments in the Punjab and Balochistan, is accusing the PPP of winning the election in rural Sindh by manipulation.

 The new government will have to address economic issues as the highest priority. This should be accompanied by taking up of other issues. The salvation of the PMLN lies with addressing these problems rather than getting involved in the on-going politics of electoral rigging.

 Pakistan faces multiple and acute problems. Therefore, the new leadership should set its priorities very clearly so that it does not waste its energy on frivolous issues that seem to have become the key issues for political parties. Even the small parties that hardly win few seats are talking of denial of their mandate.

 Some procedural irregularities were reported on the polling day and various candidates attempted to tilt the result in their favor in some polling stations or the polling staff did not perform their duties in a nonpartisan way. These are the usual complaints that we hear in every elections. The polling-day complaints pertain to 7 to 9 percent of polling stations but the defeated candidates are trying to delegitimize the whole process which is a negative and unfortunate approach.

  There are legal remedies available for the polling day related complaints. The Election Commission has already accommodated some complaints. More are likely to be accommodated over time. If a candidate is not satisfied with the response of the Election Commission, an election petition can be filed with the Election Tribunal. This can be followed up in the High Court and the Supreme Court. The candidates, especially the PTI, need to follow these procedures.

 Sindh is experiencing a dangerous political game now-a-days. The PPP has retained its electoral clout in interior Sindh that has given it an over-all majority in the provincial assembly. The smaller parties and Sindhi nationalist groups that always lose the elections have decided to avail of the current wave of making hue and cry for election manipulation to delegitimize the PPP majority in Sindh. These groups are now trying to enlist the support of the PMLN for their agenda against the PPP. A good number of them have offered support to the PMLN with the expectation that the power of the PMLN federal government will be invoked for their bid to challenge the PPP in Sindh. If the PMLN leadership at the national level allowed the party be become an instrument of the small Sindhi groups for making it difficult for the PPP to rule Sindh, it will result in an unfortunate clash between the Sindh government and the federal government.

 Another issue that needs immediate attention of the PMLN is that 95 percent of its elected members belong to the Punjab. It is important for the PMLN to cultivate partnership with the representative political forces of other provinces so as to accommodate them in federal cabinet and other key appointments at the federal level. The new federal government should be seen in the country as the government of Pakistan rather than that of the Punjab. It should address socio-economic issues, energy crisis and extremism and terrorism as the highest priorities. The management of these issues will shape its political future rather than getting involved in petty issues like polling-day rigging.

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