Categorized | South Asian Politics


Posted on 26 November 2015 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

  The second round of local government elections was held on November 19, 2015 in 12 districts of Punjab and 14 districts of Sindh. The first round was held on October 31 and the third and final round will be held on December 5, which will complete local government elections in these two provinces. Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa held these elections earlier.

 There was no major surprise in the election results. The PMLN and the PPP maintained their lead in Punjab and Sindh respectively, followed by independents and other political parties.

 In the Punjab, the PMLN secure 1167 seats out of 2399 seats. Independent candidates won 920 seats. Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) obtained 332 seats. The PPP got only 16 seats. The Pakistan AwamiTehrik of Dr. TahirulQadri secured 40 seats. The PMLQ, Jamaat-i-Islami and others also got some seats, ranging from 12 and below.

 In Sindh, it was the PPP that repeated its good performance of the first round. It secured 3274 seats. Independent candidates got 600 seats. The MQM got 499 seats. The PMLN got 75 seats, the PML-Functional obtained 50 seats. The PPP won all district councils in 14 districts. The PPP received one setback. Zulfikar Mirza who defied the PPP leadership to float his group, obtained 230 seats in Badin district. Most of these seats were at the expense of the PPP. Being extremely happy over the performance of his group, Zulfikar Mirza promised to set up a new political party to challenge the PPP in Sindh. The PTI got only 8 seats in Sindh.

 Though the PTI came number three in Punjab, its performance was better than the first round. The PTI leadership complained about the advantage of the ruling party in local elections in the form of availability of state machinery and material resources of the state which they used to their advantage. It expressed satisfaction that it performed better than the first round. However, the PTI is not in position to directly challenge the PMLN in the Punjab. In Sindh, the PTI has not been able to make any noticeable impact on politics.

 In many places in Punjab, the real contest was between the factions of the ruling PMLN. It was in a way the PMLN versus PMLN election because different factions of the party competed with one another. In a situation of factionalism within the PMLN, no one was given the party ticket. All of them contested the election as independent candidates. In the Punjab, there were several instances of the PPP activists contesting elections as independent candidates. They did not seek the PPP ticket. This is understandable because the PPP political standing and reputation has declined in the Punjab.

 It may be mentioned that elections in 76 local councils in Sindh was postponed by the Election Commission a day before the polling. This decision was bitterly criticized by the PPP which was expected to win most of these councils.

 There were more complaints of poor management of the affairs on the polling day. The complaints pertained to inadequate facilities in the polling station, delay in the arrival of the polling staff that delayed the start of voting, printing mistakes on the ballot papers like missing names or signs of the candidates, poor security arrangements.

 There were more incident of violence in and around the polling stations than was the case in the first round. In many places, the voting had to be stopped due to conflict among the supporters of different candidates. However, there were only two deaths on the polling day. This number was far less than the first round. Violence was also reported when the winning candidates celebrated their victories. A few people were injured but no deaths.

 Like the first round of the election, there were instances of exchange of money for votes. This was not a widespread practice but, in many constituencies, the extremely poor families sough money for the votes of the members of the family.

 Similarly, the ruling parties, the PMLN in the Punjab and the PPP in Sindh, had a clear advantage over their political rivals. Their organizational network was strong and effective for mobilization of the voters. They had the advantage of the open or quiet support of local administration like AC, Patwari and Police Station. The opposition candidates face another disadvantage. As the main task of local councils and councilors is to work for welfare of the community, improvement of living conditions and provision of civic facilities, such services cannot be provided without getting funding from the provincial government. The widely shared feeling in the political circles is that the opposition councilors will have problems in getting funds from the provincial government. For example, in the Punjab, the PTI councilor will not get that much cooperation of the provincial government. Therefore, a large number of voters have shown a tendency to vote for the ruling party candidates. Furthermore, the opposition parties did not come forward with a socio-economic program radically different from the PMLN and the PPP. It was therefore understandable that the ruling parties would have an advantage over the opposition.

 The repeat performance of the ruling parties in the two provinces raises one fundamental question that a radical change may not be possible from within the system. The two ruling parties, the PMLN and the PPP, are expected to become overconfident after the completion of local elections and may not change their governance system marked by inefficiency, corruption and using state resources on political consideration. This leaves hardly any room for the improvement of socio-economic conditions of the ordinary people. This can also create a perception of popular support in the PMLN and its leadership may try to push back the military from the current expanded role. If this happens, Pakistan can experience instability and the future of Pakistani democracy can become uncertain.

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