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Thursday, December 13, 2007

[Facts] Possible Election Outcomes
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's decision to lift emergency rule on Dec. 16 clears the way for a general election that will pass judgment on months of political turmoil in the nuclear-armed Muslim state.Here is an explanation of how elections work in Pakistan and some scenarios for the outcome of the vote.
Few Pakistanis expect the parliamentary election set for Jan. 8 to be fair, but Musharraf needs a vote with enough credibility to reduce criticism of his use of emergency powers to secure a second five-year term.Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup in 1999, imposed emergency rule on Nov. 3 to rid the Supreme Court of judges who might have annuled his re-election.He was re-elected by the outgoing parliament and provincial assemblies in October, a month before they were dissolved, and stepped down as army chief on Nov. 28 to be sworn in as a civilian leader.He has promised an election come "hell or high water", as part of the third and final phase of a transition to civilian-led democracy for a nuclear-armed country threatened with instability by growing Islamist militancy. More vulnerable since he quit the army, the source of his power, Musharraf has gambled his future on whether the parliament that emerges from the vote is hostile or friendly.But he has had to allow back the same political leaders, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who left the country virtually bankrupt after a decade of civilian rule in the 1990s.
-- There are about 160 million people in Pakistan, about half are eligible to vote. But at the last election in 2002, the turnout was reckoned to be less than 30 million.-- Pakistan's first election in 1970, was regarded as the most free. The result accelerated the break up of Pakistan, a country formed in 1947 from the partition on India. East Pakistan became Bangladesh, after Indian military intervention and the defeat of the Pakistan army in 1971.-- Intelligence agencies subsequently became adept at manipulating the vote and the politicians, feudal lords and tribal maliks, or chieftains, wielding influence.-- The military and Punjabi establishment favors a strong centralized state in a country riven by regional and ethnic divisions. Outside Punjab, the richest and most populous of Pakistan's four provinces, regional parties have been squeezed. Islamist parties have been allowed to occupy their space, particularly in North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan.-- The Islamist parties never got more than 10 percent of the vote until 2002, when, with the leaders of the mainstream opposition hounded out the country, they garnered 11 percent giving them 17 percent of the seats in the National Assembly.-- Opinion polls, though unreliable, show the popularity of Musharraf and his Pakistan Muslim League alllies has plummeted.
-- An opposition boycott of the election is unlikely, and the vote will probably result in a hung parliament. It will present Musharraf with a degree of protection. Under the constitution, there would have to be a two-thirds majority in parliament to impeach him for using emergency powers to secure his presidency.His rivals, Bhutto and Sharif, would need a two-thirds majority to remove a bar on anyone becoming prime minister for a third time.-- The worst result for Musharraf would be if his sworn enemy Sharif, were to come out on top, which is highly unlikely. Sharif's best hope is to re-establish his power base in Punjab, make life difficult for Musharraf from the opposition benches, and make an all-out bid to win the premiership for a third time in the election after this one. Sharif may be barred from contesting the vote because of criminal convictions secured against him after he was ousted by the military in 1999.-- The next worst result for Musharraf would be a result that produces a prime minister with an independent streak and a big mandate. That could be Bhutto. Her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) stands a good chance of emerging as the single largest party. She is expected to win her home province of Sindh, and could get back seats from southern Punjab. Bhutto, having been unseated twice before by enemies in the Punjabi establishment, might want Musharraf as an ally who could guarantee the army and the intelligence agencies stay onside. But she and Musharraf distrust each other.-- Musharraf would be more comfortable with the PPP if it came without Bhutto. If the party wins the right to the premiership he could suggest it goes to her deputy Makhdoom Amin Faheem. Whether Bhutto would be satisfied is doubtful.-- Musharraf's interests in parliament are represented by the PML, the rump of Sharif's old party which was refashioned into the ex-general's political machine. It is led by the Chaudhry family, Punjabi politicians who have prospered in Sharif's absence.If only Sharif hadn't come back before the election, and Bhutto hadn't barged in so soon, Musharraf might have had a better chance of putting the Chaudhrys at the helm of a new coalition in which the PPP became a junior partner while taking control of Sindh.-- At least Musharraf appears to have been successful in splitting the Islamist alliance of six parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. Fazl-ur-Rehman, the cleric leading the largest constituent party, Jamia-e-ulema-e-Islam, is showing signs of coming over to Musharraf's side.

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