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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Focus on Next General Elections

Focus on Next General Elections

By amicus • Jul 18th, 2011 • Category: Politics, Worth A Second Look • 11 Comments
Even if early polls are not held, the present assemblies will stand dissolved near the end of March 2013.
The political parties have started waking up to the reality and begun bracing for the polls.
It would be a good exercise to indulge in guesswork about the options available to different political parties and their likely strategy for the next general elections:
Pakistan People’s Party
In the general elections of 2008, the Pakistan People’s Party had won 124 out of 342 National Assembly seats, 107 out of 371 Punjab Assembly seats, 93 out of 168 Sindh Assembly seats, 30 out of 124 Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly seats and 12 out of 65 Balochistan Assembly seats. In the Senate its number increased to 27 out of 100 seats when the partial elections of the Senate were held in 2008.
After the elections, the PPP formed the coalition governments at the center and in Sindh and shared power in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. However, it had to leave the coalition in Punjab a few months ago due to differences with the PML (N).
On the negative side, rampant corruption, favoritism and nepotism have been the hallmark of the Pakistan People’s Party’s governments at the center and in Sindh. The PPP-led coalitions have failed to control inflation, overcome energy crisis or improve law and order.
On the positive side, it has secured consensus on the National Finance Commission Award and on provincial autonomy under the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It has initiated Benazir Income Support Program to assist the poor households and regularly increased the pay of government servants and the armed forces personnel in annual budgets.
In the next general elections, the PPP would strive to maintain its present position in the assemblies.
During the 2008 general elections, it had benefited from the sympathy wave caused by the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto. The division of Muslim League votes between the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) had also helped the PPP in Punjab.
For the next elections, it seems that the PPP would have seat-adjustment with the PML (Q). Perhaps the constituencies where the PPP was successful would be retained by the PPP for its candidates and where the PML (Q) was successful by the PML (Q).
On the seats where both had lost, the strongest amongst the prospective candidates are likely to be fielded. Overall the PPP is likely to capture less number of seats from Punjab than at present for National and Punjab Assemblies due to its poor performance at the Center.
In Sindh, the PPP would not face much difficulty. The rural Sindh is traditionally the PPP’s stronghold. Barring a few seats where the Pakistan Muslim League (F) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) have strong candidates to field, the interior Sindh is likely to be retained by the PPP. The PPP would also focus on selected seats in urban Sindh. It would love to deprive the MQM of a couple of its National and Sindh Assembly seats, but is not likely to succeed. The PPP is likely to retain most of its National Assembly seats from Sindh and to secure majority in the Sindh Assembly.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, things are likely to be somewhat difficult for the PPP if there is resurgence of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (F) due to growing anti-Americanism.
Pakistan Muslim League (N)
In the general elections of 2008, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) entered the arena at the last moment and without proper preparation. It secured 91 seats of the National Assembly, 171 of the Punjab Assembly and 9 seats of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. It remained unrepresentative in the Sindh and Balochistan Assemblies. After the 2008 elections of the Senate, it had 7 seats in the body.
Hitherto, the PML (N) has performed the role of a friendly or moderate opposition. It has refrained from doing anything that might have derailed the democratic process. It has aimed at the next general elections to emerge as the largest party and form the government at the center and in Punjab.
Over-confident about the future prospects, Nawaz Sharif was initially reluctant to take those members of the PML (N) back into the party’s fold who had deserted the party to join the PML (Q) after Sharif’s exile to Saudi Arabia.
It seems now he has realized that politics is the art of impossible and Asif Ali Zardari is master at it. The joining of hands by Zardari and Chaudhry Shujaat has made Sharif sober to the reality that the success of the PML (N) cannot be taken for granted.
The PML (N) also needs to define its policy towards the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Tehrik-e-Insaf Pakistan. These two parties have the potential to cause a dent in the PML (N) support in Punjab.
Given the current situation, the PML (N) is likely to form alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami. Barring the Chaudhries of Gujrat and a few others, it may also open its doors for those who had joined the PML (Q) but are prepared to return to the fold of the PML (N). There are some winning candidates in the PML (Q) with their traditional constituencies who cannot be ignored if the PML (N) aspires to emerge as the largest party in the next National Assembly.
As far as the Punjab Assembly is concerned, the PML (N) is almost certain to secure simple majority even if the PPP and the PML (Q) remain united. Only it needs to take at least the JI along to ensure that some of its voters are not swayed away.
In Sindh and Balochistan, the PML (N) can win a few seats if some PML (Q) members switch over to it. In Khyber-PakhtunKhwa, it is likely to face some set back in Hazara Division because of its support for the change of the name of NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan Muslim League (Q)
Despite the support of the establishment, it faced a backlash in the general elections of 2008 due to its pro-Musharraf posture.
Still it managed to win 54 seats of the National Assembly, 84 seats of the Punjab Assembly, 9 seats of the Sindh Assembly, 6 seats of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and 19 seats of the Balochistan Assembly. After the elections of 2008, its strength in the Senate was 21.
The PML (Q) would have willingly joined hands with the PML (N), but the latter enlisted the support of the PPP to form government in Punjab and then managed to create defections within the PML (Q).
In Balochistan, the PML (Q) has shared power with the independents, JUI (F) and the PPP.
Plagued by factionalism and defections, its strength has got divided or dwindled in all assemblies. In desperation, lately its leadership responded positively to the overtures of the PPP and joined the federal government.
After the withdrawal of the MQM from the Sindh government, the PML (Q) has become a partner of the PPP in Sindh too.
Several members of the PML (Q) have their traditional constituencies. The task before the Chaudhries of Gujrat is to retain whatever of the PML (Q) is under their command intact. By joining hands with the PPP, the PML (Q) leadership has ensured that its members are able to enter the corridor of power and avoid looking elsewhere.
During the next general elections, the PPP and the PML (Q) are likely to make seat adjustments to confront the PML (N). If this happens, the PML (Q) may retain considerable ground in Punjab and Sindh. In Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the JUI (F) seems set to perform relatively better due to anti-Americanism at the cost of other parties.
Muttahida Quami Movement
During last twenty-two years, the MQM has joined the PPP, the PML (N) and the PML (Q)-led coalitions. Except the coalition led by PML (Q), none completed its term in office. In all other instances, the MQM left the coalition midway or was expelled and faced operation against its cadres.
In the general elections of 2008, the MQM secured 25 seats of the National Assembly and 51 seats of the Sindh Assembly. In Senate, its representation is 6. In none of the other provinces it has any representation.
The MQM has successfully created hostage mentality in its mohajir constituencies. The performance of City District Government of Karachi under the MQM was remarkable. It has a sound base in urban Sindh, in particular Karachi and Hyderabad, from where it is not likely to be displaced. Recent Mohajir-Pakhtun clashes and the PPP-MQM tension have strengthened the position of the MQM.
The MQM is struggling to have a foothold in other provinces also. However, at present its prospect of capturing seats in any other province is quite remote.
Awami National Party
The ANP is essentially a Pakhtun Party. In the general elections of 2008, it won 13 seats of the National Assembly, 48 seats of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, 4 seats of the Balochistan Assembly and 2 seats of the Sindh Assembly. In the Senate it has 6 members.
After the 2008 elections, it joined the PPP-led coalition at the centre and in Sindh. It led the coalition in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and shared power in Balochistan.
With the swing in the pendulum, it is likely to lose some ground to other parties, particularly JUI (F), in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It is desperate to retain its 2 seats in the Sindh Assembly and increase this tally by at least one more in the next general elections. This is not likely to happen. The MQM is adamant not to lose ground in urban Sindh.
Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (F)
The Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (F) faced great set back in the general elections of 2008 due to various reasons: first, after much bickering between its components the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal fell apart. Secondly the JUI (F) facilitated the election of Musharraf as president in September 2007.  Thirdly the MMA had remained in power in NWFP (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) without delivering much.
In the general elections of2008, JUI (F) captured 7 seats of the National Assembly, 14 seats of the Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, 10 seats of Balochistan Assembly and 2 seats of Punjab Assembly.
In Senate, its strength was 10 largely thanks to the success of the MMA in 2002 general elections.
It became a coalition partner of the PPP at the center but withdrew a few months back claiming that the Hajj scam had been mishandled. However, the real reasons for it’s leaving the coalition are not very clear. It is believed that the idea was to topple the Gilani government but the PML (N) was not prepared to seize the opportunity when the JUI (F) and MQM left the coalition at the center in a surprise move.
In the next general elections, the JUI (F) is likely to perform better due to anti-Americanism. There is also a move to revive the MMA or form some other alliance of religious parties, which may strengthen it.
Pakistan Muslim League (F)
The PML (F) is mainly a party of feudal lords and gaddi nasheens who have their traditional seats. In the general elections of 2008, it won 5 seats of the National Assembly, 8 seats of the Sindh Assembly and 3 seats of the Punjab Assembly. It has just 1 member in the Senate. There is not likely to be any considerable change in its status.
Jamaat-e-Islami
JI has a number of supporters spread throughout Pakistan. It had boycotted the general elections of 2008. Individually it can hardly capture 3 or 4 seats. But it can give considerable boost to the alliance which it may join.
It seems the JI would prefer to form some grand anti-PPP alliance comprising PML (N), JI, JUI (F), PML (Q) or its faction and some minor groups to contest the next elections.
Tehrik-e-Insaf Pakistan
The TIP led by Imran Khan has great appeal for the youth. It had boycotted the elections of 2008 and does not have any representation in any assembly or the Senate.
The TIP does not have any feudal lords having traditional constituencies within its fold. It is not a well-organized party. Imran Khan has been very critical of the PPP, the PML (N) and the PML (Q). He wants his party to emerge as a third force that seems to be a distant dream.
The TIP may prefer to opt for solo flight. It may not win more than a couple of seats at the most but has the potential to attract voters at the cost of mainly the PML (N) in Punjab.
Conclusion
As of today it appears that the PPP is likely to emerge as the single largest    party in the National and Sindh Assemblies, provided it is able to sustain its alliance with the PML (Q) and arrive at some sort of seat adjustment with it. Its tally may be 5 to 10 seat less than the number of seats it captured in 2008.
In that case the present scenario may continue and even the MQM may rejoin the PPP-led coalition after fresh negotiations on power sharing. The MQM would strive to get CDGK restored but may accept the Local Bodies Act of 1979 with some amendments.
The scenario may change if the PML (N) forms a grand alliance comprising the PML (N), the PML (Q) or a major chunk of it, the JI and the JUI (F). The PML (N)-led alliance may secure more seats than the PPP and its allies.
The above-mentioned scenarios have been conceived on the assumption that the next general elections would be held within the framework of the Constitution.
Notwithstanding the above permutations for next general elections, the most important elections right now are Senate elections of March 2012. Let’s take a look and try to under stand why there is so much churning in the ranks of opposition parties and why PPP and its allies are comfortable, with the exception of MQM spanner in the works.
If the next Senate election due in March 2012 is held under the present elected dispensation, the Pakistan Peoples Party will continue to dominate as the leading political party in the Senate. The PPP is expected to secure an unprecedented 43 seats in the upper house of Parliament.
Representation of minorities
The Senate itself has also expanded by four seats to represent the religious minorities in each of the four provinces, a change that took place as a result of the 18th Amendment to the constitution. After March 2012, there were 104 Senators.
Senate retirements:
After the Senate elections on March 11, 2012, several political parties will see a dramatic reduction in their representation. The most significant of these is the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q), which will see 19 of its Senators retiring, With a much smaller presence in the national and provincial legislatures, the party will not be able to replace or re-elect most of them.
Four of the ruling PPP’s senators will retire, but it will have 22 left in addition to a substantially expanded presence in the National, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan Assemblies to be able to not just replace the outgoing four but to actually expand its presence to a plurality of between 43 and 45, according to some political observers.
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) will see its Senator Ishaq Dar complete his term, but the party has more than enough support to ensure his re-election and add to the remaining six senators whose terms expire in 2015.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is likely to maintain its six seats after three of its senators retire while the Awami National Party (ANP) is likely to add to its current tally of six.
Senators from the Jamaat-e-Isami (JI), Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Jamhuri Watan Party will complete their tenure next year. Some of these had not participated in the 2008 general election to protest against former president Pervez Musharraf’s policies.
The decision to boycott the 2008 general election is likely to prove costly for five political parties, which will have to forfeit their representation in Parliament once their senators retire before the elections in March 2012.
The top leadership of these parties admit that the decision to boycott parliamentary elections has had far-reaching consequences.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party, Jamhuri Watan Party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Jafaria Pakistan and Jamiat Ahle Hadith will not be able to participate in the Senate elections because they have no representation in the assemblies.
Political parties which boycotted the 2008 general election will not be able to have their members elected to the Senate next year when half of its members will retire. Elections are conducted on a hundred seats in the Senate every three years. Members of the provincial and national assemblies elect senators for a six-year term.
Hence only the looser and those boycotted will be out and hence the hue and cry in the opposition ranks, particularly the PMl(N) is self serving and geared to deprive the Zardari led PPP from further consolidating its position in the senate, to deprive PML (Q) from benefiting out of its newly formed coalition with the former.
Despite, corruption, nepotism, lack or absence of governance, the the tense and conflict amongst the state organs, it seems the incumbent political dispensation in place is lurching to run its appointed term and complete its natural course and we will see the senate elections in March 2012 and the next general elections in 2013. Barring off course mass resignation by elected representatives of PML(N), MQM, Hum Khayal and some fence sitters in National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies, that could force derailment of the present dispensation and lead to dilute the electoral college for the senate elections in march 2012 and may be early elections.

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20 comments:

M Shiraz said...

You have pictured a very thorough image of Pakistan Politics very delicately, ignoring the role of the establishment.
As of now, the the problems this country is facing are numerous and yet we see people discussing politics and seat adjustment, saving the system etc. We need to get rid of the present and the worst ever regime in the history of Pakistan, in order to think further. Apparently we are doomed as we see there is no hope apart from free and fair elections as Mirza Aslam Baig did in 1988. Army should take over as a interim government and then hand over power to untested, educated and visionary people like Imran Khan etc. The same thing happened in Malaysia where Mahatir Muhammad was given the powers for 10 years and we see today where we stand and where they !

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