Pakistan Elections 2013: A Preliminary Analysis

16 May, 2013    ·   3933

D. Suba Chandran explores eight major outcomes in a precursory study of the elections process

Finally, the much anticipated elections for the National Assembly along with four Provincial Assemblies got over last week. While the results are clear in terms of who won and how many seats, it would take few weeks to identify the major trends in 2013 elections. This commentary focuses on eight major trends/outcomes that could be identified, as a preliminary analysis.

First and foremost, the election process and the polling, was by and large free and fair, especially in a South Asian, and in particular Pakistani context. Though there was violence, it did not totally disrupt the election process. And more importantly, there are no reasons to believe that either the military or the intelligence agencies tried to change the outcome of the results. Invariably, every political party, perhaps except the ANP (Awami National Party) had a level playing field in terms of freeness and fairness of the election process and polling.

Zardari deserves a big applause for not only his deft handling of internal political issues and external issues in such a manner that there was no dissolution of the elected assemblies, but also for conducting elections as per the schedule. And perhaps it deserves special applause for the smooth transition, through the appointment of caretaker governments – both at the national and provincial levels. It is unfortunate, that the PPP lost badly, despite its success in completing the term, amongst threats from the TTP, failing economy and huge foreign policy and security challenges.

Second major outcome that could be identified is the regionalization of all national political parties in Pakistan. Though it is generally being voiced both inside and outside the region, that Pakistan has voted Nawaz Sharif to power, an analysis of the seats that the PML-N has won, clearly projects that the seats for the National Assembly has been primarily from the constituencies in Punjab. Of the 123 seats that the PML-N has won, except for a few seats from KP, the rest had come primarily from Punjab. For the PPP, almost all its seats that it has won for the National Assembly have come from Sindh. Similarly, for the PTI of Imran Khan, majority of the seats it has won for the National Assembly has come from Khyber Pakutunkhwa.

Third major outcome, which could be easily identified, is the failure of religious political parties to make any significant impact. Though the last two general elections witnessed a decent growth in their contribution to the National Assembly, 2013 elections should have been a disappointment for the religious political parties. While the JUI (Fazlur Rahman) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) could manage to win ten and three seats respectively, rest of the religious parties could not capture a single seat. Perhaps, this election has cremated whatever was left of the MMA.

Those who have been following the performance of the religious political parties in Pakistan would agree that in any free and fair elections, the Right did not have much of a success. They may have a strong street power, but it never materialised into seats, if the elections remained free and fair.

If the religious political parties did not perform well in the elections, nor did the liberal and secular parties, such as the PPP, ANP and MQM, which could be identified as the fourth major outcome of this election. For the PPP, it was almost a complete disaster. From being the ruling party for the last five years, all that the PPP could manage was 31 seats, that too only from Sindh. The implications of this election for the PPP should be a larger discussion; with no Benazir Bhutto and with a corrupt image for Zardari, the PPP will need nothing short of a miracle to bounce back, first within Sindh and second at the national level. Bilawal Bhutto is too far – physically and emotionally from Pakistan, and especially from the PPP supporters.

The ANP, PPP’s partner performed worse. The party has been completely wiped off and decimated – both at the national level, and in the KP province, which is its stronghold. Undoubtedly, the ANP was the primary target of the TTP and took most of the violence perpetrated by the Taliban before and during the elections. As a result, when compared to the other political parties, the ANP could not campaign that effectively. Though the TTP led violence could be considered as a reason for the ANP’s bad performance, the fact is, it could not project a coherent road map or win the support of people from its performance. All it could manage was a single seat for the National Assembly!

Though the MQM could manage 13 seats, mainly from Sindh, more data is needed to find out in which regions it has performed well and whether it has been able to retain the vote bank. PML-Q, the other liberal party could manage only two seats.

Fifth major outcome, when compared to above liberal political parties, is the substantial performance of Imran Khan and his PTI. His party has won 26 seats, few short of the PPP, but way ahead of the rest of other established political parties. Though he has secured most of seats from KP, he did manage to win a few from other provinces as well.

However, for someone who has been touted as the next Prime Minister, and an alternative for the PML-N in Punjab, Imran Khan and his PTI was a bubble that had burst. All he and his party could manage is a collation government in KP province.

Despite the above drawback, undoubtedly the PTI was a success story; along with the PML-N, both the political parties could be seen as right of the centre in terms of ideology. Both are not exactly liberal political parties, and that could be the sixth major outcome of this election.

Seventh major outcome could be the relative stability in provincial assemblies. The biggest province – Punjab will be ruled by the PML-N, with much ease, and Sindh by the PPP. There seems to be an understanding already in KP in letting Imran Khan’s PTI to form the government. Balochistan may remain the only province in terms of political stability within the Assembly.

Finally, the biggest outcome of the election was the general participation and the rejection of TTP’s threats. The violence has neither affected the outcome, nor the process; the people took part with enthusiasm and in big numbers. Perhaps, this could be a new beginning that Pakistan has been looking forward. Much will depend on how the process is taken forward by Nawaz Sharif and the provinces.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir