As the year draws to a close so does the process of local government elections in Punjab, which has been prolonged, having started in 2015 with elections to direct seats taking place over three phases. Those elected on 22nd December will take their oath on December 31st and take up their duties on the first day of the New Year. As with every election there are winners and losers. These elections are a credible reflection of the will of the people in that in most instances the people they were voting for were known local figures, there were few ‘parachuted in’ candidates and accusations of rigging or manipulation either absent or muted.
The virtual clean sweep for the Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab is an emphatic statement of its control and the ability to attract a majority popular vote. The party has wide and deep support and it won all the mayoral seats in the 10 municipal corporations along with the metropolitan corporation. The only PML-N losses were in 7 district councils mostly to independent candidates.
The poll illustrates for other parties the mountain they have to climb if they are to break the dominance of the PML-N and there was a tacit admission from Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that his party had lost votes to PML-N. This stung, and Mr Khan tweeted his anger — ‘All those PTI members who voted for PML-N in Faisalabad and elsewhere will be kicked out of PTI immediately.’ Quite so Mr Khan.
Whatever hope the PTI may have had of mounting a challenge at the grass roots fell on deaf ears and the votes went to the PML-N. Even at this early stage it is not unreasonable to extrapolate these results to the next General Election. Whatever damage might have been done to the PML-N politically by the Panama Papers and the PTI, the electorate at least locally seems unconcerned and un-inclined to jump on the PTI bandwagon. Force Majeure swept the electoral field in Punjab, and there is no counter-force of sufficient heft to prevent it doing the same come the next General Election.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2016.