Why PPP will be re-elected in 2013
Before you start sharpening your knives and take a run at me, lets logically think about Pakistan's electoral map...
For some reason, every four to five months, Pakistan’s politicians and media start talking about elections. Although everyone says they hope the government will complete its five year term, this does not stop them from making wild predictions about the upcoming elections, whenever they will be held.
Based on what I have observed, this is the harsh truth that the people will eventually come to terms with: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is going to win the next elections.
Before you start sharpening your knives and take a run at me, logically think about the electoral map of Pakistan. In order to understand this better, we will take a look at each party separately.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)
Since the 2008 elections, Mian Saab has been under the impression that it is only a matter of time before he comes back to power. He thinks all he has to do is wait five years and when the next elections take place he will be swept in to power once again, due to the super bad performance of the PPP government.
What Mian Saab has not factored into this plan is the fact that, in 1997, when he last won, he was supported by his own party, PML-Q and the ‘like minded’ group. This gave him better coverage across the country, in areas where he is traditionally not strong, such as Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. Since the division of the PML, PML-N holds Punjab and nothing else. They do not have enough strong candidates to make an impact in Balochistan and Sindh, while they can’t seem to even keep their seats in Abbottabad and Haripur. In addition to this, they have taken a serious beating in southern Punjab courtesy PML-Q and PPP, while their influence on the GT Road cities (Gujranwala to Jehlum) has also been waning.
As it stands, PML-N is having trouble holding down Punjab even though they currently have the majority. The whole good governance bit has fizzled out and the gigantic government expenditures have exposed the failings of the PML-N government. While back in 2008, they had serious support across the province, they now have to deal with the problems that come with being the incumbent party.
So, to say that PML-N can win the majority at the federal level is a bit far-fetched at this point. The best case scenario is to add about five more seats in the National Assembly and hold Punjab for another five years; even this seems hard for them to be honest.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q)
Lovingly called the qatil league during the 2008 elections, the PML-Q has bounced back from the days of depression and disappointment. Now that they are a part of the government and enjoying full privileges, they seem to be gearing up to draw a battle line in Punjab with their rivals, the PML-N.
The thing about PML-Q that most people tend to forget is that it is the only party in this country that is genuinely playing politics and enjoying every second of it. They are super flexible, excellent at making deals with anyone, can negotiate their way out of hell and have candidates who are strong in their areas. Even though PML-Q lost the elections in 2008, they managed to form the government in Balochistan while playing the opposition around the country.
PML-Q has safe seats - seats that party candidates are guaranteed to win, regardless of whatever happens. This puts PML-Q in the position of a king maker and after 2008 they have realised that is the role they will continue to play in the politics of Pakistan. So, they are not even aiming to win a majority, but instead are aiming to win 40 to 50 seats in the National Assembly that would allow them to continue playing their role.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)
Although they are trying their level best to transform themselves into a national party, they have realised that their basic strength lies in Karachi and the 20 odd seats they hold in the National Assembly. As always, they will side with anyone who forms the government, and even though the PPP has been a challenge for them so far, they will continue to work with them if that means being in the government.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F)
JUI-F is the only political party in Pakistan that knows its place in Pakistani politics. And, they tend to use this to their advantage all the time. As always, they will always side with the government and if they are lucky they will win 20 to 30 seats in the National Assembly, assuming the Awami National Party (ANP) continues whatever its doing in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Awami National Party (ANP)
Being a region specific party, they will ally with anyone in power, just like MQM. So effectively, they have no serious issues with who actually wins the majority in the National Assembly.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI)
Regardless of what people say about PTI and Imran Khan, it is not going to sweep into power. It’s not like I have a magic 8-ball that is telling me that; it is based on certain political realities of Pakistan that most people who support PTI and Imran Khan tend to forget all too easily.
1. PTI has a serious issue with finding candidates who are strong enough in their areas to run for elections. By this I do not mean that they cannot find anyone to be their candidate; the issue is finding someone who has a strong backing from within the area.
2. People tend to vote for someone who gets their things done on a regular basis. Most people in a constituency seriously do not give a crap about what is being done in other places; they have more immediate concerns such as roads, hospitals, schools, gas and electrical connections and most importantly, jobs. This inherently means that the person who will end up getting votes will have to flex their political muscles to accommodate the people who voted for them by whatever means necessary. This is something PTI has been staunchly against as they see it as corruption as well as misuse of power. Although their ideas are noble, this also means that they cannot accommodate the people who voted for them.
3. PTI has a strong message in urban areas, while in rural areas it still has a lot of ground to cover. They have a good message but they have to battle it out with established candidates which is extremely hard to do, as they lack the candidates to put up a strong challenge.
But even with these issues, the best case scenario for PTI is to maybe get about 30 seats in mostly urban areas. This is not enough by long shot to form a government.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)
PPP is probably the most hated party right now in the country, courtesy their poor style of governance and their age old technique of always playing the victim. But, even with this sort of heavy baggage, it is a party that has the most coverage. They have a strong standing in Sindh, some standing in southern Punjab, for some reason they have strong candidates in Balochistan and they just ally with whoever wins in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Purely based on the coverage they have, PPP would always win the highest seats in the National Assembly. Let me repeat this: it is not due to their good governance or anything; it’s just that they are really spread out. Even in the worst case scenario, they would still have more seats in the National Assembly than any other party in Pakistan.
Apart from coverage, they have one more advantage that is not mentioned enough - their vote bank is rock solid while their opposition’s vote bank has fractured over time. This can be observed from the example of results of major constituencies in Punjab:
Sialkot NA 111
|Dr Firdous Aashiq Awan||PPP||77,834|
|Chaudhry Amir Hussain||PML-Q||45,704|
Vehari NA 168
|Ishaq Khan Khakwani||PML-Q||47,898|
Rawalpindi NA 51
|Raja Pervaiz Ashraf||PPP||80,221|
|Raja Qasim Javed||PML Q||71,488|
|Chaudhry Muhammad Riaz||PML N||56,332|
Although these are just three examples, a detailed study of the elections results shows that this is the trend overall. Since the PML vote bank is split between N and Q, PPP gets the benefit and wins even though their vote bank is way below the total PML one in various areas. Add to this the seat adjustment that PPP will have with PML-Q next time around and you end up with PPP picking up seats where they are not really too strong.
So based on these scenarios, even if Pakistan did have an election within the next three months, we would end up with the same government.
What most people refuse to understand is that a democracy, which Pakistan is slowly becoming, works through negotiations and political deal making that normally result in coalition governments. There is no way that one party can win an outright majority and form a single party government.
PML-N and PTI might believe that they can sweep the elections but the ground realities are very different from their assumptions. For PTI, it would also mean that they have to work with MQM, ANP, and probably PML-N or PML-Q, all of which are parties PTI has called various names such as qatil, corrupt, dhokay baaz and so on.
So, for all practical purposes, we are stuck with a government similar to the one we have had for a long time. At least until Mian Saab figures out that he needs to form coalitions and work with others on equal terms if he ever wants to form the government.