ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari is set to secure another term as president even if his ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) fails to grab a majority in the National Assembly in the upcoming general elections.
The only thing he wants to, and has to, ensure is that Senate elections, for half of the Senate seats, take place according to schedule in March next year, a close aide of the president explained.
“That is what he is striving for now. He believes if Senate elections are held under the current setup according to the scheduled timing, nobody can stop him from winning another term,” said an official from the PPP, who is thought to be one of the closest allies of Zardari.
Senate elections, for which the provincial assemblies constitute the electoral college, are set to give the PPP a numerical strength close to a simple majority in the 100-seat upper house of parliament, if they are held under the current setup.
Members of the Senate, National Assembly and four provincial assemblies vote to elect the president. The presidential elections are held on the one-man one-vote basis in the National Assembly and Senate.
But votes of the members of provincial assemblies are counted in proportion to the 65-member Balochistan legislature — an equation that would render the anticipated strength of PPP’s main opponent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab almost irrelevant.
Political assessments and alignments
The PPP masterminds assessing the political situation on an almost daily basis believe there would be fierce competition in the general polls. Their view is that the difference in the number of seats between the PPP and the PML-N will be very small, though highly significant. Zardari already has a formula to swing numbers in his favour.
According to sources in the PPP, the president wants to secure a promise from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) that it would vote for him in the next presidential election in return for a proposed seat adjustment that the two parties were negotiating for Punjab for the next parliamentary polls.
A PML-Q leader also confirmed that supporting Zardari in his bid to seek another term was part of the PPP-PML-Q political alliance.
Zardari allegedly wants the same from his other allies including the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam to make sure that he grabs maximum votes from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well.
A threat no more
Regarding Sindh, the PPP’s strategists seem sure that the party will be in a comfortable position to bag a simple majority, riding on its popularity in the province and recent controversies that have hit its main rival in Karachi, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), according to the assessment by Zardari’s associates, could be managed “one way or the other”. In the past, there have been reports that members from the Balochistan Assembly and the tribal regions have been involved in voting in presidential election for ‘favours’.
“All these things put together can help Zardari win another term … and that is what he is hoping for,” said one of the officials.
According to an earlier report, the ruling PPP is contemplating an option to call fresh parliamentary polls immediately after the “crucial” elections for half the Senate seats scheduled for March next year.
The move, according to top party leaders, was being discussed in circles close to President Zardari.
One reason, sources added, for holding early elections was a “constant” fear in the ranks of the ruling party that the military might take advantage of the “extreme” political instability which would result if opposition parties managed to create “chaos on the streets”.
PPP Spokesperson Qamar Zaman Kaira was not available to comment regarding these revelations.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2011.