Contrary to predictions of some pundits and the impression being created by the publicists of the PML-N and the PTI, the two parties are going to find it almost impossible to get the better of the PPP and its coalition partners if the general elections are held today or for that matter any time before the ‘due date’.
On the other hand if the elections are held on the ‘due date’ which according to the PPP is “within 60 days after March 18, 2013”, the ruling alliance will have a formidable task on its hands to meet the challenge of the combined onslaught of PML-N, PTI, Jamat-i-Islami and the Defense of Pakistan Council. That is if they stick together and decide to fight the next elections on a combined platform.
There is no empirical evidence of the extent of PPP’s or PML-N’s respective vote banks. But calculations done on the basis of flawed polls in the past and using the rule of thumb for adjustments to numerous variables it is believed that both could claim a combined 50% with perhaps the PPP having an insignificant edge over the PML-N. The remaining 50% is what in our parlance is called the religious right-wing vote. The PPP wins if the right-wing voters are divided but if they fight the election on a combined platform led by the PML-N, the PPP stands to lose – simple arithmetic.
As of today the PML-N is not in a position to pose a serious threat to the ruling coalition as it is under serious pressure from the other right-winger, the PTI in the Punjab – both are trying to woo the huge right-wing vote bank in the Punjab. And it has just started feeling the political pulse of other provinces. It needs almost a year to gain enough ground to challenge the PPP-MQM combine in Sindh, to deal itself in, in the ANP-JUI’s ‘game of chance’ in KP and win over enough numbers of Sardars in Balochistan. On the other hand the PTI needs more than a year to wrench the political initiative from PML-N in the Punjab. It has the capacity to hold huge public rallies in Punjab, Sindh, KP and Balochistan but when it comes to winnable candidates, it either has to choose from the leftovers of the PPP, PML-N, ANP and PML-Q, most of whom it has already rejected for being part of the corrupt coterie or from the unknowns whose ability to win in constituency politics which is largely swayed by braderi, family and ethnic appeals would remain open to question. But more importantly, the PML-N and PTI unless they wake up to the opportunity offered by the result of the recent NA-151 polls, will perhaps very soon enter into an attritional fight in the Punjab neglecting the other provinces and losing in the process Punjab as well to the PPP in a three-cornered fight in the general elections.
The PPP appears adamant to complete its full tenure, that is, to remain in the saddle until March 18, 2013. If it succeeds in achieving what it has seemingly set its sights on then one does not see elections until September next year as in the month of May governments’ focus is on the next year’s budget. And during the following months until September, it is sowing and harvesting season for a number of important cash crops in Pakistan, one month of Ramazan, sometimes extended monsoon and it is also very hot for poll outings. But polls in September 2013 would give PPP’s opponents ample time to reach out and significantly erode the party’s own political strength and that of its coalitions partners’ in their not very strong political bastions—Sindh, KP and Balochistan, if one went by their performance and incumbency factor. Meanwhile, the PML-N or PTI would have either succeeded in decimating politically its rival in Punjab capturing in the process all the right-wing voters or the two would have joined hands and romp home on the back of some 75% of the right-wing voters in this country.
But perhaps the PPP is playing the classical bluff. Being a political animal and a veteran of many elections perhaps it knows what would happen if it delayed elections until September 2013. So it perhaps wants to hold election before the ‘due date’ but is using its insistence to call the elections only after completing its full tenure as a bargaining counter. Maybe it wants the PML-N and the PTI to agree to who would head the interim government in Islamabad and the provinces in return for conceding the demand for early elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.