A hypothetical column — 2013 election results

Published: April 29, 2013
The writer is a PhD scholar at West Virginia University in the US

The writer is a PhD scholar at West Virginia University in the US

Today, political prognosticators and pollsters are able to precisely predict election results by applying advanced modelling techniques or scientific pre-poll surveys and multiple regression methods. In this piece, I’m not predicting the outcome of the forthcoming elections in Pakistan but a couple of possible scenarios based on “historical analogy” theories, i.e., the voting behaviour in the past nine elections. As far as the “conspiracy theory” is concerned, it is the PML-N’s turn. After the 2008 elections, international guarantors supposedly gave this assurance to Mr Nawaz Sharif. According to this theory, the PTI will also be given a “reasonable share” in power along with the status of a “party-in-waiting”.

There will be a coalition government as there will be a “hung” parliament with a strong opposition. Small parties and independents will play a major role in the formation of the government. Neither the PML-N, the PTI nor the PPP and PML-Q alliance will get a simple majority, i.e., 137 general seats out of the total 272. As far as the popular vote is concerned, the PML-N will be the single-largest party. The PTI will also gain a huge number of votes. The real test though is the gain in seats. Both the PML-N and the PTI will have more popular votes but less seats compared with their popular vote. Pakistan follows the “first past the post” electoral system where winning candidates have to lead in votes without having the simple majority of total votes polled. In other words, a minority candidate can also win if the votes of other candidates are divided. There will be a huge vote split in the forthcoming elections and the PPP-led coalition could benefit the most.

Let me show you the vertical Manhattan bar chart indicating the gains of three major political forces, i.e., the PML-N (91 general seats expected with the margin of error plus or minus three), the PPP-PML-Q alliance (84 total seats or 68 and 16 respectively), and the PTI (33 seats). The PPP alliance’s net gain fluctuates due to a strong correlation between the PTI bar and the PML-N bar. The higher the PTI bar goes, the PML-N bar decreases and vice versa. Hence, the smaller the difference between the PML-N and the PTI bars, the greater the chances of the PPP bar to go up. The formation of the government depends upon two major factors: 1) the performance of the PTI in terms of seat gains and 2) the seat difference between the PML-N and the PPP-PML-Q alliance. If the difference of seats remains under 12, the PPP-PML-Q alliance with its previous partners (the MQM’s 19 seats, the ANP’s eight seats, the JUI-F’s nine seats, independents/small parties 17 seats) will also be in a position to form the government.

There are two strong reasons of the above-mentioned scenario taking place. The PPP-PML-Q alliance still has a chance to win because of: 1) the PPP’s solid vote bank and 2) historical analogy i.e., in the past, ruling parties which completed their terms got huge electoral success in subsequent elections. Let me put it this way, the military-ousted governments or governments dismissed under Article 58-2(b) never ever came back to power immediately after new elections. It is the first time in history that the PPP is contesting elections after the completion of its constitutional term. As far as the first reason is concerned, the average vote share of the PPP in the previous eight elections is slightly over 30 per cent. This is out of the 43 per cent overall voter turnout percentage in all elections. Statistically, the PPP has a one-third vote share among abstained voters (registered voters who don’t vote), too. My point is that only the PPP’s vote bank is safe, tested and consistent. The PPP can win if it mobilises just its own voters, particularly those who abstained in the last two elections. If the PPP brings 10 to 15 per cent of its “abstained” voters out on polling day, along with its regular voters, it can win the majority seats due to the “vote-split” factor. In a nutshell, the electoral exercise on May 11 is just a trailer and the real movie starts when the elections are over.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Apr 29, 2013 - 11:52PM

    A better title for this article would be
    “Sheikh Chilli column”.
    The writer assumes that the PPP voter is some dumbhead who is not affected by loadshedding, widespread corruption, rampant inflation and terrorism – all gifts of Zardari tenure – and that the silent lamb will still vote for PPP, with closed eyes. This is plain intellectual dishonesty or – to put it mildly – naivety.
    I have many friends, acquaintences & colleagues who were previously PPP voters but today they are preparing to vote PTI (can’t vote PMLN due to severe past differences especially BB-Nawaz friction).
    Which world are you living in my dear writer? People’s lives have been made miserable by PPP-PMLN MukMuka.
    Also 2008 was the last time – safely last time – PPP voter came out in the highest percentage. No chances of increase in that figure.
    Stay blessed & do come out on the street sometime to feel the passion of youth running through the streets.


  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Apr 30, 2013 - 2:03AM

    How could you be so wrong in your assessment , you neglected to mention the demography, there are more younger generation now than ever and as we have seen the dismal performance of PPP and it’s allies in the past 5 years, I will not bet on PPP period. Q league is another one which has bad track record, their leadership was aligned with Musharaff and now they are hoping to cash in some seats with the help of PPP, their former chief minister is under investigation now by FIA in BB’s murder case. Well, we will see if your crystal ball is really crystal clear. My hunch is that PTI will do well unless this wold power see to it that Imran Khan does not get what he deserves because of his anti super power rhetoric.


  • John the Baptist
    Apr 30, 2013 - 2:06AM

    Can you tell me the t stat for your regression analysis and whether you had any serial correlation? Did you correct for hetroskadicity? Do you know what I am talking about?Recommend

  • Mirza
    Apr 30, 2013 - 2:11AM

    Sir I don’t know why would you open Pandora’s Box and make yourself the target of hate mail from the urban elites. TTP and their associates are making sure the relatively secular parties ANP, MQM and PPP do not campaign and keep losing their workers and leaders to terrorism. Yet the secular and democratic voters from rural heartland are determined to defeat TTP and their cronies and apologists. The mayhem, murders, genocides and ethnic cleansing of the three secular party supporters and minorities cannot be ignored by voters of conscience. In an election there are only two sides pro and anti terrorists. Most would go against the killers of 60 thousand Pakistani civilians who gleefully accept the responsibility. In this so-called Jihad they have killed 10 times more Pakistani Muslims than their NATO enemies.
    I think your analysis is not too far off. Pakistan is such a diverse country that only a coalition govt can be formed not by one single party.Recommend

  • Haseeb
    Apr 30, 2013 - 6:28AM

    @John the Baptist: It’s spelled “Heteroscedasticity” so I have a feeling you don’t know what you are talking about either:) But I agree with the thrust of what you are saying


  • Parvez
    Apr 30, 2013 - 1:18PM

    What you have said would have stood a better chance if the PPP-Z’s performance was not as inept or corrupt as it has been


  • U Hussein
    Apr 30, 2013 - 2:05PM

    Agree with the writer that if PPP can pull out those 10% of its voters who don’t go out to vote, the possibility of PPP forming a coalition govt is very strong N League will without a doubt be the largest party in terms of popular vote and one shouldn’t rule out PPP & N league alliance along with MQM, JUI-F and ANP. Anything is a possibility depending on the size of PTI seats. Don;t expect more than 25-30 seats for PTI maximum. Major parties can have an alliance to keep Taliban backed PTI from the corridors of power.


  • John the Baptist
    Apr 30, 2013 - 2:14PM


    Thanks for pointing out the spelling error but the “k” in the word is an American version–you can look it up on Investopia. Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to have my dad pay for Cambridge like yours did; I only ended up at MBA program at that famous “low grade” Boston school with a SCHOLARSHIP!

    All these so called “intellectuals” know that most of their audiences in these forums are English speaking goofs who, when confronted with words like “regression”, start to shake in awe and prostrate immediately in front of the high priests of shallow knowledge. Where is the peer review for this analysis?Recommend

  • Kashif
    Apr 30, 2013 - 2:33PM

    “Statistically, the PPP has a one-third vote share among abstained voters (registered voters who don’t vote), too”

    How you came to this conclusion??? People who don’t go to vote mostly are those who see no hope in any political party or the whole political process. If some polictical party wants to pull absentee voters out it has to reach out to them and make them believe in itself.


  • Imran
    Apr 30, 2013 - 6:39PM

    There was no abstained vote of PPP since the party was going to polls after a long break and jiyalas were keen to come out and vote for their party. Secondly, PPP also received sympathy votes because of Benazir’s assassination — the vote which has now turned into revenge vote. Lastly, the incumbancy factor has been totally ignored by the writer. But it was a good attempt nevertheless.


  • sensible
    Apr 30, 2013 - 8:25PM

    how come you gave PTI 33 and PPP 68. Are you live on Mars?


  • John the Baptist
    Apr 30, 2013 - 8:33PM

    The first axiom for statistics is: Garbage in, garbage out

    The second is: You can torture any data until it confesses to the solutions you want

    Having re-read the article carefully, both axioms seem to have been fulfilled in this analysis.


  • hirameer
    Apr 30, 2013 - 10:59PM

    Deeply analysed. what we are bearing today is the consequence of General ZIA’s regime. On surface ( Tv /media) PPP may not gain majority seats but still it has capacity to turn tables. PTI’s and PML N’s chances are low due to their affiliation /sympathy with religious group . Loadsheding , Terrorism , Poverty etc problems are from 80’s. PPP had always tried to increase capacity to produce energy . No any government can change Pak’s fate till one party get total majority , . peace in Karachi & Balochistan . and Big single handed decisions . Youth will play major role but ……. they also need ROTI KAPRA aur MAKAn …..


  • Abdulhameed
    Apr 30, 2013 - 11:43PM

    I have great respect for writer and for the freedom of expression. But the writer should not forget Zardari factor. Taking the slogan “Zardari sab par bhari’ as true you need to make room for upsets and surprises. If somebody thinks that PTI will make a dent in PML-N only he needs to rethink twice. What I have gathered through intended observations is that many of PPP voters are currently supporting and eventually vote for PTI to defeat PML-N. But logically speaking they will reduce the stable share of PPP, the writer perhaps is counting on.


  • Jan
    May 3, 2013 - 12:47PM

    PPP has been over estimated in this technique. The track record of all the three parties has been very poor. The actual competition is between PTI and PML (N). I think the Imran Khan may get more votes but less seats in NA.It will be difficult for any party to form Govt.But one never knows the game can turn a different direction.


  • Agnostic Khan
    May 8, 2013 - 1:34AM

    @Tribal Insafian: to me you are a dumb head assuming things about PPP Jiyalas…The best analysis so far in this election…


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