The numbers’ game!


A day before polling, political leaders and the general public have only one thing on their minds–The game of numbers; who is going to end up with what tally of seats on the eve of May11.
Against this background, all major parties with ambitions to form the next federal government wrapped up their campaigns a day ago flamboyantly.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) camp, which continues to surprise the political elite by holding massive rallies, ended the campaign with the feel that they had already accomplished what they set out for, and hope to win more than a 100 seats of the National Assembly.
Similarly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) feels they are on a strong footing to form the government not just in Punjab, but by virtue of their supremacy in the largest province, also at the Centre. They too, hope to cross the magical figure of 100 seats. Nawaz Sharif looked very confident the other day in Lahore addressing huge public meetings as he asked President Zardari to stop his conspiracies against PML-N.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is missing from the scene and hardly figures in discussions over the numbers game, perhaps reflecting that May 11 will be a one-on-one battle between PML-N and PTI.
But these are optimistic figures that have been echoed by journalists all around.
In private moments and exchanges with leaders, these numbers, however, come way down to paint a more realistic picture, the one compatible with what is happening on the ground and encompassing a picture from all across the country.
Outside Punjab, forces other than PML-N and PTI have a strong presence. It is here that PPP seems to have outdone PTI and PML-N, nullifying most assessments.
Generally, political commentators are blank, not ready to commit to one party or the other. Nobody seems sure what the eventual outcome will be.
Political leaders and commentators with an independent outlook say with authority that a split mandate is in the making with no party emerging as the largest one like in the past.
Their forecasts place the PML-N ahead of other parties (PTI and PPP) but not by a wide margin. In Punjab a major split is expected to be seen in the final outcome.
The PPP in these assessments occupies second position and PTI is seen acquiring the third position after taking into account the situation in the entire country.
Experts see PPP maintaining its supremacy in Sindh and getting a few seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan and elsewhere.
If predictions pointing to a split mandate are to be believed, than no party can acquire a tally bigger than around 70 seats.
Therefore if PML-N, being the number one party, ends up with 70 seats, then PPP has a chance of acquiring 50 to 55 seats with PTI getting somewhere between 30 to 35 seats in the National Assembly.
Experts who foresee a hung parliament as a result of the split mandate hint at formation of alliances depending on results from provinces other than Punjab and party standings there.
They hope that this time new alliances could be formed to help form the government in Islamabad. Both PTI and PML-N leaders have started discussing the possibility of alliances in case of a divided mandate.
A large number of independents are expected to make it through this time. It is also expected that they will be a big factor in the formation of any government. It is also learnt that President Zardari has set his eyes on these independents, while many are of the view that PPP would go to all lengths to include these independents in their tally.
Some analysts say President Zardari has a successful experience of running an alliance and so stands a better chance of forming the government.
But then Nawaz Sharif in the past has included electables even if they had sided with Pervez Musharraf showing that he will be open to various possibilities.
Despite all this, some political analysts talk of upsets and surprises that are in store for the country and those witnessing the elections. They foresee PTI proving all calculations wrong.