Elections and the new challenges

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PML-N needs to partnerships cutting across provinces

The 10th general elections have proved to be a mixed blessing. It is now clear which parties enjoy popular mandate at the federal and provincial levels. The new political configuration will assume power in the first week of June, setting up a healthy tradition of transfer of power through constitutional and peaceful means from one set of civilian leadership to another.

The downside is that every party is talking of manipulation of electoral process in some constituency. It seems that it has become fashionable to talk about the ‘stealing of electoral mandate.’ Even the political parties that are expected to set up new governments at the federal or provincial levels are spending a part of their energies in delegitimizing the electoral process that has set the stage for their assumption of power.

Most political leaders and parties are focused on their narrow and immediate gains – how to win the election after losing it. They do not have a long term perspective. By blowing the irregularities out of proportion they are making their own mandate doubtful. If they delegitimize the democratic process in a bid to outbid each other, all of them will lose. The future of political leaders and parties is closely linked with the working of democracy. If they are unable to manage one of the basic requisite of democracy, i.e. elections, how can they manage democracy and talk about civilian primacy?

This situation is very different from the situation after the 1977 general elections when the opposition coalition, Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), accused the PPP government of manipulating and rigging the elections. The inability of the government of that time and the opposition to handle the rigging issues enabled the military to assume power under General Zia-ul-Haq.

In 2013, the situation is very different. It is a free-for-all situation. Every party is accusing its rival party of manipulation of elections. Even individual candidates are raising hue and cry. If the PTI is projecting itself as an aggrieved party in one place, its winning candidate in another constituency is being accused of the same charge of manipulation of the election. Even the PML-N which is going to set up the federal government and is expected to head provincial governments in the Punjab and Balochistan, is accusing the PPP of winning the election in rural Sindh by manipulation.

The political parties and the leaders that are going to establish new governments at the federal or provincial levels need to discourage their party activists from resorting to protest and sit-ins on main roads as it causes a lot of problems for ordinary citizens and creates an undemocratic tradition of lack of restraint and tolerance.

The new ruling parties or their coalition partners should give attention to addressing the problems that they are going to face soon. The PPP and the ANP have lost the elections because of their poor governance and non-delivery of civic services to people. The acute electric power shortages have caused much political damage to their reputation. Similarly, terrorism and law and order problems worked to their disadvantage.

The new government will have to address economic issues as the highest priority. This should be accompanied by taking up of other issues. The salvation of the PML-N lies in addressing these problems rather than getting involved in the ongoing politics of electoral rigging.

Pakistan faces multiple and acute problems. Therefore, the new leadership should set its priorities very clearly so that it does not waste its energy on frivolous issues that seem to have become the key issues for political parties. Even the small parties that hardly win few seats are talking of denial of their mandate.

There are legal remedies available for the polling day related complaints. The Election Commission has already accommodated some complaints. More are likely to be accommodated over time. The option of election petition is available to the candidates that have lost the election. The polling-day complaints pertain to 7 to 9 percent of polling stations but the defeated candidates are trying to delegitimize the whole process which is a negative and unfortunate approach.

Sindh is experiencing a dangerous political game nowadays. The PPP has retained its electoral clout in interior Sindh that has given it an over-all majority in the provincial assembly. The smaller parties and Sindhi nationalist groups that always lose the elections have decided to avail of the current wave of making hue and cry for election manipulation to delegitimize the PPP majority in Sindh. These groups are now trying to enlist the support of the PML-N for their agenda against the PPP. A good number of them have offered support to the PML-N with the expectation that the power of the PML-N federal government will be invoked in their bid to challenge the PPP in Sindh. If the PML-N leadership at the national level allowed the party to become an instrument of the small Sindhi groups for making it difficult for the PPP to rule Sindh, it will result in an unfortunate clash between the Sindh government and the federal government. The PMLN national leadership should not succumb to the pressure of the Sindh leadership of the party and others who want to ride on the bandwagon of the federal government to settle their old scores with the PPP.

Another issue that needs immediate attention of the PML-N is that 95 percent of its elected members belong to the Punjab. It is important for the PML-N to cultivate partnership with the representative political forces of other provinces so as to accommodate them in federal cabinet and other key appointments at the federal level. The new federal government should be seen in the country as the government of Pakistan rather than that of the Punjab.

The PML-N’s extraordinary mandate is almost exclusively loaded in favour of the Punjab. It is therefore a challenge for the PML-N to create political partnerships and power sharing that cuts across provincial boundaries. It should address socio-economic issues, the energy crisis and extremism and terrorism as its highest priorities. The management of these issues will shape its political future. It needs to pull out as a party from petty issues like polling-day rigging. Individual candidates may pursue these complaints through legal channels. It should avoid being used by Sindhi groups for their local and personal fight with the PPP.

The writer is an independent political and defence analyst.

2 COMMENTS

  1. rightly said that…..It is important for the PML-N to cultivate partnership with the representative political forces of other provinces ..other wise three minor provinces may demand formula of parity…since Punjab has 148 NA seats and the combine other 3 provinces has 124 seats…the same formula of parity used between east and west pakistan

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