Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Map And Why The PPP And PML-N Will Not Form An Alliance

First of all, kudos to Dawn for this snazzy map. As of 17:02 GMT on Tuesday, this is what it looks like:

You can click on the picture if you want more detail. As should be obvious, the red is PPP (commies!), the blue is PML-N, the green is PML-Q, the purple is MQM and the orange is the ANP.

A couple of observations, before I move on to something else. First, the MQM swept Karachi. If anything captures the rural-urban/PPP-MQM divide in Sindh, it's this map. Second, look at how evenly split southern Punjab is between the PPP, the PML-Q, and the PML-N. This conveniently leads me to the following prediction:

The PPP will form an alliance with the PML-Q in the centre and in Punjab.

Now, I know many of you have little faith in me and my predictions (yes, Nikhil, I know it's a justified lack of confidence). But bear with me, as I plow through the logic of my claim:

First, if we live in a multi-party world (and we do), and there are two clear front-runners (and there are), and there a litany of smaller parties (and there are), then it makes no rational sense for the two front runners to ally. Did the U.S. and Soviet Union ally after World War II and gang up against the rest of the world? No, I submit to you, they did not. They went from being allies to adversaries in a matter of months because each saw the other as its biggest rival. The same dynamic applies here. The PPP and PML-N both understand that the other is its biggest short-term and long-term threat to electoral supremacy. Furthermore, I ask you to think of this in terms of payoffs and costs. The payoff to the two major parties of forming an alliance is unbridled power in the NA. The cost is servitude to the other, because each of them owe the other for its support. Now consider an alliance between the PPP and the PML-Q. The benefit to the PPP is a workable majority (caveat: if the numbers work out, we don't know for sure yet). The costs are considerably lower, because the PPP has to share its majority with fewer stakeholders. It owes significantly less to the PML-Q than it does to the PML-N. Think about it: would you rather share $13 relatively evenly or $10 relatively lopsidedly?

Second, consider the issues. Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N would like to chart an anti-Musharraf course, impeach him, and restore the pre-November 3 judiciary. Asif Zardari has said no such thing. All he has stated concerning immediate issues is that (a) he wants an international investigation of BB's death, (b) he wants the judges and Aitzaz Ahsan released from house arrest, and (c) he wants to restore media freedoms. Read between the lines, people: the PPP, as of now, is still hedging its bets on the Musharraf question and the judiciary question. If they choose to go the conservative route, they will find ready and willing allies in the PML-Q. [Speaking of reading between the lines, here's what Zardari is quoted to have said by BBC: "For now, the decision of the party is that we are not interested in any of those people who are part and parcel of the last government." Key words: For now.]

Third, consider the politically most powerful province of Punjab. Here, the PML-Q has actually done decently well if you consider the debacle in the rest of the country. As things stand right now, the PML-N leads with 101 Provinical Assembly seats, followed by the PPP with 77 and the PML-Q with 64. If they choose to, the PPP and PML-Q can easily subvert the PML-N's power in the Punjab government.

I may turn out to be horribly wrong about this, because politics is a funny game and we don't even have the full results yet. Asif Zardari is already said to have made overtures to the PML-N. But I've stuck my neck out and provided a target in terms of a falsifiable claim. Let's see what happens.


Farooq said...

You're nuts here dude. Waaaayy off the mark. I think you need to take a break from the PhD programme since you've reached the point where you're looking at everything from a lens shaped VERY mechanically by game theory models and textbook politcal theory rather than ground realities.

PML-Q has too much of a negative stigma attached to it yaar. How the hell can PPP even consider joining hands with a party they claim has been holding back democracy in the first place. Also, with the way the numbers stand now, theyd have to rope in MQM as well (which i suppose wouldnt be to tough).

Im damn sleepy though and I cant continue. I hope SOMEONE is able to give you a more reasoned argument over why such a coalition would be seen as a betrayal along the lines of that battle scene in Braveheart. Suffice it to say that I think you're a little out of tune with what's going on here.

But I guess its totally possible for everything to follow the rules of political expediency and for you to be proven right by the time I wake up tomorrow. Even if that does happen, that doesnt change the fact that you have ALWAYS been wrong about every cricketing hypothesis you have ever posited.

Ahsan said...

You're nuts here dude. Waaaayy off the mark. I think you need to take a break from the PhD programme since you've reached the point where you're looking at everything from a lens shaped VERY mechanically by game theory models and textbook politcal theory rather than ground realities.

----> maybe, maybe not. time will tell, yes?

PML-Q has too much of a negative stigma attached to it yaar. How the hell can PPP even consider joining hands with a party they claim has been holding back democracy in the first place.

----> who had the biggest negative stigma attached to it for years and years? the PPP and PML-N, that's who. politics can change quickly, and all it takes is some set of expedient and genuine-sounding notes of contrition. please compare nawaz sharif's reputation in november 2007 and november 1999 to see how short people's memories are.

also, with the way the numbers stand now, theyd have to rope in MQM as well (which i suppose wouldnt be to tough).

------>the numbers are the biggest obstacle to my logic. but we dont know all the numbers yet, so let's wait and see how it turns out.

Even if that does happen, that doesnt change the fact that you have ALWAYS been wrong about every cricketing hypothesis you have ever posited.

-------> yes, this is true.

asfand said...

In all honesty, a PPP PML-Q alliance would be far more workable long-term than PPP-PML(N).

Nawaz won't be keen on taking shit from the PPP for too long, as you said earlier, what about his now-not-bald brother Shahbaz?

The PPP-PML(Q) love session would get the country running rather than having it mired in drawn-out impeachment campaigns and reinstating the judiciary. Would you rather the Government work with Musharraf than waste a couple of months impeaching him by removing the 17th and so on...

Musharraf really wasn't always that evil, and maybe his humility at the moment might be a very real manifestation of the fact that he doesn't think of himself as Ares anymore.

Lettuce see...

Anonymous said...

Musharraf's fatal mistake was to get involved with George Bush. Everything in his career went downhill from there, as did everything in Pakistan. He became a happy boot-licker of Washington. He was a decent man until he made that fatal mistake.

Ahsan said...


somewhat off the topic, but i disagree. musharraf got involved with the US in '01 and it lifted both his stature and the country's. he enjoyed 60% approval ratings at home well after his alliance with the US took hold.

his fatal mistake, to use your terminology, was picking a fight with the judiciary last march. that's when various strands of opposition coalesced against him. but until the beginning of last year, he was an immensely popular man.

Asad said...

i don't think ahsan's hypothesis is off the mark, even if you think that it doesn't echo popular sentiment @ home. it's not as if the PPP hasn't acted contrary to public opinion before.

case in point, the circumstances which allowed BB's return to the country. bear in mind she was in serious negotiations w/ the musharraf regime even as scores of her supporters had taken to the streets in the wake of the CJ fiasco. he wasn't exactly soaring in popularity then either... especially w/ her own senior party leadership.

point being, stigma alone won't keep PPP from entering an alliance that will ensure power.

it may seem unlikely, and i do hope it isn't the case, but ahsan's hypothesis isn't entirely improbable.

Anonymous said...

Hey Asfand Stupid

Its 'Let us' not Lettuce. Lettuce is a fruit that we eat.

Farooq said...

I think it veeeeery unrealistic. Come on yaar, BB was naming the Chaudhry brothers as her potential murderers a couple of months back.

I get what you're saying about how political expediency and relative benefits could influence the coalition process. But I dont think it will apply this time around. The PML-Q has alienated itself from the public and opposition waaaayy too much for any party to associate itself with them.

Im actually pretty puzzled that Ahsan is so vigorously applying concepts such as strategy implications and relative costs and benefits to analyze this situation. Last I remember dude, werent you a constructivist (or at least a CONSTRUCTO-REALIST as you loved to call yourself)? My memory of that theory is pretty dodgy but doesnt it rely on ideas and perceptions as its basis for influencing decision making?

So if the two largest parties end up uniting due to a fear of the stigma carried by the PML-Q, is that a victory for constructivism applied to a national scale (substituting parties for sovereign states) or am I totally of the mark now?

By the way, the preceding comment was hilarious. Methinks it the work of a certain machine.

AKS said...

I agree with Ahsan, partially because if I don't and he's right, it's going to take him a few years to let his moment of triumph go!

Seriously though, the PPP-PML(Q) coalition makes much more sense. Farooq, BB, as well as Zardari, blamed the Chaudhries but not the PML Q. Of course by default they meant the PMLQ, but that's only because PML(Q) represents the Chaud Shuj's wheeling-dealing prowess but not neccessarily his political agenda. Basically what I'm saying is that without Chaud Shuj, PML(Q) is a 'political party' that consists solely of players who like being in power.Sheikh Rashid is a prime example. So get rid of the Chaudries, the electorate really has helped, and you've got 50 NA memebrs up for grabs.

Conspiracy theory time: Aitzaz Ahsan released a statement yesterday asking Chaud Shuj to resign from the leadership of PML(Q). The PPP is definitely keeping his options open.

Just to underline the fluid nature of a PML(Q) allegiance. Sheikh Rashid, mouth piece of Mush, held a press conference today and blamed Mush and the Red Mosque action for his loss. The primary reason of the press conference was to debunk the rumour that he's left the country and flown to Spain...I'm not joking, Sheikh Rashid's denial was Breaking News on three different T.V. channels!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ahsan said...


i'm applying the following epistemological tools:

1. instrumentalist/rationalist concerns: this is where prospective costs and benefits comes into the equation. as i highlighted in the post, an alliance with the PML-Q gives the PPP almost as much as power as alliance with the PML-N, at a considerably lower cost of servitude. in a PPP-PMLQ alliance, the PML-Q alliance will OWE the PPP, and will treat it deferentially (think of a marriage between a CEO and a janitor...the janitor counts its lucky stars every day and the CEO exerts power within the relationship). on the other hand, no one will know who's boss in a PPP-PMLN alliance, especially if musharraf goes and there's nothing left to bind them. and you know what happens when you get a marriage when no one is the boss? the clintons.

2. identity-based (or to use your term, constructivist) concerns: the PPP is a national party anchored by its sindhi identity. the PMLN is a national party anchored by its punjbai identity. im not sure, as AKS pointed out earlier somewhere, if the PPP is ready to nominate a punjabi PM (i.e. Aitzaz). this is a condition the PMLN has already laid down for its support. it is unlikely to be met, i feel. in addition, if you've read your wendt recently, you know identity shapes interests. the ppp is a party of feudals. the pmln is a party of businessmen and urbanites (generally). they will thus have very different ideas about what ails pakistan and how to go about fixing it.

3 IR realism concerns: good old balance of power logic. in a bipolar world, you will see two broad opposing coalitions forming, because both poles see the other as its greatest rival and want to undercut it. cooperation is difficult if not impossible. the ppp and pmln are the big bosses of the neighborhood, but each of them (even if they dont realize it) want to be the *biggest* boss of the neighborhood. this is impossible if you ally with your rival.

again, as i said, it's a hypothesis that may or may not be borne out. but i've put my cards on the table.

Nikhil said...

what if ol' bilawal reads this blog and suggests the alliance to his pops as a result of doing so? that would, just to be clear, render your "prediction" null and void, since the cause-effect relationship would have been violated, and your long, long, long, long run of never being right will continue. yay.

Pervez Elahi said...

I am not a janitor. It is Asif Zardari's mother who is counting her lucky stars.

Ahsan said...

ol' bilawal's too busy being a frat boy and watching buffy to read blogs.

Farooq said...

Bilawal, if you are reading this, please forward my picture (located in the "Some News Trickling In" entry) and forward it to your cousin, Fatima. If she wants to hook up please get in touch with me via my representatives on this blog because your first cousin is a babe.

In case you and Fatima still arent on talking terms, can you at least set me up with Sherry?

Anonymous said...

Sherry Rehman is kinda ugly. I've heard several guys comment positively on her looks. Why? Just because she's not moti like all the others?

mate said...

to anon 7.18:

lettuce is a vegetable, not a fruit

Naveed said...

With Zardari pledging not to join hands with those who made fun of democracy, its clear that a PPP-PML(Q) coalition is impossible!!

Concerned Cartographer said...

Hey! Why is a state of India on that map? And why is a portion of that Indian state named Gilgit?

Anonymous said...

Can you stop making predictions now Ahsan? I mean seriously. You really suck at making predictions. I mean you're so bad that you'd do better if you guessed blindly. I mean really.

Anyways lettuce see what happens

Farooq said...

This isnt another case of "Ahsan being bad at predictions".

I think your analysis of the situation and the reasoning you applied was incredibly misconcieved and unrealistic given the climate. When I read this entry initially with all its epistemological gusto I was just dumbstruck that academics (or future acadmeics) can get so caught up in their set theories that they COMPLETELY ignore the ground realities, as "unscientific" as they may be (in this case a hate towards Musharraf and his party of PML-N defectors on the part of Nawaz and a wariness to be associated with a now unpopular former ruling party on the part of still restructuring PPP).

Now i SUPPOSE you could come back and say that a PPP-PMLQ alliance makes more political sense and holds mroe relative advantages for the PPP than one with PML-N. I wont argue there.
But you sort of offend your own sensibilities and intelligence when proposing that it was something which COULD happen.

Ahsan said...

hang on farooq. a couple of things. first, i was ignoring ground realities as you keep trying to say i did. nawaz sharif may or may not have "hated" musharraf. the point is that his brother (and allegedly him), along with other party representatives, were locked in negotiations with mush before the election. they were at least willing to talk, which can be taken as a signal that they could work together.

second, as someone else pointed out above, the senior leadership of the PPP didnt hate the PML-Q as much as it simply hated the senior leadership of the PML-Q. if you dont believe me, take a look at what rehman malik said:

"But Mr. Malik said most senior members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the pro-Musharraf party, had lost their seats. He said those who had won were not so strongly affiliated with the party as to be unacceptable."

not unacceptable = acceptable.

i may turn out to be wrong (by the way, this is not the end of the matter, i dont think) but the logic underpinning my argument was certainly mindful of ground realities as you keep calling them.

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