Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Questions To Ponder On The Elections

Do the results mean that pre-election concerns of massive rigging were the dog that didn't bark? Are these the fairest elections since 1970?

Will Musharraf not put up a fight if the PPP and PML-N ally against him? The NYT report suggests he won't:
Two politicians close to Mr. Musharraf have said in the last week that the president was well aware of the drift in the country against him and they suggested that he would not remain in office if the new government was in direct opposition to him. “He does not have the fire in the belly for another fight,” said one member of his party. He added that Mr. Musharraf was building a house for himself in Islamabad and would be ready soon to move.

How great has the media coverage been? You can, for instance, find up-to-the minute results here on each of the provincial assemblies as well as, of course, the national assembly.

If all the "stalwarts" of the PML-Q lost resondingly, how did Chaudhry Pervez Elahi manage to win?

Are we really going to see the age-old enemies (the PPP and PML-N) form a coalition? I'm deeply skeptical, not because I have doubts that people can bury the hatchet (they certainly can) but because each of them, as an individual party, has much more to gain by aligning with a smaller party and being the big brother in a coalition government than being on fairly equal terms with each other in a coalition government. If they do form an alliance, almost everything I've read about coalition building in electoral politics will turn out to be wrong. At the very least, I will have a couple of questions to ask of Daniel Posner.

We also have to consider the fact that ethnically and ideologically, the two parties have very different platforms. The PML-N is a Punjabi dominated, (supposedly) business friendly party. The PPP is a Sindhi dominated, (supposedly) poor-friendly party. Is the spectre of a Musharraf exit sufficient to close the very important disjunt that exists between their outlooks? If yes, what happens if/when Musharraf leaves? If not, which party out of the three main candidates - the PML-Q, the MQM, and the ANP - will each of them court/choose as a partner?

Come on, people, let's hear what you have to say.

Correction: An earlier version of this post had me comparing the elections to 1973, not 1970. This shows you should not try and write a post in between classes. In any event, the error was regretted and corrected.


AKS said...

Seriatim reply to your questions.

1. The elections may not have been institutionally rigged but that doesn't mean their was no rigging at all. The rigging was more localised and dependant on the power structures of particular constituencies.

A few examples:

Ghinwa Bhutto and supporters had a scuffle with Nisar Khuro whom they accused of rigging of the elections. It all started when polling staff in the area alleged that Ghinwa had a fake ID card and disallowed her to vote. PPP would've won that seat regardless but creating hurdles for Ghinwa was a show strength.

I'm told by someone that MQM party workers in P.E.C.H.S., friends of his, asked him to vote multiple times, and he did so five times. MQM did not rig the polling because they were under threat but because voter turnout in the area was abyssmal and they wanted to raise that figure, not to mention their winning margin. I'm told that in the end, MQM won the seat by 167,000 votes, maybe even with the laegest winning margin in the country.

Most of the dodgy electioneering has taken place in Punjab where, unlike Sindh, many constituencies house more than one powerful candidate. Each candidate controls the election machinery (police, presiding officers) of certain areas and attempts to 'manage' the results in designated polling booths.

2. As for the media coverage, for me, Geo won hands down followed by Dawn News and HUM Tv. Express News and ARY One World were ok whereas AAJ was a bit crap. I refused to watch PTV, as watching this always makes me feel as though I'm stuck in a time warp.

Geo concentrated all its energies on reporting the results and aided by its helpful graphics display, it was the best source in this regards.

The restrictions imposed by PEMRA, which included a ban on exit polls, rumour mongering and unofficial resutls and a 24 hr media ban on politicians killed a lot of the excitement. I mean no rumours and no comment from Sheikh Rashid predicting the outcome equals no fun.

3. Pervez Elahi is extremely adept at highlighting his achievements. It of course helps to have a multi-million dollar campaign budget as he did. I'm not really surprised by his victory, more so by the fact that despite the unprecedented scale and regional concentration of his campaigning his party lost big.

4. PPP is in poll position. It has emerged as the only national party in the elections. More importantly it is certain and likely to win the support of ANP and MQM, respectively. But that still appears not to be enough to form a government. PML (Q) holds an important voting block but it would be a mighty surprise if they teamed up with the PPP. I mean the PPP accused them of killing Benazir. Then again PPP and PMLN are teaming up, so strager things have happened.

A PPP, PMLN alliance is hardly the stuff of fairy tales and its hard picturing them living happily ever after. What if Mush resigns? Without an enemy they'll turn on each other.

Another important factor is the identity of the PM, and perhaps
more importantly, his ethnicity. Its intriguing to note that Nawaz has forwarded Aitzaz's name. Lest we forget, Aitzaz has served as Nawaz's lawyer and belongs to the land of five rivers. But I cant see PPP nominating a non-Sindhi PM. Not yet anyway.

The more I think about it, the less inclined I am of writing the Chaudhries off. If Mush goes Nawaz may have a rapprochement with the Chaudhries and profit from the inevitable PPP-MQM falling out and launch a no-confidence motion. I dont think the Shariff brothers have given up on national leadership just yet.

Omar Haq said...

I didn't follow the election as well as I could have...
but is it true that PML-N had an actual platform? with actual proposals rather than just a bunch of chanting?

Ahsan said...


their (very inconsistent) platform is based on the restoration of the judiciary and strong action against musharrah, the it is only now after the election that this position has been congealed into an impeachment position. NS also talked a lot about working for the poor without really talking about specifics, but that's no surprise.