The polling for the third Gilgit Baltistan (GB) legislative assembly elections are scheduled to be held today on November 15th. A total of 330 candidates including major parties such as the previous ruling party in GB, PMLN, the current national ruling party PTI and PPP are contesting for 24 general seats, 6 seats reserved for women, and 3 seats reserved for technocrats. 23 candidates from PPP, 21 candidates from PMLN, and 21 candidates from PTI are contesting in the elections.
GB elections will be held in a total of 24 constituencies, however polling in one constituency GBLA-3 has been postponed due to the demise of a prominent candidate in October from COVID-19.
Previously, GB has held two elections, in 2009 and 2015, respectively, where the ruling governments won the majority. PPP won 20 out of the total 33 seats with 14/24 general seats, making the first assembly of GB in 2009. Similarly, in 2015, PMLN won 22 seats with 16/24 general seats to make the second assembly of GB.
In the current elections, surveys by Gallup and PULSE depict an overwhelming support for PTI candidates by around 40 percent of the people. Around 30 percent of voters believe elections will be transparent and free of rigging.
GB has been following a trend of electing candidates from the party that is in power in the centre. This swerve towards the winner in the centre could be to ensure the policy making does not face resistance from the centre and budgetary allocations are not jeopardized.
In Gallup Pakistan's survey, respondents were asked which political party they would vote for on 15th Nov (the Election Day). In response, 27 percent said they would vote for PTI, 24 percent said PPP, and 14 percent said PML-Nhttps://t.co/GHlDodaHTB#GilgitBaltistan
— Gallup Pakistan (@GallupPak) November 11, 2020
Keeping in view Imran Khan’s previous announcement to provide GB with a provincial status and GB’s history with electing the national ruling party, it seems that the odds are in PTI’s favor to win the third GB assembly elections. Imran Khan is determined to win and also stated recently, “PTI will easily win the Gilgit-Baltistan elections”. Similarly, Murad Saeed, the Minister for Communications, stated that there is an “overwhelming support” for PTI in GB, and the people of GB have “shown what they want even before November 15.”
The stakes for the people of GB are higher than the two previous elections, as the process of making GB a province would be significantly faster if PTI wins the GB assembly elections.
Polling begins in Gilgit-Baltistan
Approximately 15,000 security personnel from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, GB, Balochistan and Sindh are present at the polling stations. The voting will start from 8am to 5pm continuously, reported Radio Pakistan. People are lining up outside polling stations in GB while also following SOPs and maintaining social distance. Staff present at the polling stations have already received bags filled with essentials such as masks, sanitizers and gloves et cetera. 577 polling stations have been categorized as sensitive while 297 highly sensitive, out of the total 1,141 polling stations, GB chief secretary told the Senate Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan.
— Dunya News (@DunyaNews) November 15, 2020
There are a total of 745,361 registered voters in the GB elections of 2020. While, there were only 618,362 registered voters in 2015 elections, showed a district wise voter list provided by the Election Commission of GB. The numbers suggest that around 126997 new voters will vote in the current elections.
Who is likely to win?
The real battle is, argue analysts, between PPP and PTI. Several key local leaders have recently joined PTI.
Political analysts are of the view that the PML-N might have won some seats had Nawaz not followed a controversial anti-army narrative in his recent speeches. At the moment, there is no significant presence of the party as local leaders are either joining the PTI or PPP, argue independent analysts. “We see a different type of politics in GB now. PPP and PML-N are on the same page to counter the establishment but in GB they are contesting elections without getting hard on each other,” Nouman Ahmad, a GB-based journalist told GVS.
Read more: Is PTI planning to rig GB Elections 2020?
Delivered petition to Chief Election Commissioner about pre-poll rigging in GB election. Proofs of postal ballot frauds submitted but no action. PM & Ministers violating code of conduct blatantly but no action. Replay of GE 2018 in GB will be a disaster. pic.twitter.com/DUKwl4ERVl
— Ahsan Iqbal (@betterpakistan) November 9, 2020
Notably, Uzma Bukhari of PML-N has clarified in a show on ARY News that PPP and PML-N are two separate political parties, and their only collective goal is to challenge the establishment. “We are two different political parties. Don’t consider us as a merged political party,” she told Waseem Badami.
Eman Shah, a journalist and political activist from GB, while speaking to Soch, stated that historically, it has always been the federal government that has mostly won the GB elections. He further observes, that it is important of this year’s elections to be free and fair because “there is confusion amongst the citizens, which is when a government takes a control of the federation, certain mechanisms are instituted with it; such as the management, superintendence, and federal departments, and obviously the establishment, which we refer to as the power circle, supports these mechanisms. That is why this time, there is a lot of pressure from the political and religious parties, that there should be no interference in this elections, in any way”.
GVS news desk