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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

How will Pakistan form a coalition government after split election results?

According to the latest tally by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), results from 253 National Assembly constituencies had been announced as of Saturday afternoon, out of a total of 266.

Two days after Pakistan’s general elections were held, a split mandate has emerged among the big three parties and there is little clarity about who will be able to form a government.

According to the latest tally by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), results from 253 National Assembly constituencies had been announced as of Saturday afternoon, out of a total of 266.

Read more: Pakistan’s Khan-backed independents lead in final poll count

In a shock result, the largest number of seats have gone to independent candidates, of which at least 93 are backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

In December last year, the party was stripped of its electoral symbol, the cricket bat, accused of violating laws about holding internal party elections, forcing it to field its candidates as independents.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), which entered the election as the expected frontrunner, has emerged with the second-largest mandate, with only 71 seats. 

In third place is the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which managed to secure 54 seats, 11 more than it gained in the 2018 elections.

With such a split, the big question now rests on who will be able to form a government in Pakistan, a country of 241 million people which has suffered a turbulent two years with political instability, an economy on the verge of default and rising internal security challenges.

How is a majority determined?

With 266 seats up for grabs in the general elections, a simple majority of 134 is required for any one political party to be able to form a government.

Theoretically, however, members of parliament can form a government regardless of their party affiliation.

Read more: Pakistan’s strategic employment agreements propel 600 professionals overseas

In the PTI’s case, their affiliated candidates can choose to avoid joining other parties and, instead, band together as independents. This would allow them to form a government if they collectively cross the required threshold of 134 seats.

However, doing this could result in a weak government, perpetually vulnerable to the whims of individuals who can choose to desert the governing coalition – something which is much harder when tied to a formally organised political party.

Another downside of remaining independent is that they would be unable to benefit from the reserved seat quota kept for women and minority candidates. In Pakistan’s lower house, 266 seats are directly elected, with an additional 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for minorities. Those seats are distributed among parties according to the ratio of seats they have won.

If PTI-backed candidates do decide to join other parties to form a government, they must announce their decision within three days of the official notification issued by the ECP after the completion of the vote counting, expected by late Saturday.