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Peshawar: Battle for NA-4 underway

NA-4

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Polling started in almost all polling stations in the NA-4 constituency, Peshawar, amid high security, this morning. The poll has been seen by many as a litmus test for the ruling PTI and its reforms agenda. Party has been in charge of the province since the May 2013 elections; it has worked on improving police performance, educational standards, health delivery and local governments; however it has not focused on high visibility mega projects.

The seat in NA-4, had fallen vacant after the demise of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s MNA Gulzar Khan. As many as fourteen candidates are in the run. Six of them are contesting the election from the platform of different political parties and eight as independent candidates.

The PPP has fielded the former MNA’s son Asad Gulzar in order to cash in on the sympathy vote. The PTI itself has fielded the former Nazim of Peshawar Arbab Amir Ayub. Its former ally the Jamaat-e-Islami has fielded a newcomer Wasil Farooq Khan in hopes of winning the seat.

The PTI faces off challengers in the form of a three-party alliance of PML(N), JUI(F) and QWP in addition to contenders from the PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami. The parties have fielded their candidates based on various factors. The PML(N), for example, has fielded the former runner-up in the 2013 election, Nasir Khan Musazai while the ANP has fielded the former Speaker of the Provincial Assembly Khusdil Khan.

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The PPP has fielded the former MNA’s son Asad Gulzar in order to cash in on the sympathy vote. The PTI itself has fielded the former Nazim of Peshawar Arbab Amir Ayub. Its former ally the Jamaat-e-Islami has fielded a newcomer Wasil Farooq Khan in hopes of winning the seat.

The PTI had won the NA-4 seat in 2013 by a big margin of 34,722 votes. The party’s candidate, Gulzar Khan, had received 55,134 votes while the runner-up, Nasir Khan Mosazai of the PML-N, got 20,412. The Jamaat’s Sabir Hussain Awan came third with 16,493 votes.

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This time, however, the times are hard. Many see the PTI control of the seat as vital for its future. Already having lost the NA-1 seat to the ANP after its vacation by Imran Khan, the PTI is keen to hold on to this seat since it sees it as an indicator of its popularity in the province and by extension, a proof of its sincerity to electoral promises.

PTI is determined to present itself as a bankable and viable party. Often dismissed by critics as a one-shot wonder, the PTI has not been able to perform well in the face of its archenemy the PML(N).

This electoral battle comes after the Panama verdict and after having performed better despite losing the NA-120 election. PTI is determined to present itself as a bankable and viable party. Often dismissed by critics as a one-shot wonder, the PTI has not been able to perform well in the face of its archenemy the PML(N).

This dismal performance gave the aura of invincibility to the PML(N) until the decision of the Supreme court on the Panama scandal. The PTI is therefore committed to showing itself as a viable replacement to the status quo. Similarly, its opponents are desperate to topple the PTI in this seat to showcase their own power and to degrade the PTI’s claims to be the leading party of the nation.

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While it can be asserted that a single by-election may not influence the 2018 elections, but they can still change and shift voter attitudes

ECP testing Electronic Voting Machines (EVM)

New thing about this by-election is the first ever use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). In select polling stations, Election commission is testing its Electronic Voting Machines; it will be interesting to see how this technology works in a constituency which is far less educated than most constituencies across Lahore and other parts of Punjab where ECP has not tested its Electronic Machines.

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