Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, previously Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, has been elected by a majority of 221 votes out of the total of 342 National Assembly seats. The PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar secured 47 votes, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid received 33 votes, and 4 MNAs voted for JI’s Sahibzada Tariqullah.
Interesting to note is that PTI, which for all practical purposes is the main opposition political force on the streets and on media, and has repeatedly displayed that power against PMLN has no comparable strength inside the National Assembly.
The large margin with which Shahid Khaqan Abbasi secured the office of Prime Minister indicates that in the short period between the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and his appointment, PML-N leadership has managed to keep their house in order. The internal factions and rivalries have been sufficiently suppressed and have not manifested in public bickering. The alliances with coalition parties PkMAP, JUI-F, and MQM have held up.
This is being seen as the first victory for the PML-N in the post-Nawaz disqualification political scenario.
However, interesting to note is that PTI, which for all practical purposes is the main opposition political force on the streets and on media, and has repeatedly displayed that power against PMLN has no comparable strength inside the National Assembly. This then represents a structural flaw of Pakistan’s electoral system which has failed in translating the political power of respective parties into voting numbers in the house. It is perhaps this imbalance between actual reality and electoral college that produces continuous raucous on streets. Imran Khan’s PTI had repeatedly agitated against rigging in Election 2013, however there has been no significant electoral reforms since 2013 and the next elections will thus be held under more or less the same system.
The sloganeering and taunts in PML-N candidates were engaged in on the floor of the Assembly today, which gave the appearance of great strength, stand in stark contrast to the situation on the street where PTI has consistently been showing its growing popularity and political capital.
Naming Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an ‘interim’ initially gives the leadership time to consolidate support for him and appease critics or rivals who were vying for the position.
Another notable aspect of today’s proceedings was the mentioning of the possible extension of PM Abbasi’s tenure by both Naveed Qamar and Sheikh Rasheed. They said that they were expecting the new PM to complete the 10 months before the 2018 general elections but did not reveal the reasoning behind their assumption.
Many TV anchors and analysts have also revealed this rumor. This seems quite plausible given the fact that Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif is named in a reference filed with NAB regarding the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. PML-N may also want to maintain its stranglehold in Punjab for the upcoming 2018 elections.
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Naming Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an ‘interim’ premier initially gives the leadership time to consolidate support for him and appease critics or rivals who were vying for the position.