News Analysis |
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) successfully held by-elections on Sunday. By-elections were carried out for 35 constituencies of national and provincial assemblies across the country. The main contestation remained between the joint opposition and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). According to the unofficial and unverified initial results, PTI and PML-N got 4 National Assembly seats each.
The PML-Q retained two seats vacated by its leaders while Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) snatched back the NA-35 Bannu seat previously won by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The break-up in the National Assembly is now 182 coalition seats to the opposition’s 159. The by-election for the one remaining seat — Karachi’s NA-247, vacated by President Arif Alvi — is to be held next Sunday (October 21).
Now the party has to face even more strong opposition both in the national and Punjab assemblies since the opposition has gained some more seats to make its presence counted.
In Punjab, out of eleven, PML-N has won five seats of the Punjab Assembly and ruling PTI could manage to get only four. In KPK, the ruling party is ahead by getting five seats. The PPP- was victorious on the two provincial assembly seats on which by-elections were held in Sindh. In Baluchistan, BNP secured one seat and another was won by an independent candidate.
As per the orders of Supreme Court, ECP had allowed the overseas Pakistanis to vote on the experimental basis in these by-poll elections. Out of 7,364 overseas registered voters, 6,233 casted votes through i-voting. The inclusion of their votes in the final count is yet to be decided by the ECP.
Read more: Bypolls: Road to a healthier democracy
Turnout in by-polls was not very impressive, but overall elections were peaceful and the ECP spokesperson expressed satisfaction over the performance of all the officials performing their responsibilities on the polling day.
Interestingly, regardless of some uncalled-for remarks by PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique, there was no allegation of rigging. From the polling process to the announcement of results everything remained quite normal and functional. Although several efforts were reportedly made to hack the website of ECP website yet it remained operational during the whole day.
Moreover, for many observers, it was also worth noting that the first time in the history of Pakistan there was no use of government machinery to hijack the electoral process or results. Kamran Shahid, a prominent anchorperson, gave credit to PM Khan for this outstanding step.
Read more: Will ECP ensure free & fair elections?
Social media users praised Mr. Khan saying “The way #Imrankhan has played the role of a #PrimeMinister and not as Chairman #PTI during #ByElection2018 is a new History & the real step towards strengthening #Democracy in # Pakistan! Time for #PMLN & #PPP to learn how a Head of state acts. #PMIK ~ Respect”
The way #Imrankhan has played the role of a #PrimeMinister and not as Chairman #PTI during #ByElection2018 is a new History & the real step towards strengthening #Democracy in #Pakistan !
Time for #PMLN & #PPP to learn how a Head of state acts. #PMIK ~ Respect ~
— Adnan Zaheer Khawaja (@Adnan_Zaheer) October 14, 2018
For many analysts, the performance of the ruling party is not much impressive. The party was in power in Punjab and center, therefore, was supposedly in a position to appease voters by offering them material gains. But contrary to expectations, PTI lost seats in Lahore and won only four seats in Punjab where it is in power.
There are various factors which did not allow the party to win the elections e.g. senior leadership of the party rather remained focused on dealing with domestic as well as external challenges Pakistanis facing at the moment, PM Khan was absolutely busy in his own official responsibilities and economic challenge hit hard the newly elected government of PTI.
Moreover, some analysts are of the view that since PM Khan has taken some wrong decision which has played a great role in PTI is defeat. Ali Salman, a journalist, said “Weak decisions come with a huge price. #PTI is paying that price in #ByElections. If these results don’t wake PM Imran Khan up, nothing will. #ByElection2018”
— Ali Salman Alvi (@alisalmanalvi) October 14, 2018
There is a general perception that the PTI should have won more seats in by-polls since it is in power. Now the party has to face even more strong opposition both in the national and Punjab assemblies since the opposition has gained some more seats to make its presence counted.
The loss of PM IK’s seats actually echoes the party’s electoral performance in 2013 elections. In 2013, Imran Khan retained his Rawalpindi seat while leaving his Mianwali and Peshawar seats which were both lost. It seems that the PTI votebank is in thrall to the “Vote only for Imran Khan” phenomenon as well as poor choice of candidates. For example, Humayun Akhtar Khan was not much loved by the average PTI supporter due to his turncoat nature.
In the end, nothing has changed much on the ground except that a new precedence in democratic traditions has been set by the PTI.