Elections 2013: Old Wine in a New Bottle

Pakistanis voted in the 14th legislative assemblies through May 11th elections. These elections were an interesting mix of something old, new, borrowed and even blue. Much ahead of the elections, campaigning had started. Glaringly visible on the social media, the target audience this time was the youth, which proved highly beneficial to all. If one political party was trying to dish out laptops, electricity generating units, to be topped by mega flagship projects such as mass commuting projects, or creating new world records through youth power, others tried to bowl their opponents over through stirring revolutionary fervor for a New and Changed Pakistan. Other mainstream political parties remained highly conspicuous through their absence of election strategy and apparent vision.

Credit goes to the communication and public relations teams of PTI and PML-N for creating the media blitz to a point where it seemed that facebook and twitter would be deciding the future course of affairs. Monitoring these developments and growing trends, there were some very confident estimation as to which party is going to win and how many seats will be won by whom. One thing for sure was that the ruling party PPP will not be voted back into power. This primarily was due to a totally abysmal and dismissive governance approach by the PPP during its five years stint. Although it is considered a big feat for the PPP to be able to have a continuous democratic rule, despite many run-ins with the judiciary, apparent disagreements with the military top brass, hostile neighbors, a divergent security perspective and correspondingly affected ties with the US and above all, inheriting Musharraf era’s Frankenstein in the shape of domestic instability, terrorism and falsely inflated economic statistics. However none of this could cover up PPP’s nonperformance. At best, their approach appeared that of survivalists, who had managed to win country wide sympathy vote in 2008 on the basis of Benazir Bhutto’s killing, than actually either have the acumen to run the state of affairs or to think of a political future beyond the allotted five years.

As a result, during the critical few months that led to the elections, traditional PPP voters and loyalists found the Party totally disconnected from the entire electoral process, with no leadership to gather under (let alone the visionary type!), no agenda for future, and a party that post elections was reduced to provincial size only. Even the well-rehearsed and aptly worded speech by the party president Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on election eve could not win back the disillusioned and disgruntled voters.

Where PPP did not appear to have the urge to promote its young leadership, the second political dynasty PML N was busy training and promoting the generation -x of the Sharif clan. Each of these young guns maintaining their camp offices dealing with the range of publicity options to their max. As for PTI, considered more an urban phenomenon, the real vote grabbers from the rural base were the makhdooms and big names who always enjoyed a confirmed vote base, irrespective of their party affiliations. Bulk of the vote base of PTI were the youth who voted for Imran and the promise he held, than individual candidates within the party. Those who firmly believed in La Capitan’s sole ability to herald a revolutionary change were betting on much higher numbers of seats that would fall in PTI’s lot. More like a clean sweep through KPK, and entire of Punjab. This optimism mixed with tears became all the more high after Khan’s injury from the crane fall. It seemed imminent that nothing could now stop the tsunami from clean sweeping the elections. Witness to an all women prayer meet that continued till fajr (early morning) prayers, it was at once amusing and a bit scary to see so much of faith being placed in a single person. Definitely a sign of something new, it also was scary in terms of what if the person elected fails to live up to peoples’ expectations.

Being the eternal skeptic, my predictions were not more than 40 seats for the PTI, a sound and solid victory for PML-N, BUT not a complete whiteout of PPP and ANP, with MQM of course maintaining its traditional seats and vote bank. ANP unfortunately like the PPP could not come up with anything to offer in these elections, except for inaction and a very tragic long list of its workers and party leaders’ killed including Bashir Ahmed Bilour. PTI benefitted tremendously from this in KPK and PML-N in Punjab and Balochistan from PPP’s loss of political hold. Other than this, PTI remained much of an urban phenomenon, with a very select social class casting vote in its favor. However it goes to the credit of PTI primarily, that the 2013 elections saw an unprecedented number of voters queuing up to vote, which was certainly a new and encouraging phenomenon. The PML-N followed by PTI had very strategically focused on the youth, who proved to be a highly motivated and inspiring lot, as they managed to convince many others who had never previously voted or had decided not to cast their vote out of protest.

With the elected assemblies moving fast towards their first 100 days of performance, the problems for which previous government was voted out look somewhat the same, which is certainly nothing new. The politicians are turning blue in trying to convince a frowning public through the electronic media about how the world changed after May 11th. Many promises and declarations made during campaigning were gullibly bought by a still naive and trusting public was best suited for election sloganeering, which has always been the case so it is definitely the “old” in this wedding profile. The biggest challenge before this odd marriage dated May 11th is governance, overcoming the crippling energy crises and seriously addressing and uprouting the menace of militancy and terrorism. Let’s toast to their success!

Posted in , Elections, Pakistan, Politics

Salma Malik

Salma Malik

Ms Salma Malik is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad Pakistan. She specializes in the areas of War, Arms Control & Disarmament, Military Sociology, South Asian Affairs and her research areas include: Conflict Management & Transformation, Human Security, CBMs & Micro-Disarmament.

Read more

One thought on “Elections 2013: Old Wine in a New Bottle

  1. Governments have come and gone but there has been no change in any policy for the last 65 years, only change has been in the posturing. No Government has been allowed to close any old chapter and open a new one. Left of center parties like PPP and ANP were hardly able to campaign with their leaders being knocked off, same could be the fate of PML – N next time.
    Trading in insecurity and fear has helped the Oligarchs in Pakistan retain their hold on Power and no one can expect them to surrender their guns and go home to rest. The need for change is urgent but those who can bring it cannot afford to risk their livelihood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *