By-election Results Bring in a New Wave of Partisan Politics
The by-elections yesterday yielded some interesting results all the while re-creating the fervent partisan atmosphere that the country was embroiled in during the General Elections just months ago.
The by-elections were held in constituencies where seats were vacated owing to the candidates winning more than one seat in the July elections. For instance, the elections were held in the four constituencies where Imran Khan had previously won the seat. PM Khan had contested the general elections from five constituencies, winning all of them. The seats vacated due to him assuming Premiership were the most sought-after results in Sunday’s elections.
Of the two National Assembly seats vacated by Khan, one was taken up by Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and the other was taken by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N)
Of the 11 National Assembly seats, PML-N and PTI emerged neck to neck with four seats each. The PML-Q managed to retain its two seats in Chakwal and Gujrat, whereas the MMA improved its strength in the National Assembly by winning the Bannu seat.
According to Dawn News, in the by-elections on 24 provincial assembly seats (11 in Punjab, nine in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two each in Sindh and Balochistan), the PTI was leading in nine constituencies (four in Punjab and five in KP) while the PML-N was ahead in six constituencies (five in Punjab and one in KP).
The defining feature of these by-elections has undoubtedly been the NA-131 seat, where Khawaja Saad Rafique has managed to snatch away PTI’s seat in a key zone of Lahore.
Saad Rafique’s win yesterday brought PML-N celebrations out to the roads. It was pretty much as if July was happening all over again. Twitter also launched its campaigns denouncing Khan (in Lahore) and also lauding the return of the shair. The campaigns شیراکواریفیر# and #Mrniaziyouarerejected, were quick to flood Twitter.
Simultaneously, PTI lamented that the absence of the party figurehead, Imran Khan, is what led to the defeat. Talking to a private TV channel, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the top party leadership did not run the campaign due to a bar by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on them. He said the PTI’s politics revolved around Imran Khan and when the party head was not there in the field, division within the party ranks was quite natural. He was of the opinion that the PTI would have won at least nine of the 11 NA seats had Mr Khan led the election campaign.
This assertion certainly runs true to the nature of party-based politics and blind support in Pakistan.
Since Imran Khan wasn’t running the show, the seat fell to the opposition. This really makes little sense. Do people vote for policy or the person? Granted one should look at the individual candidate in question. However, a complete change in the party seat entirely in the by-elections only highlights the strange partisan politics that govern our people’s approach to elections.
These results are yet to be confirmed should the ECP decide to include the expat votes.
Out of 7,364 registered overseas Pakistanis votes, 6,233 polled their votes through i-voting. The ECP had allowed the overseas Pakistanis to vote on an experimental basis on the directive of the Supreme Court. The ECP would decide about the inclusion of their votes in the final count in a day or two. Rafique has criticized the tardiness of the ECP in furbishing the results from this list.
Nevertheless, Rafique has won NA-131 according to the unofficial results and PML-N seems to have found a new vigour, which we can only hope is fruitful for the positive and dynamic development of democracy in Pakistan.