Pakistan’s heavily anticipated general election befell on Feb. 8, 2024, with residents of the South Asian nation hoping that it would show a step towards ending the nation’s political uncertainty.

However a number of days later, it stays unclear what the results of the vote will yield. Each of the main contenders have claimed victory, amid allegations of vote rigging and disputed ballots.

The Dialog spoke with Ayesha Jalal, an expert on Pakistan’s political history who teaches at Tufts College, about what the outcomes of the election imply and what might occur subsequent.

Is it clear who will govern Pakistan subsequent?

The outcomes as they stand imply that no occasion is able to type a authorities by itself. So a coalition authorities on the federal stage is unavoidable.

And that is the place issues get tough. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI – headed by jailed former prime minister and Pakistani cricket hero Imran Khan – has emerged because the largest party in the national assembly, with round 93 candidates profitable seats as “independents.” They needed to run as independents as a result of the occasion was barred from using its electoral symbol, a cricket bat, after a three-member bench of the supreme courtroom dominated that PTI had failed to carry intraparty elections according to its structure.

However with a complete of 265 seats in parliament, meaning the PTI remains to be nicely in need of the quantity wanted to type a authorities by itself.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PMLN, got here in second with 78 seats, a tally that’s more likely to be boosted by the addition of PMLN-aligned impartial members of parliament. The occasion – headed by Shahbaz Sharif, who took over from Khan as prime minister in 2022, and his brother, former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif – is assumed to have the backing of the powerful Pakistani army, however it didn’t carry out in addition to anticipated within the election.

The Pakistan Folks’s Social gathering, or PPP, secured 54 seats, putting it third. This places it ready to assist one other occasion type a coalition on the federal stage.

With essentially the most seats, is the PTI the front-runner to steer a coalition?

The PTI has made it clear that it desires to type a authorities by itself and believes that its mandate was stolen.

Even earlier than the ultimate election outcomes turned recognized, the PTI claimed it had won 170 or so seats – sufficient for it to have the ability to type a authorities. However that seems to be with out proof.

This means the PTI isn’t ready to accept that it didn’t get sufficient votes to type a authorities outright. The occasion as a substitute is difficult the outcomes, claiming that its vote was suppressed illegally, and the PTI has already formally registered complaints in 18 constituencies.

I imagine it’s extra doubtless {that a} coalition will emerge between the opposite events, led by the PMLN. However the query is whether or not that may fulfill an citizens that voted the PTI as the biggest occasion in parliament.

That doesn’t sound very steady. Is it?

It isn’t. Pakistan is now getting into an unsure situation, which is, in impact, a post-election political disaster.

Coalitions are usually not unusual in Pakistan’s politics, however they don’t seem to be straightforward to handle. They’ll become unwieldy, weak and prone to manipulation.

It additionally makes it far tougher for any authorities to push by means of the type of daring financial packages wanted for the nation to maneuver ahead and escape the deep structural issues which are ailing the economic system, reminiscent of a limited tax base and reliance on handouts from different international locations. Tackling that requires arduous, probably unpopular selections, that are harder when a authorities is cut up and has a restricted in style mandate.

The nation may have one other nationwide vote earlier than too lengthy to safe a extra steady and workable authorities.

The election has been referred to as flawed within the West. Is that truthful?

By Pakistan’s requirements, the precise polling went off comparatively peacefully. There was a horrible assault within the restive province of Baluchistan on the eve of the election that killed 28 people. However fears of widespread violence on the day of the election didn’t materialize.

And whereas there have been undue curbs on political activity within the run-up to the elections, the election itself seems to be largely credible by Pakistani requirements, because the nation’s overseas ministry has been quick to attest.

The truth that the PTI, a celebration that’s out of favor with Pakistan’s present senior navy management, has accomplished so nicely suggests there was no simple rigging throughout the board. There was harassment of PTI voters in some locations, however it clearly wasn’t enough to make large inroads into their total vote.

One can’t evaluate Pakistan’s democracy with that of the US or another nation. The issue with many exterior observers of Pakistan’s politics is that they speak normatively – that’s, they see Pakistan’s elections by means of the eyes of what’s usually seen because the norm elsewhere.

However Pakistani politics are distinctive. The nation is a military-dominated state, with generals which have lengthy been concerned within the nation’s politics – and elections.

However the different to managed elections, irrespective of how messy, is martial legislation. And a flawed democracy is healthier than the navy jackboot.

Greater than that, the election itself befell comparatively peacefully. There was a substantial amount of criticism within the West about cellphones and mobile internet services being blocked on election day. Which will seem to be unacceptable interference within the electoral course of to exterior observers. However in Pakistan, there was real concern about cellphones getting used to detonate explosive gadgets.

Will anybody be happy with the election consequence?

Paradoxically, whereas the PTI’s sturdy exhibiting represents an anti-establishment vote – and, extra particularly, an anti-army vote – the divided nationwide mandate means the military excessive command has cause to be glad with the end result.

A cut up nationwide meeting and weak authorities performs into the navy’s palms. Ought to the PMLN govern as the most important occasion in a coalition, will probably be ready of relative weak point and can want the military’s assist, particularly if the PTI engages in widespread protests in opposition to the election outcomes.

Are there any positives from the election?

Sure, insofar as the method of in search of the peoples’ assist has been allowed to proceed. However the negatives are seen by most to outweigh the positives and the 2024 elections are being considered as equally – if no more – manipulated and managed than the 2018 train.

The turnout this time round is estimated to be around 48%, which is decrease than in 2018 when it was 51%. The demographic breakdown is encouraging. The youth performed a vital function; 44% of voters have been underneath the age of 35. And girls, too, performed a bigger function within the vote – extra ladies contested and in addition gained seats.

And occasion politics apart, the consequence means that previous ways to intimidate and suppress voters largely didn’t work. The expectation was that the spate of legal verdicts against Khan simply weeks earlier than the election and his continued imprisonment may curb his reputation and imply PTI supporters would keep house. That clearly didn’t occur.

However what they helped ship could solely assist proceed Pakistan’s political malaise because it heads into a brand new, unsure interval.


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