The May 11 election appears too close to call, with two main contenders enjoying almost the same voter approval ratings and the third one being not very far behind, the results of an exclusive public opinion poll conducted by the Herald magazine show.
A very high 95.1 per cent of the 1285 poll respondents say they are registered to vote and 25.68 per cent of these registered respondents say they intend to vote for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), 24.98 per cent of them say their vote will go to Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) and another 17.74 per cent want to vote for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
In Punjab, where more than half of all National Assembly contests will take place, PMLN seems to be the party of choice, with 38.66 per cent of the respondents indicating support for it, followed by PTI at 30.46 per cent. The outgoing ruling party in Islamabad, PPP, is trailing way behind at 14.33 per cent.
In Sindh, PPP still enjoys the biggest share of support with 35.21 per cent respondents indicating it as their party of preference, followed by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) with 19.37 per cent support, PTI with 8.45 per cent support and PML-N with 8.1 per cent among the survey respondents.
This is despite the fact that 50 per cent of the respondents in the province have rated the federal government’s performance as poor or very poor. In Khyber Pakthunkhwa, PTI is leading with 35.41 per cent support among the respondents while PML-N (with 12.92 per cent support) and Awami National Party (with 12.44 per cent support) are two distant runners-up. Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) has the highest backing among the poll respondents in Balochistan, at 19.18 per cent, with PPP a distant second at 8.22 per cent. The two parties leading nationally, PML-N and PTI, only have 2.74 per cent and 5.48 per cent support respectively among the respondents in Balochistan.
The poll, conducted by the Herald in March 2013 in 42 districts and two tribal agencies across Pakistan and being published in the magazine’s special pre-election issue scheduled to hit newsstands today (Wednesday), also shows high level of distrust among the respondents about the polling process. As many as 65.6 per cent of them feel that elections in Pakistan are neither free, nor fair nor transparent. Only 29 per cent respondents believe that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has the capacity to ensure free, fair and transparent elections; the number of those who are unsure about it (responding in “Maybe”) is much higher at 49 per cent. Those who say that it does not have that capacity are 22 per cent of the poll respondents.
While the respondents show an eagerness to vote (over 66 per cent of them say they will vote no matter whether the polls are free, fair and impartial or not), a significant portion of them (40 per cent) says the biggest disincentive to vote comes from the feeling that the government policies will not change. Another 24.48 per cent identify political apathy as the biggest hindrance to casting the ballot and 19.14 per cent find corruption as the discouraging factor.
Expert survey indicates otherwise
Meanwhile, the results of an exclusive Herald survey, conducted among ten distinguished experts on Pakistan’s electoral politics, indicates that the May 11 election will result in a National Assembly in which none of the three leading parties will win a simple majority of the seats.
The survey conducted in March and April 2013, and involving experts from academia, think-tanks and civil society organisations, shows PML-N getting the highest percentage of seats – at 34.89 percent, PPP getting the second highest percentage – at 24.89 percent, and PTI getting the third highest percentage of seats in the National Assembly – at 12.11 percent.
In seven experts’ opinion, PML-N will get 30 per cent or above seats – with one of them giving it as high as 44 per cent of seats. Only two experts predict that the party will get less than 30 per cent of seats and none give it below 25 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly.
The highest percentage of seats that PPP may get, according to the experts on the panel, is 35 per cent and the lowest is 18 per cent. Two experts believe that PPP will get less than 20 per cent of the seats and three believe that it will get above 30 percent seats; the rest expect it to win anywhere between 22 per cent and 28 per cent of the seats.
In PTI’s case, the highest percentage of seats it may win, according to two surveyed experts, is 16 per cent. The party’s lowest expected presence in the National Assembly could well be just seven per cent seats, according to one expert. Other experts believe that PTI will win anywhere from 9 per cent to 15 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly.
The results of the survey, being published in the magazine’s special pre-election issue scheduled to hit the newsstands today, also indicate that PML-N will get the highest percentage of votes from among the Hindko-speakers – at 49 per cent, followed by 48 per cent from among Punjabi-speaking voters. Similarly, PPP is likely to get the most percentage of votes from among Sindhi-speakers – at 52 per cent – and from among Seraiki speakers – at 46 per cent.
A rather high percentage of Seraiki-speakers – at 43 per cent – may vote for PML-N, according to the experts.
Among Pashto-speakers, ANP is likely to get the biggest share of votes at 38 per cent, followed by PTI at 35 per cent. For a large number of Baloch voters, the preferred party seems to be BNP-M, with 45 per cent of them likely to vote for that party, the panel predicted. The second highest vote-getter among the Baloch voters could be PML-N, at 32 per cent.
PTI, which is either leading or is seen as being a runner-up in most public opinion surveys, is likely to get the highest percentage of votes only from among the speakers of ‘other’ languages, including the speakers of Kashmiri, Gojiri, and Pothohari languages. Among the Urdu speaking community, however, MQM may take a clear lead by polling 71 per cent of their votes, the survey says.