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The vote tally is short by about six million. The May 11 elections were historic on all accounts. However, instead of 60per cent, as it was claimed by the officials in Islamabad, the voter turnout was closer to 53per cent, resulting in a shortfall of approximately six million votes.

Soon after the elections, Mr. Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Pakistan’s chief election commissioner, declared a landmark voter turnout of 60per cent. With 84.2 million registered voters in the 262 ridings for which the Commission has reported detailed results on its website, one would have expected a total of 50.5 million votes polled for the National Assembly for a reported 60per cent turnout. The actual number of votes polled, however, is closer to 44.86 million, resulting in a voter turnout of approximately 53per cent.

A forensic audit of the vote count, as reported by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on its website, allows insights into how the electorate reacted on May 11. The results help explain why Imran Khan’s Tsunami was unable to take over from Khyber to Bolan and how the Nawaz League was able to secure over 14 million votes.

But first a caveat. The analysis presented here is being offered without any claim for accuracy. The analysis presented here is, at best, a sincere attempt to understand the vote counts reported by the ECP. Since the ECP did not report results in a single table, I wrote a small computer program to siphon off publically available data from the ECP servers to generate a data set of the 272 ridings of which ECP reported results for 262. I acknowledge the possibility of unintentional errors in retrieving data and later in its analysis. To ensure transparency, I am making the computer code available for public use.

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Counting votes and not seats

With over 14.8 million votes, the Nawaz League is comfortably ahead of its political rivals. The Nawaz League, it appears, has consolidated the vote bank of Muslim League (Nawaz) and that of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid). With its leadership in disarray in Punjab, the average voter of PML-Q moved to the Nawaz League. In 2008, the two Muslim Leagues had jointly secured 14 million votes, which have come to settle in Nawaz League’s camp in 2013.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) with 7.6 million votes received the second most votes for the National Assembly (NA) elections. Pakistan Peoples Party- Parliamentarians (PPPP) received 6.8 million votes, which are significantly less than what the party secured in the last elections. Independent candidates collectively secured 5.8 million votes.

Votes secured by top political parties in May 2011’s NA elections

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No justice for the Justice Party

The supporters of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), despite their success, are not pleased with the outcome. They were hoping for much more seats than what they ended up with. The reason for this unfavourable outcome is perhaps the lack of electable candidates. Despite the fact that PTI secured 7.5 million votes, the votes were intended for the PTI or its leader, and not necessarily for the PTI’s candidate.

Unlike other parties that filed winnable candidates, PTI was not able to turn Party's popularity into its candidates' success. Consider that while 80per cent of the votes polled by PML-N were for the winning candidate, a mere quarter of the votes polled by the PTI were for its winning candidates. Thus, PTI's runner ups and others secured 5.5 million of the 7.56 million votes party received in the May 11 elections for Pakistan’s National Assembly.

In an earlier piece I highlighted the same PTI challenges, whose professionally managed website listed candidates only a few days before the election day. Five years hence, it is likely that the PTI’s currently unknown entities would emerge as recognized political figures who may have a better chance of winning the elections.

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Imran Khan: the most voted candidate

While his party did not do very well in winning the seats, Imran Khan indeed ended up being the most voted candidate in the elections. He received roughly 390,000 votes in the May 11 elections, followed by Mian Nawaz Sharif with 232,000 votes. If Pakistan had an American-styled presidential elections, Imran Khan would be the most likely winner.

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The voter turnout in 2013 is a little shy of the landmark voter turnout of 55per cent recorded in the 1977 elections. However, the voters in 2013 should be proud of their demonstrated courage against violence and their continued faith in electoral democracy. The 45-million who have voted have indeed given Pakistan 45-million reasons to succeed.

Author Image

Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of

He tweets @regionomics

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (23) Closed

MBA May 22, 2013 06:18pm

Very interesting and professional analysis. An humble suggestion: a clarification for the first diagram (Voter turnout) would have been helpfull.

Lakhkar Khan May 22, 2013 06:41pm

Don't blame me. I voted for the one who did not cheat or they would have won the election.

Muhammed Khan May 22, 2013 06:52pm

Nice Analysis. Do you have breakdown of votes province wise. Need to see how PML-N received votes in each province. also for other parties.

AK May 22, 2013 08:00pm

Good analysis. Some food for thought for PTI strategists.

PTI did get significant number of votes (not seats) in all four provinces which is something no party has done historically except for PPP.

One correction though. Comparison to the US elections is invalid since Imran khan contested from four seats and Nawaz Sharif from two. Besides that, Nawaz Sharif would have won anyway because it is the number of constituencies won, not the number of total votes, that count. Remember Gore had more votes than George W Bush.

Barooq May 22, 2013 08:22pm

Come on. IK contested from 4 constituencies and NS from 2. You cannot compare votes polled to each of them directly. So the idea that ik would be winner in presidential race is wrong deduction, rather its just plan speculation.

NASAH (USA) May 22, 2013 10:06pm

Interesting, Jamaate Islami with the total votes polling of not even one million but less than 950,000 votes in the entire election will hold 2 of the MOST important portfolios of make or break nature for an undeveloped province like KPK - EDUCATION and ECONOMY.

This shows the quality of Imran's understanding and vision of provincial problems.-- now a real tsunami of disorder and destruction of secular education is about to flood the poor KPK.for coming 5 years.

Seeing this one is glad that Punjab did not fall in Imran's immature hands. Who knows Maulana Hafiz Saeed would have become in-charge of Punjab's educational curriculum.

Taha Ali May 23, 2013 12:05am

Why May 11 elections. I thought this is 2013. Isn't it or have I gone insane.

Zack May 23, 2013 12:18am

Good insight. Thanks for the info.

Khalid Nazim May 23, 2013 01:50am

Murtaza, great analysis- as usual. I was wondering when I would see your take on the elections. Is there any data that supports election rigging or unusual results?

Regards Khalid

ashfaq123 May 23, 2013 03:44am

@NASAH (USA): you do not know nothing about kpk, and ji.

Khaleel May 23, 2013 04:45am

Good effort. It was evident that PTI would not do a clean-sweep. However, there were high expectations that it will secure a number of seats in populated cities such as Lahore. There is a strong evidence of rigging and unfair means used in the elections and one cannot deny this. Obviously, PTI has lost a few seats due to this factor. For a couple of constituencies, where a recount/re-election was re-done , PTI emerged successful ( the most recent seat in Karachi by Dr. Alvi and loss of Ch Nisar in Wah Cantt). While the ECP of Pakistan says the elections have been conducted fairly and freely( which is not actually the case in many places), I will not believe the figures are error-free. I am sure these figures on the ECP has got some OUTLIERS and an analysis may not 100% accurate as stated by the author himself/herself. Indeed, a few good seats slipped away from PTI's hands and this what they are moaning about in their protests.

Junaid May 23, 2013 12:12pm

Murtaza. This is very good analysis. I am struggling with two of your graphs. The explanations dont provide a clear understanding of what the graph depict. The first one is "Voter turnout(National Assembly graph)" plotting frequency against response rate. What frequency and response rate are your measuring from the ECP data? Pleas help clarify.

The second confusing graphic is the votes secured by winning candidate and your conclusion that people voted for electables for all parties except PTI. Intuitively true. But is there any data that is leading you to this conclusion and graph?

Please do elaborate and possibly edit the blog if you deem appropriate.

Tahir A May 23, 2013 12:36pm

@NASAH (USA): You have always made good sense in your comments in the past and this time you have done extremely well in your reply. It is an eye opener. Many thanks.

A May 23, 2013 12:49pm

I'm actually interested in the last graph on page 1. Is this the average number of votes that each winner got in their constituency? If that is the case, 90% for MQM and 80% for PML(N) seem unreasonably high. It is almost as if nobody voted against the winning candidates for those parties.

Anis May 23, 2013 03:39pm

Good attempt to understand voter results which should have been posted publicly by ECP. Your point about electability buys into the vocabulary of the popular press in Pakistan. In reality, many "electables" lost their seats this time around. A more careful analysis of former members of parliament who lost might be very useful. But if you are to compare popularity overall, you should normalize the votes received by the number of constituencies they contested. Since Nawaz Sharif contested from two seats, his average vote count was 116,000, while Imran Khan received an average of 97,500 votes per constituency. You can aggregate votes in the US because presidential candidates compete in every state. Truth be told, PTI's campaign was rushed, and as a party it was not ready to take the reins this time around. Now they have 5 years to prepare.

Nadia Ali May 23, 2013 07:53pm

Here is the analysis I had been waiting for,you have a way with numbers crunching, so evident in your class room lectures and in your articles. Way to go!

Falcon May 23, 2013 10:29pm

@NASAH (USA): This is another under-researched comment. PTI has NOT given education to JI; only JI is claiming it to put pressure on PTI and as per PTI info secretary, there is no plan for it in sight. As for economy, only 2 sub-departments (one of them being tax revenue) is being given to JI where PTI & JI have the same objectives in terms of targeted revenue levels. The strategic department of planning & development will continue to stay with PTI.

Mohammed Khanzada May 23, 2013 10:47pm

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Mustafa Razavi May 23, 2013 11:06pm

Please explain 90% votes for the MQM candidate(s). Is this the average of all their candidates, average of their winning candidates or their highest vote getting candidate? I can believe that 90% of Mohajirs who vote, vote for MQM, but Karachi now is barely 60% Mohajir.

Mustafa Razavi May 23, 2013 11:10pm


Education should be just education, free of dogmas, religious or anti-religious, Taliban's or your's.

Taiq Mahmood May 24, 2013 12:42am

All analysis wasted in end comments:

"Imran Khan indeed ended up being the most voted candidate in the elections. He received roughly 390,000 votes in the May 11 elections, followed by Mian Nawaz Sharif with 232,000 votes. If Pakistan had an American-styled presidential elections, Imran Khan would be the most likely winner."

What about PML (N) 14.7 million and PTI 7.5 million votes Unless Imran Khan is representative of all non PML (N) votes!!!!

Khalid May 24, 2013 04:01am

The numbers reported on the ECP site do not seem to add up. I just looked at NA-1 in detail.

It says the registered voters are 320,578 and they calculated the "percentage of votes polled to registered voters" as 46.18%. However, if you add up all the individual votes they listed, they add up to 146,044. This is 45.56% of 320,578 and not 46.18%.

Unless I am looking at it incorrectly, ECP is not reporting the percentages correctly. Similarly, in their pie chart, they indicate PTI as getting 65% of the votes in NA-1, but actually its 90,500/320,578 which is 61.97%. The numerical data presented by ECP is either incorrect or incomplete.

So, if one uses their percentages to do the analysis, the errors will be cumulative and will lead to wrong analysis.

Hassaan Khan May 24, 2013 02:59pm

Imran Khan indeed ended up being the most voted candidate in the elections. He received roughly 390,000 votes in the May 11 elections, followed by Mian Nawaz Sharif with 232,000 votes. If Pakistan had an American-styled presidential elections, Imran Khan would be the most likely winner.

The candidate who wins the popular vote does not win the US presidential elections.