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Six million votes missing in action

Updated May 22, 2013

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.