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Situationer: 2nd phase may reinforce earlier trends

Updated November 18, 2015

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'The PML-N will emerge as the single largest party in Punjab and the PPP in Sindh followed by independents.'—AFP/File
'The PML-N will emerge as the single largest party in Punjab and the PPP in Sindh followed by independents.'—AFP/File

The second phase of local government polls in 12 districts of Punjab and 14 of Sindh scheduled for Thursday is more likely to reinforce the earlier trends that had emerged in the first phase.

“I believe that the second phase (of the local government elections) will more or less throw up the same results both in Punjab and Sindh,” insisted Lahore-based political analyst and journalist Suhail Warraich.

“The PML-N will emerge as the single largest party in Punjab and the PPP in Sindh followed by independents and other political parties. I do not see any deviation in the voters’ behaviour in the districts that are up for grabs in the second phase.”

Take a look: LG polls: PML-N leads in Punjab, PPP in Sindh

The PML-N won the 12 districts, including Lahore, of Punjab with a thumping majority while the PPP swept in the eight districts of Sindh where polling for the local body institutions had taken place on Oct 31.

Both the provinces also returned a significant number of independents, mostly linked to the winning parties.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf failed to make a mark in the first phase of the local government polls in Punjab where it claims the PML-N had stolen the 2013 general elections from it.

Mr Warraich, however, expected the PTI to do a little better in Mianwali and Hafizabad on Thursday. “Political parties in government are always likely to perform better in local elections because of their control on funds and power and have means to influence voters’ choice (through development schemes). The voters tend to vote for the ruling party as underscored by the results in the first phase,” he added.

Other parties – the PPP or the PML-Q – competing the ruling PML-N in Punjab are unlikely to figure anywhere in the results.

Political analysts like Hasan Askari Rizvi agree. “The PTI (which was expected by many to put a formidable challenge to the PML-N in Punjab) has a weak organisational structure at the local level and has little to offer to common man. Its message is only for the middle-class voters; it has nothing to give to farmers and working class voters. You cannot win an election without spelling out agenda for the common folk.”

Additionally, he argued, the local governments were service-oriented institutions and people tended to vote for parties and candidates who they believed could help solve their problems. “In Punjab, the entire system is geared in favour of the PML-N and in Sindh in favour of the PPP.”

The electioneering in Punjab has mostly lacked the ‘ideological flavour’ that political parties usually lend to elections and revolved around local issues and biradari connections. But it is said to be a different story in Sindh where the nationalists and parties like PML-Functional and MQM (in urban centres) are competing against the PPP with full vigour.

Scholar and writer Jami Chandio believed that the trends emerging in the first phase of the local elections would hold in the next phase, he did not rule out a tough competition to the PPP in Badin where it is facing an alliance between the maverick Zulfiqar Mirza and Ismail Rahu or in Tharparkar where the Arbabs are up in arms against the ruling party. “Even in Thatta, the Sherazis are going to give a tough time to the ruling party.”

Mr Chandio, however, is disappointed by the electoral performance of the nationalists, saying they might have a role in national narrative but their capacity (to attract voters) had again been exposed in the recent elections.

The PTI was the other political force that he said could have emerged as a potential political force in Sindh had it organised itself in the province and drawn up a strategy to fill in the ‘space’ that was available to it. “Now I don’t see the PTI making any difference in the outcome of the local polls anywhere in the province, except perhaps in Umarkot where Shah Mahmood Qureshi enjoys significant following and where Hindus have substantial presence.”

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2015