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Who will win the NA-120 by-election? Analysts weigh in

Updated September 16, 2017

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On September 17 the polls will open for the coveted NA-120 seat left vacant by the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

As the campaigning draw to an end, and the constituency prepares to vote, Dawn.com reached out to experts and commentators for their predictions.

'Stakes for ruling party much greater'

By Zahid Hussain

It is going to be a tough contest between PML-N's Kulsom Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate Dr. Yasmin Rashid.

Although the wife of the ousted prime minister seem to have an edge, it is still hard to predict the outcome.

What will matter at the end is the margin of the victory.

The stakes for the ruling party are much greater as the constituency is considered the Sharif family’s stronghold.

In the last General Election, the margin of Nawaz Sharif’s victory was much narrower than ever before.

Being the party in power has given the PML-N some advantage. A lot will depend on whether the PTI is able to make further inroads into the PML-N citadel.

Although Maryam Nawaz has run the campaign for her mother and also has the support of the local administration, it is unclear whether she could play a decisive role in the election outcome.

I think PTI will have no choice but to accept the results.

Zahid Hussain is an author and journalist. He tweets @hidhussain.


'NA-120 being ex-PM's constituency may factor into by-poll outcome'

By Tahir Mehdi

The prediction is quite tricky, but the historical trend points towards an easy win for the PML-N. I don't think we can expect big surprises in the by-election. By-elections generally are not very surprising.

I'm not really sure how [the by-election] will be for Dr Yasmin Rashid. She did very well in the last election, but we can attribute some of that to her personality, as she is an activist, getting involved in local [issues], but this time I'm afraid that it might not be very helpful.

There are two main factors:

One is a very localised one, whereas the other is borrowed from the national, political discourse. In every constituency a combination of these two major factors is at play.

My experience is that when someone is elected from a constituency achieves something big, like becoming a chief minister or prime minister then the local constituents actually take pride in that.

Hence this being the prime minister's constituency will also be a factor.

The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy. He tweets @TahirMehdiZ.


'Maryam's campaign made huge difference'

By Amber Rahim Shamsi

I'd rather not commit to a winner or loser. For the PML-N, anything less than a win, with a margin of difference of 40,000 votes from the runner up, will be a loss.

The Sharif family need to demonstrate that the public has bought their narrative of political victimhood, and approve of economic policies and development projects.

A decisive win is far more important for the Sharif family than the PTI. A minimum victory (that is short of actual winning) for the PTI would be if they are able to get a higher proportion of votes than they did in 2013.

Turnout will matter.

Begum Kulsoom's cancer treatment and absence might get sympathy votes.

I doubt if Nawaz Sharif's disqualification will matter.

Even though NA-120 is a Sharif stronghold, there has been a difference of 60 and 30 between the PML-N and runner up candidates in the past too, so there does exist an opposition vote bank, whether it is PPP or PTI.

Maryam's campaign has made a huge difference in terms of galvanising the PML-N voter, who was a little more lacklustre when I visited the constituency prior to the Maryam factor.

The pomp and spectacle of Maryam's rallies, the personal touch of Nawaz Sharif's daughter in NA-120 has definitely made a difference

Dr Yasmin has had more time — she began campaigning before the PML-N — has been better organised, and has the Panamagate verdict on her side.

But her disadvantages hold more weightage: less campaign money, the existence of a PML-N electoral and administrative network in NA-120, and that Imran Khan couldn't campaign with her.

Many voters — PTI or otherwise — that I spoke to didn't even know her name

Amber Rahim Shamsi hosts NewsEye on DawnNews. She tweets @AmberRShamsi.