Electoral lethargy

Published December 30, 2023

JUST under six weeks from today, the people of Pakistan are scheduled to go to the polls to elect their representatives for the next five years. Yet while the election machinery has been activated, the colour and the verve that should mark pre-poll activities is absent.

Instead, there is a sense of ennui and disillusionment with the state of affairs in the country, particularly the political polarisation and erosion of rights that have marked the past few years. It is the responsibility of state institutions and mainstream political parties to change this situation, as an unfair election, and the people’s lack of faith in a manipulated electoral exercise, will only hurt the evolution of democracy in Pakistan.

Perhaps because so many obstacles have been placed in the holding of timely polls, people are still unsure that they will actually be casting their votes on Feb 8. Thanks to the firm interventions of the Supreme Court, the excuses proffered by the ECP and others have been cast aside, as their lordships have said no more poll delays will be tolerated.

Political parties should reinforce the notion that they support timely polls, and will resist any possible delays. With the exception of the PPP, the other main parties have yet to hit the campaign trail with full force. Most are limiting their activities to press conferences, or launching tirades against their political opponents.

The time is now for mass-contact drives, so that voters can hear first-hand from candidates how the latter intend to solve the people’s myriad problems. Voters want to know how the fragile economy will be revived and jobs created; how prices will come down; how their streets and neighbourhoods will be made safe; how the ship of state, which has been sailing in troubled waters for the past several years, will be steered towards calmer shores. The ECP can also play its part by informing voters about the poll process through public awareness campaigns.

But above all, people need to be convinced that their vote counts, and that the results will not be stage-managed by powerful hands working in the shadows. This is something only the state — particularly its more powerful pillars — can convince the people of.

The impression that electoral manipulation is afoot, strengthened by the ongoing crackdown on the PTI, must be dispelled, and all contenders must be able to freely and fairly contest the polls. If the state fails to do this, public disillusionment will only increase, which itself is perhaps the biggest threat to national cohesion.

When people feel they have no say in the affairs of state, and that electoral decisions have already been made elsewhere, it damages democracy as well as national cohesion.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Banning PTI
Updated 16 Jul, 2024

Banning PTI

It appears that the govt and its backers within the establishment have still not realised that they are in uncharted territory.
Nato at 75
16 Jul, 2024

Nato at 75

EMERGING from the ashes of World War II, and locked in confrontation with the Soviet-led Communist bloc for over ...
Non-stop massacres
16 Jul, 2024

Non-stop massacres

Netanyahu is cunningly pretending to talk peace while mercilessly pounding Gaza. What is clear is that a return to pre-Oct 7 status quo is impossible.
Afghan challenge
Updated 15 Jul, 2024

Afghan challenge

Foreign states must emphasise to the Afghan Taliban diplomatic recognition and trade relations all depend on greater counterterrorism efforts.
‘Complete’ justice
15 Jul, 2024

‘Complete’ justice

NOW that the matter of PTI’s reserved seats stands resolved, there are several equally pressing issues pertaining...
Drug fog
15 Jul, 2024

Drug fog

THE country has an old drug problem. While the menace has raged across divides of class and gender, successive ...