Pakistan Elections…Winners, Losers

Embattled Musharraf stands to be the main winner from a divided opposition and a "hung" parliament expected to emerge after the January general elections.

Pakistan Elections…Winners, Losers

Embattled President Pervez Musharraf stands to be the main winner from a divided opposition and a "hung" parliament expected to emerge after the January general elections, political analysts believe.

"Things have been very much cleared after Nawaz Sharif's decision to participate in the general elections," Khusnood Ali Khan, an Islamabad-based senior political analyst, told

"Now, all the mainstream political parties are into the election fray paving the way for a hung parliament in the wake of upcoming elections."

During a crucial meeting on Sunday, December 9, the All parties Democratic Alliance (APDM), a conglomerate of 33 political, religious and nationalist parties, failed to reach a consensus on election boycott.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N), the country's largest nationalist party, the Awami National party (ANP) and a few other parties backtracked on an earlier decision to boycott.

Others, including Jammat-e-Islami – the largest religious party - Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and other nationalist parties, stuck to their guns and decided to mount an election-boycott campaign across the country.

Sharif blamed rival former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for forcing him into such a position.

"With the PPP and other major parties contesting the polls, it will not be wise decision to boycott and clear the way for pro-Musharraf parties for a two-third majority in the parliament," Sharif told the APDM.

PML(N) sources say Sharif has taken a U-turn on election boycott under immense internal and external pressures.

"He had been under immense pressure of not only his workers, who have been waiting for him for the last 8 years, but also from Britain, the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which want him to participate in the elections," a senior PML(N) leader told IOL requesting anonymity.


Khushnood foresees two possible future scenarios.

"The first is that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q) will emerge as the single largest party with 110 to 120 seats out of the total 272 seats, with the PPP at second position with 70 to 80 seats and PML(N) third with 30 to 40 seats," he said.

"Other parties, including Jamiat Ulema Islam of Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, are likely to grab 10 to 30 seats each."

The senior political analyst believes that in this case the PML(Q), Maulana Fazl and other small parties will form a coalition government.

The second scenario, says Khusnood, is that the PPP will be the single largest party with 120 to 130 seats, with PML(Q) at second position with 90 to 100 seats and the PML(N) third with 30 to 35 seats.

"If this is the case, then the PML(Q) and the PPP may form a coalition government."

In both cases, pro-Musharraf parties remain a main player in the political game whether in the government or parliament.

Irfan Siddiqui, a senior political analyst, believes the PPP is the major beneficiary of Sharif's decision to jump into the political fray.

"The situation is now in very much favor of Ms Bhutto, who otherwise, was not in a good position, especially in Punjab province (the power base of Pakistani politics)," he told IOL.

Siddiqui argues that had Sharif boycotted, the PPP would have been forced into a one-to-one contest with the ruling PML(Q) in Punjab and consequently suffer a major loss.

"Now, the Muslim League votes will be divided, which will benefit Bhutto."

The analyst recognizes it is very difficult to anticipate who will grab the crown.

He believes Bhutto's "desperation" has given a fresh lease of life to Musharraf, who until a few days ago was fighting a lost battle.

"If she had boycotted the polls, Musharraf would have been in great trouble and might have had to leave the president house too. But Bhutto is a character of US-written script and cannot go beyond the lines she has been assigned."

Siddiqui claimed Bhutto wants to become prime minister at any cost.

"She is already in agreement with Musharraf that is why she outrightly refused to boycott the elections, compelling Sharif to jump into the fray."

The situation, he believes, is not in favor of Sharif because neither the Pakistani establishment nor the Bush administration wants him back in power.

"In my opinion, there will be a hung parliament and a coalition government in line with the previous term. But this time, there is no army uniform which will keep or compel the coalition partners belonging to different political ideologies to stay together."


Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Aralık 2007, 16:41