Why do voters elect the same politicians?

Published: February 4, 2011

Politicians seem to bounce back repeatedly, despite all odds and criticism.

Switch on any TV channel, open up a newspaper or log on to a social network and you will see our parliamentarians and their electorate continuously drawing ire of the urban-educated elite.

Participants engaging in intellectual discourse on talk shows raise questioning eyebrows over the wisdom possessed by the electorate, and criticise voters’ decision of re-electing the same allegedly tainted politician. This made me wonder; why do voters elect the same politicians every time?

After some introspection, I came to the conclusion that the bone of contention is the socio-economic imbalance prevailing in our society. This is a battle between the ‘haves and have-nots’, who will perpetually be at loggerheads with each other till this dichotomy in their status persists.

The ‘haves’

The ‘haves’ are those born in well-to-do families. They have the privilege of graduating from good educational institutions and subsequently receiving mouth-watering offers from multinationals, unless a timely call from a family friend manages to reserve a slot for them.

The ‘have-nots’

The ‘have-nots’ are those who barely make ends meet. For them, sending their children to a good school is equivalent to asking them for an arm; hence their kids end up at peela schools. After graduating (or dropping out), these kids compete with other poorly skilled individuals and qualified graduates in a competitive job market where opportunities are scanty and at times, only exist for those with the right “connections”. For them, economic benefit lies in aligning themselves with the local power broker, who is further linked to politicians or others in the corridors of power. It isn’t too outlandish – these masses make rational decisions based on their needs and wants.

Voting for ‘tried and tested’

Solutions that have been suggested by the urban elite like the Bangladesh model or mid-term polls will not work and might set a dangerous precedent for the future. Similarly, while ministers with fake degrees were discredited by the urban elite discredited, their electorate seemed content with them and re-elected them even after harsh criticism by their opponents and media.

So did the electorate make an impulsive decision with the current government? No, they did not. They voted for people that they had ‘tried and tested’. They have experienced elusive revolutionaries who have usurped the throne, impersonating true representatives of the people in a quasi-democratic set-up which serves as a smokescreen to protract their rule.

Power brokers may retreat

Pakistan has a history of poor governance. The majority has suffered because power brokers are often helpless. Economic growth has been modest and irregular; and it has failed to trickle down to the masses. As a result of this poor governance, society has become polarised and turned in to a breeding ground for terrorism, assassinations and separatist movements.

But don’t be afraid; fears that Pakistan is doomed, that division is in the offing and that Pakistan is synonymous with predicament are false. We must have faith in democracy – whether we are part of the majority or not.

Salman Shah Jilani

Salman Shah Jilani

A management undergraduate who blogs at globaldaaira.wordpress.com and chowrangi.com and tweets at @jilani7.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • parvez

    Nice article. Simple answer to your question is the lot they have to chose from is : bad, very bad and completely rotten.
    Unless the quality of those to be chosen does not improve things will not improve. Recommend

  • http://wasioabbasi.wordpress.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    The reason why people elect or re-elect the same faces is based on their respective living environment. I see them in the following broad categories to explain the reason for re-election:
    1) The area is under-developed and neglected, the only face who is able to do something about people of his area, has the necessary money and connection, is their only hope of succeeding. That person gets elected and reelected, gets employment for his people in government departments if he’s lucky or get his people temporary jobs in development projects. He may even manage to drive more commerce towards the area which would improve the conditions of his area. Therefor people will reelect him no matter what (as in the case of Jamshed Dasti).
    2) The face being reelected is the most wealthy and powerful person of his area, no one in the area able to challenge him and gain support of the people (who are either too scared or too delusional to support anyone else).
    3) The person has strong backing of a party which is most favored by the people of the area, so they would continue to elect and reelect the same person unless the party favors someone else.
    These, I believe, the broad categories of reasons why it happens. There are more and much detailed but not much different from these that I listed.Recommend

  • Ramzan+Ali

    The Justice is not strong.Recommend

  • Hassan

    The issue is simple Politics in Pakistan is personality based and not on issue and policies. We tend to vote for people we know rather than what they know.Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed

    I dis-agree from all the above, the simple reason why these same politicians come into power is because we as people are biased. Our decisions are based on ethnicity, language, caste & creed.

    It’s as simple as this: “My thief is better than your’s”.

    In my view, what is needed in Pakistan for atleast 10 to 15 years is an authoritative rule, during which concentration should be given to education, health & national economics.

    Something like Malaysia, China & Singapore. High literacy rate, booming economies and above all civic sense among countries citizens.

    We were heading towards that kind of a society, but all was derailed by the so called judicial struggle.

    Democracy, elections, politicians are all good for ears, but when my vote (being an aware citizen) is equal to the vote of a peasant influenced by his landlord, these same politicians will be cropping up again & again if not them then their children’s’.

    All Hail Democracy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Ahmer Ali

    Assalam-o-Allaikum Warahmatullah.Because poor candidates don’t have enough resources and words to fool and deceive the nation during the election campaigns and to fulfill the nation’s requirements.This is why same politicians are re-elected and the nation only cries after elected them.Recommend

  • Hassan

    @ Shahryar Ahmed, very convinent to pass the buck my friend for all forms of goverment to succeed one needs personal responsibility, if we are not willing to be responsible for our actions not even a dictator can change the fate of this nation.Recommend

  • http://ykhan.wordpress.com Yasser Khan

    Why do votes elect the same politicians.

    first of all selection of picture is wrong, MQM has never got the majority so putting up Altaf Hussain picture doesn’t make sense, it should be Nawaz Sharif, Zardari or BB who are the only ones in center since 1988 elections.Recommend

  • http://www.pakspectator.com Sana Saleem

    I agree with Pervaiz; The choice is limited !Recommend

  • http://raheelaijaz.blogspot.com/ Let us not digress

    @ Wasio Abbasi: I completely agree with your point. Our trouble is that we always try to over generalize everything about our nation and people. It is very unwise and dangerous to explain everything through the narrow lens of ethnicity, illiteracy and injustice.

    The problem isn’t so profound in nature. Its a simple issue of a lack of awareness on part of the people and corruption on part of the politicians. I think people need to behave like voters and account for everything their elector does. That way democracy will thrive in its true spirit.Recommend

  • annonymous

    well its really difficult to get into politics in PAKISTAN.their are hardly 5% parents who prefer to send their children in politics,& thats the reason we have those same old party leaders (they do change their hairdo, but that doesnt really matter).& public is left with no choice, except for voting those same old corrupt leaders!Recommend

  • Nishu

    I do not have any reason to vote for known guinea pigs in the face of politicians, Imran khan all the way!

    Jiye Insaaaaf.Recommend

  • Omer

    I have seen voting been carried out in the villages. Whoever the Wadera names, the villagers have to stamp on that sign and not in private but in front of the him. Well that’s how these politicians get re-elected.Recommend