Can the PPP actually win the next general elections?

Published: August 24, 2012

Zardari's claim has triggered a debate in Pakistan: Can the PPP actually win the next general elections? PHOTO: REUTERS

President Zardari, during his visit to interior Sindh, claimed that his party will win the next general elections and will form governments in all the provinces. Political commentators are discussing  several theories to explain this rather surprising statement by the President.

Some believe that the outcome of the by-election in NA-151, where Abdul Qadir Gilani defeated Shaukat Bosan, has given President Zardari this confidence. According to others, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson is banking on a divided opposition to win the next elections. Regardless of the basis of his claim, it has triggered a debate in Pakistan and most people seem to be asking:

“Can the PPP actually win the next general elections?”

However, if we look at how the average Pakistani has suffered during the last four years, the President’s claim seems to be originating from his very evident disconnection with the masses. Double-digit inflation coupled with massive unemployment figures has crippled the common man beyond rehabilitation. The average GDP growth rate during the past four years has been the lowest during any four year period in the history of Pakistan’s economy. The law and order situation across Pakistan has been abysmal, and despite several promises the government has been unable to control the energy crisis.

The average Pakistani voter may not be too interested in the current stand-off between the government and the Supreme Court, but inflation, unemployment, poverty and load-shedding directly affects him and her. In fact, a general Pakistani is too tired of his own demons to be voting for anyone.

But is electoral politics a separate science altogether? After all, despite all vilification by its opponents, the PPP does continue to prove its popularity by winning the by-elections.

However, in Pakistani politics, by-elections are no predictors of the outcome of the next general elections. On September 30, 2006, Naveed Ashiq Diyal of PML-Q won the PP-157 by-election, defeating Rana Tajammul Hussain, the joint candidate of PML-N and PPP (15,619 votes against 7,527 votes).  Since the 2002 general elections this was the fourth Punjab Assembly seat from Lahore that the PML-N, despite being supported by the PPP, had lost to PML-Q.

Going by these results, the PML-Q should have easily swept the 2008 polls. But the actual results turned out to be quite a surprise for those who had predicted the outcome of the general elections based on the results of by-elections. The reason why incumbents generally do well in by-elections is because the massive misuse of state machinery which often influences the outcome.

Secondly, people approach the by-elections in an unenthusiastic way; they know the outcome will not lead to a regime change or to any major policy changes; hence the turnouts are generally much lower than those in general elections. Moreover, in an effort to not antagonise the government and to make sure that the development projects do not come to an abrupt stop, those who show up vote for the ruling party’s candidate.

The general elections on the other hand are a different ball game altogether. In the 2008 general elections, Rana Tajammul Hussain won the same PP-157 constituency bagging 27,318 votes while Naveed Ashiq Diyal managed a mere 4,309. Interestingly, this time Hussain was only being supported by the PML-N, as the PPP had decided to field their own candidate, Faisal Mumtaz, who bagged 19,206 votes. The story was not much different in other constituencies where the PML-Q had done exceedingly well during the by-elections.

While incumbency provides a definite edge in the by-elections, contesting the general elections is not easy having been the government for the last four years. This is probably why, not even once in Pakistan’s history, has a party been able to lead the polls twice in a row. The reason why Pakistanis have never voted the same party to a majority twice in succession is because they blame the government for the deterioration in their state, and also because the governments generally do not live up to the tall claims they make while campaigning.

This does not spell a very good outcome for the current ruling coalition, because the deterioration during the last four years has been unprecedented, and the current government has not been able to deliver on its promises either.

The state of affairs was comparatively much better during the 2002-2007 period, yet the PML-Q could reclaim less than half of its seats during the 2008 general elections. The anti-government vote was so overwhelming, that despite the vote being split between PPP and PML-N which undoubtedly helped the PML-Q candidates in some constituencies, the PML-Q was still third on the table behind both the major opposition parties.

So why did President Zardari sound so confident then?

Well, the reason is very simple; naturally no party head will ever say that his party will receive the worst thrashing of its life in the next elections.

The President did whatever he could and was needed to salvage the morale of his party.

Umair Zafar Malik

Umair Malik

The author is a physician by training and writes about healthcare, politics and cricket.

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

  • MAD

    Time will tell. The question is who will give that thrashing. Right now they’re busy thrashing each other.Recommend

  • Muhammad Abdul Rehman

    Well the president is banking on following things

    1) PPP has always targeted vote on other factors not on development factors.

    2) More then 7 million people getting “benefit” from Benazir income support program so PPP have 7 million votes right in their pocket.

    4) Half of interior Sindh is still in their hand where they will gather votes by showing picture of Benzair Bhutto and her father, while Bilawal and Asifa will be present at every jalsa and election campaign.

    3) The issue of Southern Punjab province is totally for political purpose not for the betterment of people and they are raising it day by day. Like Gillani giving statements that court has disqualified him just because he raised this issue. So they are strengthening vote bank in this area.

    4) Rise of Imran Khan will just affect the vote of PML N and their fighting will benefit PPP, as both PML N and PTI will target urban votes while PPP targets for rural vote.

    5) Even if PML N gets more seats in elections PPP has ability to make govt with almost all other parties, MQM in Karachi, ANP or JUI in KP and PML Q this on the other hand is weakness of PML N that they can’t adjust with every one

    6) Most Important of all on they day of election, those candidates win which hires more transport for getting people to polling station and distribute more biryani daigsRecommend

  • Sane

    Although I am dead against with existing leadership of PPP and the way they handled this country promoting corruption to the highest level. But, PPP will again win the election at least to make a coalition government. Reason: 1st we are a corrupt and immoral nation, 2nd this is curse of ALLAH on us.Recommend

  • Jamil

    I agree with you sane but then i don’t think they might be able to win this election because the people who voted them are so full of anger that they wont be doing this mistake again, they are short of electricity, no job available (although unemployment ratio has been decreased compared to the previous one) but then Recommend

  • muhammad hanif malik


  • Sikander

    The points raised by writer and commentators are true but other factors shall be consider while such discussions. The one of most dominant factor is majorities’ mental level or level of understanding with the importance of their vote is seem neglected in conversation. In my view, we Pakistani especially from rural or partial rural areas are less concerned about the Pakistan’s growth, development etc. In fact it will be more appropriate to say that, we are more concerned for the supremacy of our traditional and religious bounds which are influenced by our Feudal lords, Landlords, Proclaimed Sectorial religious leaders, Spiritual leaders and ethnic elders. The people elected by our vote is doing what for whom? is none of our business. We become very much happy just because our supported has successfully won the election. I strongly believe that its PPP’s strategy to increase its vote bank through prejudice statements of its success in upcoming election. We pray that this time Pakistani people may think beyond individuals interests.Recommend

  • S K Afridi

    Elections will be fair. Rupees 150 billions in Benazir Income Support and wealth amassed as a result of 5 years’ massive corruption to buy votes in next election, will produce the desired result for PPP.Recommend

  • S K Afridi

    Next 5 years with PPP in the driving seat are going to worse than the last 5 years. But you are absolutely right, this is what this nation deserves. MER GAEY LOGE—- ZINDA HAY BIBI ZINDA HAYRecommend

  • Parvez

    For evil to triumph all it takes is for the good to do nothing.
    Now if that happens or is made to happen then yes the PPP may win – but not by much.
    Let us also not forget that this is Pakistani politics and anything, just anything is possible. The people are merely spectators.Recommend

  • Asif Ali khan

    Definitely PPP and his allies MQM,ANP and Muslim league( Q ) will win next elections. The only condition will be if they spend just 50 percent of the amount they looted in these five years. They were in the government so they obliged many people by giving contracts, doing developmental works ang providing jobs to so many people and the rest who were ignored, they will buy their votes and there are so many ways of buying votes. People have very short memory they will forget the month of fasting in hot summer without electricity. Just before elections new traps of making new alliances will be made by the politicians and the people will be left high and dry. As usual Nawaz will win in Punjab using the same tactics. Imran is banking on religious votes , he might go in alliance with religious parties. Nawaz is also doing alliances with Sindh nationalist leaders. I believe next parliament will be the most divided parliament in the history of Pakistan.Recommend

  • elementary

    Benazir income supportProgrammeBISP( Rs70 billion/year) and Benazir tractor support ProgrammeBTSP (Rs 28billion/year).Almost one trillion rupees per year of Tax payer’s money being spent.These programmes are a big farce with no sustainable benefits rather they are productive vote buying exercises. With tactics like these and many other Up Zardari’s sleeves which includes keeping people illiterate,and dependent surely PPP is set to win the nest election too. Recommend

  • Sane


    PPP will not win election due to this, but through setup.Recommend

  • jeay bhutto

    Dont take me for a ppp jiala, i am not but i still believe that PPP has the ability to form a coalition govt next term.
    My reasoning for it is the same as that of the fellow coment(at)ors.
    First of all you cannot ignore the fact that PPP is the largest political party in Pakistan and has the Lions share of the rural vote bank. People still confer upon bhutto and his daughter the reverence usually reserved for saints. And although zardari has been much maligned on facebook and social media, the hatred for him is not so common in real world as in the virtual world.
    Expanding on the zardari hate campaign, it is mostly limited to big cities of punjab like lahore or faisalabad. but even in those cities the sharifs are giving him a tough time for the spot of public enemy number 1. All this can be explained by a mere superficial understanding of politics of these areas. Punjab has not had the usual share of resources that it has had in all previous governments because of the NFC award and hence there is not the usual room for corruption for the punjabi dominated establishment, hence their hatred towards zardari which they are trying to reflect on the political psyche of the northern punjabi population. Obviously the govt incompitance plays a major part in it but if you look at it most of the zardari hate campaign in punjab based which is no coincidence.
    Furthermore zardari has had the wisdom to invest, in political terms, in schemes such as the benazir income support fund or watan card for flood affectees and so on and so forth. The common man does not understand complex economic figures but what he, and all of us, really relishes is cash in hand and all these schemes provide him with that. The electricity problem is universal, i mean it effects everyone, the rich, the poor, the educated uneducated but a poor uneducated person has the satisfaction that he’s not alone in this and that attenuates the hatred that we think he should have towards this govt. I know this is very screwed up thinking but thats howw they think after years of suffering. Did you think Sukhar or dadu or dera murad jamali or mardan did not have load shedding before this government? Sure they did. for them its an increase of may be 4 to 6 hours at the most. So although it bothers them but they have the satisfaction that atleast its just not us who are suffering now.
    Another important aspect is development projects. Well before this governemnt the lesser devloped parts of our country had never seen devlopment like this. Now a days you go from Chitral to Karachi and you will see that there are development projects going on in areas where there wasnt even electricity a few years back and that has to do with a broad based goernment. As there are many parties in the coalition, all of them are working towards development projects in there remote localities.
    Last but not the least is the spectacular failure of the opposition to form a strong alliance and their basic ideological differences which prevent them from making an alliance, read Imran khan and Nawaz Sharif. And btw the Imran Khan Saviour campaign is also loosing its fervour so the clean sweep he was thinking of looks more and more like wishfull thinking.
    Hence i believe the PPP can still form a coalition govt in the coming election Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    I think there are two things being missed out by most commenters here: Firstly, in Pakistan, general elections vote is always anti-incumbency vote. That means PPP is highly unlikely to win. Secondly, Pakistani voters don’t like to bet on a losing horse. That means next election would be a battle between anti-PPP vote vs. anti-PMLN vs. pro-PMLN vote bank. With shifting demographics, new electoral lists, PMLN vote bank shrinking, and PPP voters getting out to vote against PMLN, PTI will surprise a lot of folks in the upcoming elections.Recommend

  • Ali

    Our pre disposition to commit collective suicide means that a PPP ( Pakistan feudal party) is quite likely. Mind you PML N is no better.Recommend

  • sick of this nonsense

    PPP are vile, corrupt, schemers, every evil in the book but tell me any party who has had the charisma of ZAB & BB, the bravery of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz bhatti? Tell me a party which can get votes from ALL ethnicities? PML-N may get one or two votes from Sindh but thats about it. MQM is not even a player except in urdu speaking communities. IK? I like him but having a few concerts wont win him any seats. PPP has the most potential among all parties just because of their diverse vote bank.
    PS I WAS a die hard supporter of PPP but even I am disillusioned by so much corruption but one has to draw the line, asking the president to be shot live on air, hate campaign in social media, maligning PPP in every turn is just getting too much.Recommend

  • Nasier

    Tru,I believe what Zardari says,with billions of public money spent in BISP, and billions amassed through rampat corruption during the last 4 year of misrule,PPP has all the fundamentals required to buy out the vote bank and the government in 3 Provences,and Centre,and in the forth most populous Punjab,PTI is sure there to help PPP,as invisible allie to divide PML’s vote Bank,which eventually will end up in a coalition government of PPP,PMLQ and PTI in Punjab,with Imran Khan’s Mr.Clean,as CM Punjab.Beyond that I can not guess about mr Khan,presently.
    However,things can turn out uglier,in a way that there are no elections at all & a third force moves in to save the country,which may become necessary soon,if things keep moving in same speed & in same direction,and it becomes necessary to save the country.!!!.Recommend

  • Atif Yousufzai

    In Pakistan only those parties won, who are not breaking the game of establishment, currently the establishment seems satisfied with Zardari regime, since Zardari is proving to be the scapegoat of General Ashfaq Kayani incompetency.Recommend

  • Hamid Hassan Khan

    Dear All… No Doubt….PPP is a Largest Political Party of Pakistan, and it will make next government in Pakistan after a Transparent Election, but Anti Bhutto lobby will never be satisfied, because they are always in search of shortcuts. In 1977 they used Islamic issue, Gen.Zia and SC CJ Anwaar against Bhutto, even this mindset declare the Bhutto as non muslim. Now they are again active and using Judiciary, but they will not be successful, as it is not 1977….That was Bhutto and it is Zardari..( A Brave Soldier of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed).

    Hamid Hassan Khan
    Lahore Cantt.Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood

    PP will win it quite easily in the end since there is no sense of urgency to organize jalsas and president is chilling in presidency no need for either media or public appearence.Recommend

  • p r sharma

    Why not a pre poll sample survey is carried out particularly by the media group to know the trend at all the constituencies ?
    . the out come will give the correct picture. In all major countries such sample surveys are carried out and there is already technique developed to predict 95 % accuracy, constituencies wise. Recommend

  • Anwer Kamal Pasha

    Election 2013 can not bring much change except around thirty seats for PTI , most of those will be from PML N seats and some from PPP and ANP . Only Punjab assembly will see around fifty new members of PTI which should be a deciding factor for next Punjab government .Recommend

  • yousaf

    It is not for the general public to decide who will win or who will lose,It has never been.Its quite possible that the results have already been decided by the power brokers.For public in general casting their votes will be just a dress-rehearsal Recommend

  • Adeel

    In 1993, PPP voter turn out was 38% but in 1997 PPP voter turn out was 21%,so it is myth that PPP vote bank remain same. Further, I can tell you that in Punjab and KPK, a large numbers PPP voters decided to vote PTI, which you will see in coming election or may do your own survey and ask them.Recommend

  • M.Ahmer Ali

    PPP can easily win the next general elections and also can get majority of seats in the national assembly if PPP is succeeded to hold the next elections according to the old 2007’s voting lists by casting bogus votes as has been done in by-polls in NA-151 and as PPP is rejecting new/fresh voting lists according to PPP’s one representative’s statement few days ago……Recommend

  • PTI all the way

    InshaAllah PPP will lose the election badly..Recommend

  • RK Singh
  • amanat

    Peoples Party cannot win next general elections provided elections are fair. In the presence of Zardari elections can never be fair. Opposition parties must form grand alliance before the elections . The caretaker PM must be strong who should not accept the pressure of Zardari. Rather he should be bold and independent.Recommend

  • Usman

    One fact should not be ignored and that is the bogus votes.
    2008 election had a massive 37 million bogus votes.
    There a lot of new voters getting registered this time, including me for the first time now.
    The by-elections have been carried out on the basis of those old bogus votes.

    CEC is fairly a competent and a transparent man this time.
    PTI is definitely a rising force despite all allegations regarding its funding by ISI.

    PPP has crippled the economy of this country and ALL parteis have played accomplice in this devastation.

    God cannot do a miracle unless we change ourselves. We are a thoroughly corrupt nation, a bitter reality. yikes !!Recommend

  • Seema

    PPP will win the next election.Recommend

  • KJ

    Well the conclusion of the entire well written article is very weak. I disagree that this is the only reason why the President has the confidence.

    I totally agree with the fact that the tenure has been disastrous for Pakistan. But at the same time, with all due respect, what you don’t understand is that President understands “masses” better than you & me. With the Benazir (some funding) program he has been very clever in keeping the masses happy by providing them with small amount of cash benefits every month. These masses are happy with “a grand” every month and they really do not care about GDP. It is quite sad but true.

    PPP “might” not win with the majority as President thinks but will probably be able to gain good share of the votes, specially in Sindh.Recommend

  • Syed

    I Can bet that PPP will not be able to get more than 30 seats in elections 2013. Why will the people of Karchi Vote them? Every Single family in karachi has a family member shot dead in last few years. Why will the People of Whole Punjab Vote them? Punjab has faced worst loadshedding (electricity and natural gas) in Pakistan and all industries are almost finished and their workers jobless. Why will the people of Balochistan will Vote them? Same as Karachi, Thousand of people shot dead their and Bomb Blasts all Over. Even Supreme Court has said that government has failed in Balochistan. Why will the People of KPK will vote PPP? Pathans will only vote Pathans. (ANP & Imran Khan). People of Pakistan dont have food to eat, No Clean Water to drink, Suiciding at its peak in the history of Pakistan. And the most bigger factor that people really hate the man “Asif Ali Zardari”.

    PML Q took 52 seats in last elections just because they were sitting in government and used government money and machinery for their election compaign. These partners of Mr Zardari will not be able to get 10 seats in upcoming elections. so many of their MNA’s have resigned and joined other parties. Rest will join other parties too very soon.

    ANP, MQM and other small parties dont have worth to make a goverment in any case. People have this in mind that why they have always supported PPP in all their bad decisions. They are equal sinners.

    People of rural areas are also aware of so many things by now due to media. This time PPP will ever loose its pet seats from rural areas too. Recommend

  • KJ

    I agree they should not. But just because of what you’ve written if you think they will not win any share at all, then your thinking of Pakistani elections is very naive. Things are pretty complex in PK. People in South Punjab will still vote for PPP coz they werre emotionally manipulated by offering a new province.Btw they have definitely failed in Balochistan but that is mainly because Musharraf messed up real bad there. People in rural Sindh I think will still end up voting for them, who else can they vote for. Rural areas are aware by Media – well I am not sure how serious they are about it. Losing all those pet seats will be nothing less than a miracle.
    Anyway let’s see how it goes, but I personally think although it will be lot of distributed victories but PPP will still win some share.Recommend

  • S K Afridi

    I think you are not aware of PPP’s plan for the next elections. During the current tenure they have made tons of money. !50 billions in Benazir Income Support fund and billions allocated to Ministry of Information are good enough to buy the voters who are destined to have another miserable 5 years of their life under the PPP rule.Recommend

  • Hamid Hassan Khan

    Dear Sayyed,

    I agree with u and appreciate your thoughts about the future of Pakistan. Thanks for your real thoughts.

    Hamid Hassan Khan

    Lahore Cantt.Recommend

  • Kay

    Without any doubt PPP will stay in Government until USA will stay in Afgan and drones have to continue.Recommend

  • waqas

    change will not come , we have to bring the change !!!! in 2008 they get sympathy votes and now people get the lesson of it , hope we have learned from it.Recommend

  • ashiqalibhatti

    first of all , Aslamo Aaikum from germany
    i have read all comments ok and facts about mentality approach of educated and specially in pakistan village etc as student of history &in my opnion see all facts as neutral and give awareness around pakistan even every resident of pakistai -anywhere thorough all proper sources of communication as honest pakistani being a patriot pakistan with all details etc every one know in last five years , what is performance of ppp in pakistan , what is role of mqm for last years since time they are ruling in karachi and see both league (n) leuge &Q(legue) and what game of ANP in pk etc now question arises to think all pakistan agencies , all institue etc
    we had got pakistan only for these current affairs that every one is seeing before one eyes hopefully we do not repeat now this again and will reject these parties totally in 2013 general election if we have niyat and intention all conspiracy from every one will be finished now question is about election seats or who win election , this election is totally different comparason others all of history , pakistani people really are so much anger to these leaders becuse of these issues without detail , now mostly public will give thier silent votes in majority that every has decided , remeber my this word and in coming election MMA will win election by majority seats how and for what , that every commantar will see in election like 2002 election now religion groups have more power –next government of MMA with other religion groups alliance around pakistan how and why i have answer with facts not rough or this that
    allah hafiz Recommend

  • faisal

    @muhammad hanif malik:
    i think tum pakistan se bahar ho aur PPP k ho is liye dua nahi bad-dua derahe ho… aur lagta hai ghurbat nae dekhi tum ne…Recommend