Welcoming our next prime minister: Mian Nawaz Sharif

Published: March 7, 2013
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Pakistan Muslim League (N) registered as a first choice vote on 37 percent of the surveys PHOTO: REUTERS

The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) alongside Gallup released a thorough report on March 4 on public opinion in the run up to the spring elections.

By all measures, it was the most representative survey conducted during this election cycle, with over 9,500 people surveyed, in more than 200 urban centres and 300 villages, across all four provinces and nearly 100 districts. The sample included Pakistanis of all backgrounds, income-level, education, linguistic group, and geographic region.

For those who may not have the time to read the lengthy report, a concise summary is as follows; Nawaz Sharif is likely to be your next prime minister with Imran Khan’s PTI as the most preferable partner in an alliance.

Although you may have already been aware of this, now the members of PPP and PTI can finally find closure from their denial stage and begin their process of grief.

Pakistan Muslim League (N) registered as a first choice vote on 37 percent of the surveys, while both the PPP and PTI jockey for the runner-up status with 16 percent support, respectively.

The strength of these numbers is evidenced by the blow dealt to the PPP recently. Nawab Lashkari Raisani, the former president of the PPP Balochistan branch, alongside 21 other provincial leaders defected to join the main opposition party, PML-N, citing alienation and failure on part of the government to stem sectarian violence.

These responses shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Last December’s by-elections for nine seats all across Pakistan led to a similar conclusion; PML-N won seven of the nine, while PPP and PML-Q won a seat each.

A micro-analysis of the surveys reveals a better picture, and confirms regional strongholds. PML-N was supported by 54 percent of Punjabis while nearly 35 percent of Sindhis favoured the PPP. And perhaps because of Imran Khan’s stated commitment towards ending military operations in the tribal areas as well as his crusade against drone strikes, 30 percent of those polled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa favoured the PTI.

In Balochistan, a host of regional parties consolidated under one “regional parties” label led with 36 percent, while PPP played second fiddle, garnering 17 percent of the support. Given the recent turn of events in Balochistan, this support is likely to dwindle.

An analysis of voting patterns from the past four elections, spanning 20 years, shows that the regions with highest level of change in voter intentions seems to be in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  The rest of Pakistan has favoured a specified dominant party in each of the last four elections, which provides further evidence of deep entrenched regional influences of the individual parties in Punjab and Sindh.

What separated this survey from the others conducted in the past — most notably the much debated International Republican Institute poll — was that it offered a glimpse into which party may be a potential partner in an alliance.  Across Punjab and the all-important industrial hub, Karachi as well as other areas in Sindh, PTI enjoys approval as a second choice vote. In other words, in the likely event of a PML-N victory, PTI will be sought after as an important alliance partner, meaning that its voice will be projected on a much larger stage than ever before.

Although  elections are yet to start, polling spread out over the course of the past several months continues to confirm that barring some delay in elections or a military coup — fingers crossed against both propositions — Pakistan will be led by someone other than President Zardari.

Given that General Kayani has confirmed his backing of a fair and speedy election, the chances of this poll mirroring results come spring should be high.

But then again, this is Pakistan we’re talking about, where surety lies outside the lexicon.

Read more by Hamza here.

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Hamza Mannan

Hamza Mannan is a freelance writer and his work has appeared across various newspapers.

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