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November 1, 2015

Will Saturday’s LB poll results impact remaining two stages?


November 1, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Will the trend of results of the first phase of local council elections in 20 districts of Punjab and Sindh held on Saturday influence the voters in the remaining two stages of polling to be organised on November 19 and December 5?
It is believed that the trend may create an impact on the fence-sitters, but it is unexpected to extensively swing and sway the electorate.
Voters are well aware that only local governments will come in place as a result of these polls, and there will be no change in the federal or provincial setups. Significant effect may be seen if the national or provincial elections are spread over different phases.
No major upsets are likely in this phase and the political parties that had won in these areas may carry the day once again.
One reason behind less influence of the trend arising in the first phase on the rest of the stages is the massive mobilisation done by individual contestants at the local level. The election campaign lacked any significant support of political parties. So far, the contestants have squeezed commitments from the electorates, which they expect would be honoured.
The downside of the scattered polls, being held now, is the impact, slight or substantial, that the exercise may leave on the voters in the subsequent elections. However, such a process has not generated any controversy in some countries like India where the general and state elections are always divided in more than one phase for being a marathon affair in view of the unprecedentedly large number of voters.
This is the first experience of having scattered polls in Pakistan simply to enable the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), police, law enforcement agencies and administrative machinery to ensure a smooth process, avoiding the repeat of faux pas and mismanagement suffered in similar polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) a few months back.
It was proved in KP that the electoral and administrative machinery miserably lacked

capacity to organise such a colossal exercise simultaneously on the same day. After a decade-long gap, people were at last involved in the democratic process at the grassroots level in Punjab and Sindh. The last polls were held in 2005. After that the Supreme Court kept pushing the provincial governments to meet the constitutional requirement and they finally agreed but following extraordinary dilly-dallying rather refusals.
On Saturday, the two provinces started undergoing the longest-ever electoral process, spanning 35 days, in the three-phase polls. For the first time, the party-based elections have been arranged unlike all the earlier local polls.
Previously, all the local bodies’ (LB) polls were held through Pakistan on the same day. Since different political parties rule the provinces, they chose different times to hold the LB elections with Balochistan having taken the lead long time ago, followed by the KP.
Looking at the results of the National Assembly constituencies in these Punjab districts in 2013 elections, it becomes unambiguously clear that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had had almost a clean sweep.
In Lahore, it had won twelve out of thirteen seats with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) triumphing in one constituency. In Faisalabad, the PML-N had clinched all the eleven seats. In Gujrat, it had secured two seats while the PML-Q had got one seat.
All the Vehari seats were won by the PML-N while it had bagged three out of four seats of Bahawalnagar. Ijazul Haq had taken the seat. It had also secured all the seats in Kasur, Chakwal, Bhakkar, Pakpattan, Okara and Lodhran. In the Sindh districts where polling was held on Saturday, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had had a complete sway. Some seats were taken by the Functional League. These districts included Khairpur, Larkana, Ghotki, Sukkur, Qamber-Shahdadkot, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Kashmore.

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