‘Not voting this year’

December 31, 2023

Why are people choosing not to vote in the elections? Hear from the non-voters themselves

‘Not voting this year’

In a democratic structure, voter turnout is a reflection of the strength of the political framework. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, nearly half of the population does not vote in elections.

The highest voter turnout in Pakistan’s general elections so far was in 1970. The turnout in the 2018 general elections was 51.99 per cent, which was a lot less less than the 70 percent turnout in the 1970 elections. In 2013, the turnout was 53.62 percent, while in 2008, it was 44.11 percent.

Among the provinces, Balochistan has consistently had the lowest turnout in the country. In the 2018 general elections, turnout in Balochistan was 48.00 per cent, which was higher than Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In 2013, Balochistan had had the lowest turnout in the country at 39.97 per cent. In 2008, too, it had the lowest turnout at 31.32 per cent. In the 2013 general elections, Balochistan had the lowest turnout in the country’s history at 1.18 percent for the PB-41 Awaran constituency.

The general election in 2024 is scheduled for February 8. Some local analysts have suggested that the cold weather in the northern regions of Balochistan could impact voter turnout.

Quetta is the capital of Balochistan, with three seats in the National Assembly and nine in the Provincial Assembly. In 2018, the turnout for the three National Assembly seats here was less than 40 percent.

This time around, there seems to be even less interest among the people. “I won’t vote this time,” says Fareed Baloch, a resident of Quetta. “I have voted twice and have been politically active, but nothing has been achieved. The current situation makes life difficult. Inflation, unemployment and the state of security are such that one doesn’t know whether they will return home after they step out. What change can voting in the election bring about in such a situation? These politicians neither have the authority nor are competent enough to fix the country’s problems,” he says.

Private school teacher Noor Fatima says that she might not vote this time. “I didn’t vote last time either,” she recalls. “Many women don’t vote. Some of them don’t get the permission from their male relatives. Others feel insecure at the polling booth. I, too, am afraid that something untoward might happen,” says Fatima. “Even if we vote, no change will come. Some people have been voting for decades. What have they achieved? Everything is getting worse.”

Balochistan University student Ajmal Tareen says that he is not enthusiastic about voting. “The reason? I’m not interested in politics. I stick to my affairs and mind my own business. I don’t have a lot of trust in the system. Representatives come, complete their tenures and leave. Nobody cares about the common man,” he says.

“This time, I’m not going to vote. There’s no point in voting. It’s better not to bother,” says Haider Khan, another Quetta resident. “In 2018, all of my family members voted. We had high hopes, but nothing much happened,” he says.

“Candidates come asking for votes in elections, but when they succeed, they don’t come back for five years. If you look at the country now, the situation is not in favour of the poor in any way. Business climate and security are deteriorating by the day. I think even after the election, the situation will not improve. We may entertain hopes, but these people will keep fighting amongst themselves,” he says.

“I had to quit my education and start a business,” Haider tells The News on Sunday. “Today, inflation is so high that the business is not going well either. I’m losing all hope. I would have voted had the politicians been serious about resolving our problems,” he says.

Musawir Khan from Satellite Town says that he was unable to vote in 2018 because his vote was registered far from the city. ”I won’t be voting this time either. I don’t trust the politicians. I am disillusioned,” he says.

He says that he has no expectation from the next government. “In 2018, there were high hopes at the national level. It looked like the economy would improve and unemployment end. Many people hoped that Imran Khan will change things. In his three years, he, too, did not do anything special for the people,” he says. 

‘Not voting this year’