After the elections

A weak government is on the cards. A common agenda can stabilise it to some extent

After the elections


n the movie Syriana, released in 2005, Robert Redford, after winning the election, asks “what do we do now”? After the election 2024 in Pakistan, everyone is asking the same question.

The PPP-PML-N coalition, prima facie a variant of the PDM alliance that ran the federal government ahead of the elections, is still less than transparent. One does not know, for instance, whether or not the PPP will be a part of the federal cabinet. Recent statements by some of it leaders indicate that it wants to be in the government and the opposition at the same time. Every other party wants to be in the opposition. So what do we do now?

The hopes that a general election will bring about political and economic stability have been dashed. The low credibility of the mandate is a bigger problem than its fragmented nature.

The way the results were announced and contested has undermined the legitimacy of the process. This is serious damage. It will take another election, at least, to restore faith in the ballot. Those who had been hoping for political and economic stability after the election are asking — what do we do now?

The new government, a weak coalition on account of the fragmented nature of the mandate alone, will be further weakened by the question of transparency and authenticity of the mandate. Conflicting political priorities and distrust between the coalition partners make for instability. The indication by the PPP that it might not join the cabinet is a bad sign.

No one is in a position to answer all these questions in a satisfactory manner. The election has added to social, political and economic instability. The political leadership must rise to the challenge.

Collective action is the only way forward. A weak government is on the cards. A transparent common agenda can stabilise it to some extent. The agenda must include diffusing the polarisation, easing people’s lives and gearing up economic recovery. It will take all political parties in and out of the ruling alliance. All the stakeholders need to reckon the risks that prolonged political chaos can add to an already polarised society and the struggling economy.

The ruling alliance faces a tough challenge of winning the trust of the people. Social stability — trust in social, political and economic institutions - is a precursor for political stability. Through its actions and policies, the alliance needs to make people feel that they matter to them and that their voices matter.

After the elections

The agenda must include healing the polarisation, easing people’s life and gearing up economic recovery. It will take all political parties—in and out of the ruling alliance. All the stakeholders need to reckon the risks that prolonged political chaos can bring to the already polarised society. 

Political stability is the only way forward to economic stability. A stable working arrangement in the coalition is paramount. A truce designed around “need-based support” and “not being part of the cabinet” will further inflate political uncertainty. Unprecedented challenges to the economy require a clear and stable political roadmap.

An alliance with partners not sharing the responsibility for all policies and actions cannot take consequential decisions or pursue the much-needed structural reforms. The first casualty of the loose coalition be the IMF programme that the economy badly needs. Each one of the coalition partners, therefore, must have a stake in it and share the responsibility for the performance of the alliance.

Challenges on the economic front are complicated. An unstable coalition will make them worse. All political parties—ideally including those out of the alliance — need to agree on a common plan for economic recovery. Three points need immediate attention. One, Pakistan should approach the IMF immediately after the standby agreement expires. A prolonged delay in enlisting IMF support or implementing the agreed reforms will jeopardise the economy.

Two, the government must make controlling the inflation a top priority. It must put in place administrative measures and expand social safety nets as soon as it takes charge and initiate medium- to long-term policy actions. People have already suffered a lot. The IMF has already suggested that social safety nets be indexed with inflation. The State Bank must be empowered—de facto — to take all measures necessary to tackle inflation. It must be hold accountable.

Three, every political party must deliver on its manifesto. No party should look for excuses. The PPP must deliver on its manifesto in Sindh. The PML-N must be responsible for delivering what it has promised for the Punjab. The PTI should similarly implement its manifesto in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The coalition in Balochistan will likely be a scaled version of the federal ruling alliance.

At the federal level, the alliance must focus on reforms such as privatisation of the state owned enterprises, revamping the pension system and broadening the tax base by bringing the real estate, retail and agricultures sectors into the tax net.

A clear action plan must be implemented to reduce electricity costs by reducing the inefficiencies in the existing system and adding more solar energy. Meeting revenue targets through more taxes on energy and the salaried class can lead to chaos.

One of the key challenges for the alliance will be to implement a prudent exchange rate policy. The urge for a strong rupee has already hurt the economy.

The future of the country hinges on its political maturity. The political leaders must ensure that the political and economic uncertainty ends. A failure to do so will weaken the social and economic fabric of the society.

The writer is deputy executive director at Sustainable Development Policy Institute. He tweets @sajidaminjaved. The views expressed in the article are personal.

After the elections