Understanding PPP’s electoral success

Sindh may have become a fortress for the PPP. What fuels the party’s success in the province?

Understanding PPP’s electoral success


akistan Peoples Party has won a successive fourth election in Sindh, winning 84 out of 130 general seats of the Provincial Assembly. In doing so, the party has not only increased its popular vote by more than seven per cent but has also managed to get a lion’s share out of the total votes cast. The PPP got 45.88 per cent of the total votes polled on February 8.

The PPP has been in government in Sindh since 2008. It has increased its number of seats in the last two elections. As everywhere else, elections in Sindh have been alleged to be rigged. While allegations of rigging in urban Sindh may have some substance, the same cannot be said for the results from rural Sindh as the ruling party did not face opposition on the ground and most of its candidates won by huge margins.

Last Friday, Grand Democratic Alliance, a conglomerate of opposition parties, staged a protest at Jamshoro, against alleged rigging. The GDA was formed before the 2013 general elections to unite opposition parties under one banner to fight the Pakistan Peoples Party in rural Sindh. It included political giants from various areas of Sindh like Pir Pagaro, Jatois of Naushehro Feroze and Mirzas from Badin. It also brought together the nationalist parties like Sindh Taraqqi Pasad Party, Sindh United Party, Ayaz Latif Palijo’s Qaumi Awami Tehreek, Mumtaz Bhutto’s Sindh National Front and a few others. This coalition failed in its very first assignment in 2018 when it managed to poll only 15.11 per cent of the popular vote, translating into only 11 seats of the Provincial Assembly.

The coalition’s performance in recent elections has been even more abysmal. It has won could only two Provincial Assembly seats. Blaming this failure and PPP’s success on rigging is the simplest way to avoid the responsibility of this political catastrophe for the politics of opposition parties.

Umair Javed, a teacher and writer, attributes the PPP’s electoral success to the continued relevance of politics that provides space for provincial rights and cultural/ ethnic assertion. On the other hand, the PPP claims that it is a testimony to service delivery and good governance in Sindh. What we need is a comprehensive understanding of the mode of politics that the PPP employs in Sindh. It is a classic case of patronage politics and winning the allegiance of diverse groups by offering multiple incentives.

PPP’s vote bank has consistently increased; it was 32.86 per cent in 2013, 38.44 per cent in 2014 and now stands at almost 46 per cent which means almost half of the eligible voters choose the PPP.

Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of the party has managed to consolidate the party on the district level. If one looks at the list of 191 candidates fielded by the PPP for the Provincial and National Assembly seats in Sindh, it is strikingly evident that it includes names of those who won against PPP candidates in the last two elections—be it Mahars of Ghotki and Shikarpur or Sherazis of Thatta. Opinions can vary on what motivated these families to join the PPP. Some would argue that they were coerced into joining the PPP while some would say that they were fed up with being in opposition for over a decade and could not take it anymore. Whatever one may say, the reality is that they are now in the PPP and part of is government.

Asif Ali Zardari’s politics and the inadequacy of opposition parties have turned Sindh into an impregnable fortress for the PPP. Electoral and constituency politics is a full-time job, at least in rural areas. Voters expect their representatives to be available and accessible and be a part of their everyday life. PPP’s candidates are mostly accessible and due to being in power, can do the traditional ‘thana-kachahri’ politics. In comparison, major stakeholders in the GDA are traditional feudal families. For them, politics is like a recreational activity that takes place once every five years. This leaves a gap between them and their voters and the PPP steps in to exploit it. PPP’s vote bank has consistently increased; it was 32.86 per cent in 2013, 38.44 per cent in 2014 and now stands at almost 46 per cent which means almost half of the eligible voters choose the PPP.

These statistics reflect that the PPP is the choice of the average voter in Sindh even with the awareness of governance issues and alleged corruption. The rigging mantra is not going to cut it for opposition parties anytime soon. What they need is a comprehensive assessment and analysis of their mistakes and a broad-based strategy to engage with the voters. If they cannot do this, they will be on the streets again after yet another round of elections.

Mazhar Abbas is a lecturer at GCU, Faisalabad, and a research fellow at PIDE, Islamabad. He can be contacted at mazharabbasgondal87@gmail.com. He tweets at @MazharGondal87

Abdul Sami is a student of political science at Forman Christian College University, Lahore

Understanding PPP’s electoral success