NA-133 by-election result has lessons for all parties
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As expected, PML-N’s Shaista Pervaiz won back a National Assembly seat in the Punjab capital on Sunday.
Incidentally, it happened only a day before her party leadership was scheduled to sit with allies in the Pakistan Democratic Movement to finalise a strategy to oust the PTI government that all opposition parties allege had been brought to power through manipulated 2018 elections.
(The policy of rejection of the legitimacy of the incumbent assembly and the race to win more seats in the same house goes on simultaneously just as the ‘good cop and bad cop’ policy being pursued at the same time by the Sharif brothers).
The seat in what is regarded as the stronghold of the PML-N had fallen vacant because of the death of Shaista’s husband Pervaiz Malik on October 11.
Shaista is already an MNA from the women’s seat. But her election from a general seat will add to her political stature. Now, she will certainly play a more proactive role in national politics. Also, she is expected to be the party’s candidate from this seat in the general elections.
The results of the by-election are indicative of a change in the on-ground situation in the constituency after the 2018 elections and carry lessons for all parties.
Shaista Pervaiz bagged 46,811 votes while PPP’s Chaudhry Aslam Gill secured 32,313 ballots.
In the 2018 elections, Pervaiz Malik had grabbed over 90,000 votes while Mr Gill could secure only 5,500 votes.
In other words, there is a considerable increase in the PPP candidate’s tally while there is a substantial decrease in the PML-N’s ‘reap’.
The turnout remained 18.59 per cent as out of a total of 440,845 voters, only 80,022 used their right to franchise.
The ruling PTI was out of the race as nomination papers of its candidate – Jamshed Iqbal Cheema – had been rejected by the relevant authorities, a decision that remained unchanged even at the appellate forums.
The ruling party had advised its supporters to stay at home on the polling day, a factor that may have contributed to the low turnout.
The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which had emerged as the third-largest group in the 2018 general elections, preferred to remain out of the by-poll citing its lack of preparation owing to its engagement in a long march on Islamabad.
Although the result establishes the PML-N’s invincibility in the provincial capital even when a rival party is in power, the fall in the number of votes must be a cause of concern for the PML-N, especially because the sympathy factor also did not help its candidate much.
In the absence of its own candidate, the PTI would have been happier over the success of the PPP candidate because of the latter’s rivalry against the PML-N.
But the result should shatter the dreams of the ruling PTI, which is already claiming that it would win even the 2023 elections. A party that could not get the PML-N candidate defeated despite being in power cannot be expected to easily get a victory from this province in the next elections when the performance of the Punjab government is so disappointing.
And superfluous to point out that a party that doesn’t perform well in the largest province cannot be expected to be in a position to form its government at the centre.
The uncontrolled price-hike that has made the life of the common miserable is yet another factor that will go against the PTI at the time of the next elections.
The outcome of this by-election should also be instructive for the PPP which also claims it will rule the country as a result of the 2023 elections.
It’s true that because of former president Zardari’s presence in the Punjab capital during electioneering helped Aslam Gill get more votes, he could not defeat the PML-N nominee.
This clearly means that while the PPP can be revived in Punjab, the leadership will to work very hard to be able to win back its lost glory and popularity.
The Sunday by-election was mainly a contest between the PML-N and the PPP. But now they will have to work out a strategy for a time when PTI and other parties are also in the field at the time of the next general elections.
During the period between now and the next elections, the parties can decide about their allies and rivals.