- Don’t reach any conclusions yet
The chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has claimed this his political party is being isolated while others are running election campaigns freely in the country. On the other hand, the campaign of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf appears to have all the space to make a final push before the polls are held on July 25. Contrary to expectations, the Pakistan People’s Party, under the leadership of Bilawal, has attracted large crowds in Punjab. As it appears, Bilawal is slowly reviving the party’s ideological base in Punjab. However, whether or not it will translate into votes on election day remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: whoever will make an attempt to form the next government, the role of the PPP is going to be essential. This is how the PPP’s role is expected to play out when the country enters the pose election process.
The debate when it comes to the upcoming election has been predominantly about a competition between the PTI and PML-N. The focus in this regard has been away from what PPP’s role might be when it comes to final negotiations among various stakeholders to form the next government. To everyone’s surprise, PPP may end up be getting a central role in the incoming government. Here is how it’s likely to happen.
In Punjab, the presence of PPP has been virtually turned into a non-party. This has been the case for many years as the party’s leadership under Asif Ali Zardari only pushed away ideological votes and electables. Much of the PPP’s electables are either now part of PTI or they have gone to PML-N with a few contesting as independent candidates. The realisation within the party’s ranks about this fallout of the last few years’ party policies has brought some strategic differences the way party is approaching this election. The party’s only trump card, Bilawal, who has been actively participating in PPP’s election campaign, with a clear and robust manifesto which talks about issues of a middle and poor class of the country, has made an impact. Bilawal’s visit in Punjab and crowds which at times were bigger than PTI and PML-N’s rallies is an expression of the party’s growing support. Had Bilawal been given more role in the party a few years ago and had he worked on reviving the party’s roots, PPP might very well get a substantial share of seats from Punjab alone. Yet, it’s expected that PPP might end up with securing around 10 to 12 seats in Punjab.
In KPK and other northern areas, the party is likely to make some gains. This is going to base on a number of electable which are part of the PPP and the latter’s active campaign. While PTI claims that it remains much popular in KPK, the divisions within the party in the province are going to become public on the election day. The PTI’s ticket awarding mechanism where the party loyalist has pushed away and new entrants were given the platform, has neither been appreciated nor been forgotten by Khan’s supporters. On the other hand, PPP has been mending fences with ANP which appears to be ready to give PTI tough time in KPK. The death of a number of ANP leaders in a recent suicide attack in Peshawar is an incident which will bring a large number of sympathy votes for the party. With the PTI facing fractions in KPK and ANP and PPP mending fences, we may very well see an ANP and PPP coalition government in the province.
Overall, PPP is likely to get around 55 to 60 national assembly seats which are going to be an important factor when negotiations to form the next government begin
Now, this leads to the party’s traditional stronghold in the province of Sindh. The party remains as strong as it was anytime in the past. The rural areas of the province are expected to elect PPP and there appears no credible opposition which can divide the PPP’s vote in its traditional strongholds in the province. There are a number of smaller regional parties which are contesting election against PPP on reasons concerning a political grievance. However, such smaller groups cannot dampen the party’s winning trajectory in rural Sindh which is fortified through various patronage networks and years of alliances. In Urban Sindh, the party if not going to win, it is not expected to lose either.
Overall, PPP is likely to get around 55 to 60 national assembly seats which are going to be an important factor when negotiations to form the next government begin. A party with 55 or even 50 seats can make any party – PTI or PML-N – form movement at the federal level. Zardari understands what this means for his party: the party’s core leadership is going to make sure that they do not directly lead the government, they should at least get hold of some key ministries. It remains to be seen whether PPP would negotiate with PTI but we may very well see PPP making an alliance with PML-N which might change the nature of the election and expected results.
The PPP remains the key to the formation of the next government.