Can Pakistan form a new government based on the divided election results? | News of the interpreters

Lahore, Pakistan – Two days after the general elections in Pakistan, a split in the mandate between the three major parties has emerged, and there is little clarity on who will be able to form the government.

According to the latest census issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the results of 253 National Assembly constituencies had been announced as of Saturday afternoon, out of a total of 266 constituencies.

In a shocking result, the largest number of seats went to independent candidates, at least 93 of whom were supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

In December last year, the party was stripped of its electoral symbol, the cricket bat, on charges of violating laws relating to the conduct of internal party elections, forcing it to field its candidates as independents.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which entered the elections as the favorite, emerged with the second-largest mandate, with only 71 seats.

In third place is the Pakistan People’s Party, which managed to obtain 54 seats, 11 more than it obtained in the 2018 elections.

With this division, the big question now is who will be able to form a government in Pakistan, a country of 241 million that has suffered two turbulent years of political instability, an economy on the verge of default, and growing internal security. Challenges.

Pakistani Association
Parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Wednesday, February 7, 2024, one day before voting begins. (Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

How is the majority determined?

With 266 seats available in the general election, a simple majority of 134 seats is required for any political party to form a government.

But in theory, members of Parliament can form a government regardless of their party affiliation.

In the case of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), candidates affiliated with it can choose to avoid joining other parties, and instead rally as independents. This would allow them to form a government if they collectively pass the required threshold of 134 seats.

However, doing so may lead to a weak government, always vulnerable to the whims of individuals who may choose to abandon the ruling coalition – something that is much more difficult when associated with a formally organized political party.

Another downside to remaining independent is that they will not be able to take advantage of the quota of seats reserved for women and minority candidates. In the Pakistani House of Representatives, 266 seats are directly elected, in addition to 60 seats reserved for women and 10 seats for minorities. These seats are distributed among the parties according to the percentage of seats they won.

If the PTI-backed candidates decide to join other parties to form the government, they must announce their decision within three days of the official notification issued by the EC after the completion of the vote counting, expected by late Saturday.

How did the other parties react?

Leaders of the two other parties with the highest number of votes – the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party – held a meeting late on Friday night in Lahore, after PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif announced that his party had “victorious” in the parliamentary elections.

Sharif’s claim that the PML-N has emerged as the party with the largest mandate is technically true because the PTI-backed legislators are independent.

However, he also acknowledged that his party had failed to achieve its goal of a simple majority and was therefore now reaching out to other parties to discuss forming a coalition capable of forming a government.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Abdul Basit, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, noted that the regional results show that the PML-N and independent candidates are contenders in the Punjab Provincial Assembly, which is considered vital for forming the government due to its large number of seats.

“What stands out now is that two major parties will control two provinces, with the PTI getting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the PPP getting Sindh. Whoever controls Punjab will always have the sword of Damocles hanging over his head because of the split result,” he added.

Why are there allegations of manipulation?

While the parties began discussions to form a new government, the PTI alleged widespread manipulation of the results to steal its majority. While it could have been in a position to form a government on its own, it now needs coalition support to do so.

The party’s leader, Imran Khan, who was jailed after being convicted on corruption charges, has stated several times that PTI would refuse to be part of a coalition government.

The election results were unusually late despite the deadline set by the country’s electoral authority. The results began to appear about 10 hours after voting ended.

PTI alleged that the results of several seats were manipulated to deny her victory. Some candidates have already begun legal action, asking the courts to issue an order halting the final results.

The international community, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, also called for an investigation into the allegations made by the PTI.

What will PTI candidates do now?

The PTI, which does not wish to enter into any formal alliance with another party, is considering joining the opposition benches “under the banner” of another party in order to reach the government. Meanwhile, he will also pursue legal avenues to void the seats he claims were stolen from his candidates.

He added: “We will merge with a small party so that we will enter Parliament under a symbol, and this means that our candidates will no longer be independent. We will join a political party of our leader Imran Khan’s choice,” Syed Zulfikar Bukhari, a senior member of the PTI, told Al Jazeera. .

However, another senior PTI member, Gohar Ali Khan, who is heading the party after Khan was jailed, said in a press conference on Saturday that the party will continue to try to form a government since it won the largest number of seats.

Pakistan votes
Election officials begin counting votes at a polling station in Peshawar, Pakistan, on February 8, 2024. (Hussain Ali/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Speaking in Islamabad, he added that if the full results were not published by Saturday evening, the Tehreek-e-Insaf party would organize peaceful protests on Sunday.

However, Bukhari, who is also Khan’s advisor, said the party was content to take on the position of “kingmaker” given its number of seats and would do “whatever we want”.

He added: “We will not side with any major party to form a mixed government in the center.” We have learned from our previous term that having a centrist government with allies means being exposed to blackmail on a daily basis.”

He added that he does not believe that the government being formed through an alliance of other parties will last for a long time.

“We intend to merge into a party in order to put all our candidates under one banner, and we will be the strongest opposition this country has ever seen,” Buhari said.

What will happen next?

Amid great uncertainty, analysts believe the split result means that no party will be able to form a government on its own – two of the three major parties will be forced to form a coalition.

Basit of S. Rajaratnam School told Al Jazeera he expects a return to the ruling coalition that ruled the country after April 2022, when the Khan-led PTI government was dismissed after a no-confidence vote.

“From the fact that the PPP and PML-N have already held a meeting and Sharif said in his speech that he wants to reach out to other political parties, it seems that we will see the emergence of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) 2.0 from this outcome,” he said, referring to the alliance. The ruler who managed to depose the khan.

Ansar Khan
PTI supporters outside former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore, Pakistan, on February 22, 2023 (Raja Imran/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

However, political analyst Arifa Noor said the PTI should focus on forming a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it swept the provincial assembly, winning 90 of the 115 seats.

He added: “Forming the government there should be the focus of their attention now.” “They should be aware of the facts on the ground that the military establishment will not give the PTI movement any space, so it would make sense to settle for their stronghold there,” she told Al Jazeera.

But Al-Basit said that the results showed that the elections did not provide the required stability that the country “desperately” needs.

“The aim of these elections was to secure some stability in a country mired in crises, such as political instability, a weak economy or security concerns. But with these results, only a chaotic arrangement will occur, and stability will remain elusive.”

Noor added that, given the types of allegations that PTI is making regarding manipulation of the results, many of its legislators may now end up spending valuable resources, time and energy fighting these battles in court.

“It takes time and effort, and while some will certainly pursue it, many other politicians seem to question whether it is worth doing so. “But I think there will be a legal battle before the results,” she added.

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