PML-N to sweep 2018 elections: report

Analysts foresee a bigger majority for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in 2018 election keeping in view the efforts of Nawaz Sharif-led government to deliver on governance, economic reforms and particularly security.

According to a report published in Nikkei Asian Review, an English-language business journal, in June 2013, Pakistan underwent its first-ever peaceful regime change from one elected civilian party to another.

In the National Assembly, the ruling PML-N holds 189 seats, 55% of the total 342, while the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), co-led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, holds 47 seats. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, a former cricketer, holds 33.

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The PPP won the 2008 general elections after leader Benazir Bhutto was gunned down during the campaign, but lost steam due to political failures. The party was working to regain power under the leadership of Bilawal and Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari, but that would require increased support in its own stronghold in Sindh, as well as making inroads in Punjab, the PML-N heartland that was home to more than half the country’s population.

The PTI made major strides in the last general election, but public opinion was turning. As one Pakistani businessman put it, “They lost people’s support due to agitation politics, including months long sit-in at the parliament.”

Highlighting the government’s strong performance in economy, the Journal said Pakistan had recently witnessed significant improvements in its infrastructure and energy sectors, helped in part by the downward trend in oil prices.

In August, the country completed the International Monetary Fund’s Extended Fund Facility programme, which provided $6.4 billion in financial aid over three years on condition the country undertakes certain reforms, including fiscal austerity and privatisation measures. Macroeconomic indexes were up across the board, and relations with the US and the wider international community had improved.

For fiscal year 2017, the country was confidently projecting growth above 5%. The consumer price index, which for a time saw double-digit annual growth, fell to 2.9% on average in fiscal 2016. The government’s annual deficit had fallen from 8.2% in fiscal 2013 to 4.6% of GDP.

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Investment in CPEC projects totals $51 billion, mainly for the building of power plants, but also encompassing roads, ports, railroads and airports, and offers hope of spurring industry nationwide. “There’s a significant improvement both on the economic and security sides. Democracy is also taking roots,” said Arif Habib, CEO of leading conglomerate Arif Habib group, when asked about the performance of the Sharif administration. “The media is free, and the judiciary system is also improving,” he added.

Abdul Aleem, secretary-general of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, comprising 195 foreign companies and other organisations, said, “The government is very strong,” although “commodity prices, especially oil, are the biggest risk.”

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