Upsetting pundits’ predictions

ISLAMABAD: Preliminary results of the Wednesday’s elections show that Imran Khan’s PTI is performing better than expectations, securing more seats than all political parties, vexing most political pundits.

Exit-polls and pre-poll surveys had all showed that PTI would secure a thin-margin win.

Results have proven most political pundits wrong on many counts.

And not just PTI results are different: Many analysts had also predicted the newly-formed Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) would put a major dent in several PPP strongholds in Sindh, where it had been ruling unchallenged since 2008.

Similarly, they also ANP to perform much better this time in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Mustafa Kamal’s PSP was expected to grab a few seats from Karachi. Both performed abysmally.

Several religious parties had revived Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), hoping to repeat the 2002 results.

Riding on the wave of higher expectations, Imran Khan’s party’s perceived victory comes with many challenges.

Once PTI forms government on its own or in coalition with other smaller groups, it would certainly have no honeymoon period.

Most mainstream parties, including two major ones, PML-N and PPP, have already rejected the results.

The main cause was the failure of the newly-introduced result management system the ECP had introduced for the first time. Delays in the compilation of results already provided political parties the perfect weapon to cast doubts on the credibility of the poll exercise.

The ECP should have tested the android-based system before introducing it in the general election or at least it should have used it on a test basis and should have compiled results manually.

However, the parliament compelled the ECP to use this system by making it compulsory by law. The ECP should have made this clear to beforehand that it was using this system for a test run.

In the previous elections, the ECP had announced it would use magnetic ink for verifying thumbprints, improving the vote audit process.

When votes were sent for verification to NADRA after PTI leveled rigging allegations after the 2013 elections, NADRA’s system could not identify most voters. This provided PTI the perfect reason to propagate its allegations of rigging.

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This time, however, almost all mainstream parties, except PTI, have indicated to coalesce on a single-point agenda: the alleged rigging. It would be premature to say if this could lead to street protests just like PTI did after 2013 elections.

However, one thing is sure: more experienced parties such as PML-N and PPP would give PTI a tough time in the parliament.

Whatever the number of the seats PTI bags for the National Assembly, it would have to make do with just 12 members in the Senate for the next three years when half of the Senate members are scheduled to retire. Except for the money bill, all legislations have to be routed through both houses of the parliament

With its existing strength, PTI would be dependent on other parties and independents in the 104-memebr upper House of parliament to get any law approved from the Senate.

Over the past five years or so, PTI had more experience of agitating outside the parliament. Its lawmakers in the National Assembly performed below par.

Rooting out corruption and introducing good governance had been PTI’s core public promises.

In its 100-point plan PTI gave weeks before polls, revitalizing economic growth topped its agenda. Strengthening the federation and national security were other two top priorities in PTI’s plan. Foreign policy and national security issues are usually out of the domain of the civilian governments, therefore the most daunting challenge to PTI would be the revival of national economy.

Soaring external financing requirements in the shape of payment of debt and import bill have been major problems of Pakistan’s economy.

This year, the country’s import bill surged to $61 billion while exports were less than $25 billion and foreign remittances remained at $20.7 billion. With foreign direct investment at just $2.7 billion over the past financial year ending on June 30, the country has been facing serious balance of payment problems.

Drastic depreciation of rupee over the past few months has already increased the debt burden and would further add to the import bill.

With mounting debt payments in the coming months and years, handling the economic mess is not an easy task.  PTI did not come up with any concrete plan other than incantations to revive the economy. If PTI fails to deliver, and that too promptly, the wave of popularity would be evanescent.

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