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Pakistan’s weak coalition will dampen prospects of desperately-needed wide-ranging economic reforms

February 13, 2024

ISLAMABAD – PAKISTAN voted on Feb 8 in an election full of surprises and upsets. This was a pivotal poll in the backdrop of the political tensions and uncertainty of recent years, which left the country in a polarised and unstable state.

A lacklustre campaign didn’t discourage people from showing up at the ballot box in greater numbers than predicted. This was testimony to their stake in the democratic process, indicating they felt their vote mattered. The turnout defied the narrative that the election outcome was a forgone conclusion. When results were in, it became clear that this narrative had overlooked electoral dynamics and public sentiment on the ground.

The Election Commission of Pakistan did not cover itself in glory by its inexplicable tardiness in announcing election results. Despite its claim that it had set up an improved system to announce results, the inordinate delay evoked sharp criticism and allegations of foul play. Internet and mobile network disruptions added to the controversy and earned both ECP and the caretaker government justified criticism. PTI leaders claimed “winning seats had been turned into defeats”. Several Western states urged investigation into poll irregularities.

Voters delivered a divided mandate and hung parliament. Results from 265 national constituencies showed PTI-backed candidates winning the most seats, followed by PML-N and then PPP. PTI candidates swept KP and made a strong showing in Punjab.

PML-N’s wins were mostly in Punjab, while the PPP held on to its traditional stronghold of Sindh, also securing seats in Balochistan. PTI’s performance in the face of curbs, denial of its election symbol and with all its top leaders in jail showed that a sympathy wave