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Pakistan - Political Parties

National Assembly

Party10 Oct
18 Feb
26 June
2008 *
11 May
25 July
total contested272268272+
272 +
Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf [PTI] Imran KHAN 1 35118
Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N Nawaz)19669016763
Pakistan's People's Party [PPP] 81871273943
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal [MMA]6038...10
Pakistan Muslim League (Pir Pagara) 545...5
Grand Democratic Alliance ...2
Balochistan National Party 1 11...2
Muttahida Qaumi Movement [MQM] 17192523 2
Awami National Party (ANP) 101311
Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) 11838513-
National Alliance 16 ......
Pakistan Muslim League (Junejo Group) 3......
Pakistan People's Party (Sherpao Group) 2 11......
National People's Party (NPP) 21......
Pakistan Muslim League (Zia-ul-Haq) 1 ......
Jamhoori Watan Party 1 ......
Muhajir Qaumi Movement 1 ......
Pakistan Awami Tehreek 1 ......
Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazl 14...
Independents 142718...14
Vacant 1 2......
Out of 342 seats, 272 are filled by direct election, 60 seats are designated for women and 10 for religious minorities.
* By election - reflects affiliation of both elected and reserved seats

Pakistan's political system is broken: its political parties are ineffective, functioning for decades as instruments of two families, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, two clans, both corrupt. The Bhutto-Zardari axis may be considered "left leaning," while the Sharif brothers may be considered "right leaning." The Sharifs are much closer to Pakistan's military, and to Pakistan's Muslim fundamentalists. Punjabi, the Sharifs represent Pakistan's major ethnic bloc, and the devout Sunni Sharif has an advantage over the Bhuttos, who have Shiite ties. Apart from the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi, the class character of all other political parties is feudal. Pakistan has not dismantled old feudal structures. The Bhutto family alone owns over 20,000 acres, a scale of land ownership that is common.

Pakistan's established political parties have failed to successfully reform on their own accord. Political parties are seen as personality driven and disconnected from the electorate, with little public awareness of party platforms and little faith that the parties can help solve the most pressing problems facing the country.

Pakistan has universal adult suffrage, and those 18 years of age and older are eligible to vote. As of early 2005, there were 72 million registered voters. The minimum age of candidates is 25 years of age for national and provincial assemblies, 30 for the Senate, and 45 for president. The president sets election dates, and the Election Commission (EC) conducts national and provincial assembly elections, but the EC's chair, the chief election commissioner, oversees elections for local governments, the Senate, and the presidency. The EC is an independent, financially autonomous body, but it has been criticized as having little power to enforce codes of conduct on political parties and candidates.

Constituencies are demarcated by population, administrative boundaries, and other factors. In 2002 there were 357 constituencies for the National Assembly and 728 constituencies for provincial assemblies. Sixty seats in the National Assembly and 128 in the provincial assemblies are reserved for women. In addition, 10 seats in the National Assembly and 23 in the provincial assemblies are reserved for non-Muslims. In April 2002, Musharraf's term as president was extended for five years in a national referendum. Elections were held for the national and provincial assemblies in October 2002 and for the Senate in February 2003. However, domestic and international observers have criticized these and earlier elections as flawed.

Political parties have increased in number but declined in political power, particularly in relation to the military. Since the late 1990s, numerous parties have splintered into factions, dividing electoral support and leading to the formation of coalitions that often also dissolve into factions. The three parties with the greatest electoral support since 1988 all have become shadows of their former selves. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) have splintered into numerous parties, and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) has lost substantial legitimacy as a result of involvement in violence.

Officially, 73 parties contested the 2002 National Assembly elections, but only 3 percent of voters were registered as members of a political party. As a result of elections in 2002, a coalition led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) assumed control of provincial assemblies in Punjab and Sindh and the National Assembly. This party was closely associated with the government of General Musharraf. Parties often have no constitutions, membership lists, or documentation of funding sources. Furthermore, electoral support is rarely nationwide and most often is drawn from particular religious, ethnic, or regional bases. The military has given financial support to religious parties as a counterweight to secular parties, but electoral support for religious parties has been well below 10 percent nationwide. Many parties have separate wings for women and youth, and many are accused of having militias that collect funds and intimidate opponents.

In the February 18, 2008 elections, 49 parties contested the National Assembly elections. As a result of attacks on political party gatherings, over 100 party supporters were killed during the campaign. In addition, over 50 people were reportedly killed in clashes between supporters during this period. Tragically, on 27 December 2007, Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was assassinated at a campaign rally. Although the February 2008 elections were competitive and the results were accepted, there are enduring problems with the framework and conditions for elections in Pakistan. The 18 February 2008 National and Provincial Assembly Elections saw a pluralistic process in which a broad range of views were expressed, an election that was competitive and a polling process which achieved increased public confidence in comparison to previous elections. However, there were serious problems with the framework and conditions in which the elections were held and a level playing field was not provided during the campaign, primarily as a result of abuse of state resources and bias in the state media in favor of the former ruling parties. A number of political parties promoted a boycott of the process, in particular in Balochistan. As a result, the overall process fell short of a number of international standards for genuine democratic elections.

The results declared the PPP to have won the most seats of any party, followed by the PML (N). Parties aligned with President Pervez Musharraf, such as the PML (Q) and MQM, finished well below the PPP and PML (N), and differences of opinion on a variety of issues stalled the formation of a unity government between the PPP and PML (N) by May 2008. By-elections for seven National Assembly and 29 Provincial Assembly seats were held June 26. The election covered seats where the incumbent died (including Benazir Bhutto) and where a multiple winner in the February general election opted to fill another seat.

Mounting public dissatisfaction with President Musharraf, coupled with the assassination of, Benazir Bhutto, in late 2007, and Musharraf's resignation in August 2008, led to the election of Asif Ali Zardari in September 2008. Nawaz Sharif kept Punjab but allowed the PPP to rule from Islamabad.

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Page last modified: 31-07-2018 08:50:25 ZULU