PML-N strikes back as PTI struggles to maintain dominance

PML-N strikes back as PTI struggles to maintain dominance
Preliminary figures showed PML-N securing six seats in the Punjab provincial assembly while PTI took four. (REUTERS/photo)
Updated 15 October 2018

PML-N strikes back as PTI struggles to maintain dominance

PML-N strikes back as PTI struggles to maintain dominance
  • Both parties secure four seats each in Sunday’s by-polls
  • Overseas Pakistanis vote for the first time via ECP website

ISLAMABAD: Unofficial results of Sunday’s by-polls indicate a neck-to-neck race for Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), with both securing four seats each from the 11 vacant National Assembly (NA) constituencies.
PTI lost a seat to Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), a five-party alliance led by Fazlur Rehman and partner of PML-N. However, the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid, a supporter of PTI, bagged two NA seats. 
Preliminary figures showed PML-N securing six seats in the Punjab provincial assembly while PTI took four. Two other seats went to independent candidates. In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, PTI grabbed six of the nine seats losing two to the Awami National Party and one to PML-N.
Parliamentarians from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) took two seats in the Sindh Assembly while the Baloch National Party (BNP) and an independent candidate secured one seat each in the Balochistan Assembly.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry cited the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan in PTI’s by-election campaign as the main reason for the setback. However despite the opposition’s gains, the ruling party still received the highest number of combined assembly seats.
The slim margin is also a tell-tale signs of voters’ confidence in PM Khan’s policy amendments to steer the country toward progress, but at a cost borne by the common man. An unusually low voter turnout was recorded in Pakistan on Sunday as the country held by-elections for 11 national and 24 provincial assembly seats that had fallen vacant after the general elections in July.
More than 9.2 million voters were expected to cast their ballot at 7,489 polling centers that had stringent security measures in place. While media persons were barred from entering the polling stations, the voter turnout remained poor as per the initial counts, with an unnamed Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) official saying that it was 35 percent.
“The polling station was deserted when I went to vote late morning,” Syed Ather Ali, who voted for PTI from NA-60, a National Assembly constituency in Rawalpindi, said.
Some 370 hopefuls contested the by-polls, according to the ECP, which approved 645 nomination papers of the 661 submitted by different candidates. According to the data provided, 218 candidates contested from Punjab, 57 from Sindh, 36 from the sparsely populated province of Balochistan and 59 from KP.
According to unofficial results, a PML-N candidate won from NA-131, in Lahore. Similarly, the country’s former prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, won and bagged the greatest number of votes in NA-124, Lahore, on the PML-N ticket. Much like the last general elections, the political battle was once again anticipated to be between PTI and PML-N and going by the unofficial accounts, both parties are understood to have taken four NA seats each.
Two unopposed candidates had already won the provincial seats of PP-87, Mianwali, and PP-296, Rajanpur. The most unique feature of the by-polls was the participation of overseas Pakistanis who could participate in the vote for the first time by accessing the ECP’s website.
However, out of the 7.9 million nationals living abroad, only a little more than 7,400 took part in the polls.
Meanwhile, few contestants, who lost the electoral race, believed they had fallen victim to systematic irregularities. Political analyst Qamar Cheema said the by-polls were vital for PTI since it had managed to form the government at the federal level with only a narrow margin. “These by-elections will also prove whether people have accepted or rejected all the changes that PM Khan’s administration has introduced in the country,” Cheema said while talking to Arab News.