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HomeWorldPakistan Elections: Will Imran Khan's Winning Candidates Form Government?

Pakistan Elections: Will Imran Khan’s Winning Candidates Form Government?

Islamabad, Pakistan – Five days after the February 8 elections, Pakistan is no closer to knowing which parties will form its next government and who could be its next prime minister.

The election yielded a divided mandate amid a cloud of questions about the fairness of the climate in which it was conducted, accusations of serious manipulation and questions about the accuracy of the vote count that dragged on for three days.

In the lead, with 93 seats, are the candidates affiliated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who were forced to participate in the elections as independents, without their electoral symbol, the bat. cricket.

They are followed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which has won 75 seats and is, in theory, the largest party in the National Assembly, although the number amounts to less than a third of the 266 seats that were up for grabs on February 8.

In third place is the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, which has won 54 seats.

But can PTI-backed independents form or join a government? What are the options for the party and what’s next for the country?

What is needed for a government to be formed?

A party or coalition needs a simple majority of 134 seats out of the 266 voted in the National Assembly to form a government.

A coalition can be made up of several parties or also include independents who won their seats.

Those independent candidates can formally join a party seeking to form a government or form an alliance with them while maintaining their individual identity.

While PTI-backed independents could technically form the core of a government in alliance with other parties, whose support they would need to reach the 134-seat mark, that path presents several challenges.

First of all, maintaining stability would be difficult. Such a government would depend on the individual whims of independent parliamentarians, making it susceptible to defections and possible collapse.

Secondly, as a group of independents, the PTI bloc would have to lose access to a part of the 70 seats reserved for women and minorities, which are shared proportionally between the parties represented in the National Assembly.

But if PTI-backed independents joined another party, they would come under the discipline of that parent party, potentially compromising their ability to act in accordance with PTI policies and plans.

How soon should a government be formed after elections?

Basil Nabi Malik, a Karachi lawyer, said that according to the Constitution, a new session of the National Assembly must be convened within three weeks after the elections.

“The law clearly states that the National Assembly will meet on the 21st day after the day on which the assembly elections are held, unless the president calls it earlier,” he told Al Jazeera.

Unless Arif Alvi, the president, calls the session earlier, 21 days will end on February 29.

On the day of the session, if the parties have defined their allies and agreed on a coalition, members of the chamber will be asked to vote for the prime minister, the president and the vice president.

An opposition leader will also be chosen from the parties that have decided not to take up the Treasury seats.

Which parties have taken a step forward?

PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif said in a speech on Friday from the party headquarters in Lahore that he had instructed his brother Shehbaz Sharif, also a former prime minister, to reach out to other political parties that have won several seats in the elections. , to build a ruling alliance.

The PMLN leadership has already met its PPP counterparts as well as representatives of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which won 17 seats in Sindh province.

Still, the parties have not stated whether they plan to move forward with an alliance and what the contours of any coalition would be.

Interactive_Pakistan_elections_Provincial Government Structure

What about the PTI? Will your independents join another party?

Meanwhile, the PTI has focused on protesting alleged manipulations in the election results.

The party leadership insists that the actual results of a large number of its seats were annulled, depriving its candidates of victory and thus ensuring that their seats remained below the magic number of 134 seats.

Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, a senior member of the PTI, has categorically said that they will not join any of the major political parties.

“Our party’s internal discussions and consultations are ongoing and we have many options on the table,” he told Al Jazeera. “Very soon a decision will be made to join a party, but it will not be one of the three or four main parties.”

A total of 13 parties won at least one seat in the National Assembly elections, of which six won a single seat.

If PTI-backed candidates decide to join any other party, they must announce their decision within three days of the official notification of results by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP is yet to announce the official result.

Is making another party an option for PTI-backed independents?

Kanwar M Dilshad, former ECP secretary and analyst, said that in theory, PTI-backed independents could form a new party, although the registration process could take a few days.

But that will not help the PTI in forming the government at this time, as any new party would not have been part of the current electoral process.

Malik, who is also a lawyer at the Supreme Court, agreed with Dilshad’s assessment: independent candidates supported by the PTI can form a new political party, but that will not affect the formation of the incoming government.

“It is (also) questionable whether the said political party, established after the elections, will enjoy the constitutional protections enjoyed by other political parties that had been enlisted and registered with the ECP before the elections in question,” he added.

Abid Zuberi, another senior lawyer, said independents could also declare themselves a group of “like-minded” members. But that wouldn’t be considered a party either.

“They can decide en masse on parliamentary matters, but they will be treated as a group of independents, rather than as a party, and therefore cannot receive the quota of reserved seats,” Zuberi told Al Jazeera.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf got relief on Wednesday when a court allowed the party to use its election symbol in the upcoming elections.
The PTI was stripped of its electoral symbol, the cricket bat, in January this year (EPA)

Can the PTI recover its symbol and its party status?

While party leader Imran Khan has been in prison since August 2023 and they have faced a massive state-led crackdown since at least May last year, the biggest setback they faced was the loss of their electoral symbol. .

They were accused by the ECP of violating laws on holding internal party elections. The party has alleged that this was a decision aimed at reducing the popularity and influence of the party.

The party could request protection from the country’s Supreme Court to have the ECP’s decision revoked. But it is unclear whether even a verdict in the party’s favor would allow the independents it supports to formally represent the PTI in the new National Assembly.

“Now the PTI has to hold elections, according to the letter and spirit. But I don’t think he will allow the party to be part of the current parliament since according to the ECP, it does not exist as far as the results of these elections are concerned,” said Zuberi, the senior lawyer who is also a former President of the Bar Association of the Supreme Court.

Senator Ali Zafar, a senior PTI leader and part of its legal team, indicated that the party was not confident of getting relief from the top court over the symbol.

“I feel that perhaps the issue of the symbol is over because it was for the purpose of contesting the elections. I don’t think it will have any effect in the post-election scenario. Instead, it is now a question of which party the PTI-backed candidates join,” he told Al Jazeera.

Malik also criticized the ECP’s original decision to remove the symbol, saying there is currently little evidence that the move can be reversed any time soon.

“We also see a lack of urgency in the Supreme Court in setting this matter for hearing, and it may not be possible to complete this entire exercise before the first sitting,” he said.

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