Pakistan Election: Can Imran Khan’s winning candidates form a government? | Elections News
Islamabad, Pakistan – Five days after the elections on February 8, Pakistan does not know which parties will form its next government and who could be its next prime minister.
The elections delivered a divided mandate amid a cloud of questions about the fairness of the climate in which they were held, allegations of mismanagement, and challenges over the accuracy of the vote counts that dragged on for three days.
Leading with at least 96 seats are the candidates affiliated to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to contest the election as independents. without their election symbol, the cricket bat.
They are followed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which has won 75 seats and is theoretically the single largest party in the National Assembly, even though the figure ends. less than a third of the 266 seats available on 8 February.
In third place is the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, which has secured 54 seats.
But can PTI-backed independents form or enter a government, what are the options for the party, and what’s next for the country?
What is needed to form a government?
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 may consist of several parties or may also include independents who have won their seats.
These independent candidates can formally join a party aiming to form a government or enter into an alliance with them while maintaining their individual identity.
Although technically, PTI-backed independents could form the core of a government in alliance with other parties, whose support would be required to reach the 134-seat mark, such a path has several challenges. .
First, it would be difficult to maintain stability. Such a government would depend on the individual whims of independent parliamentarians, making it prone to defections and collapse.
Second, as a collection of independents, the PTI bloc would have to give up a chunk of the 70 seats reserved for women and minorities, which are divided proportionally among parties that represented in the National Assembly.
But if PTI-backed independents joined another party, they would come under the control of that parent party, potentially affecting their ability to work on policies and the PTI’s plans.
How soon must a government be formed after the polls?
Basil Nabi Malik, a lawyer based in Karachi, said that according to the constitution, a new session of the National Assembly must be called within three weeks of the elections.
“The law clearly states that the National Assembly will meet on the 21st day after the day the election to the assembly is held, unless the president calls it sooner,” he told Al Jazeera.
If Arif Alvi, the president, does not call the session sooner, 21 days will pass on February 29.
On the day of the session, if the parties have finalized their allies and agreed on a coalition, the members of the house will be asked to vote for the prime minister, the speaker and the deputy speaker.
The leader of the opposition will also be chosen from one of the parties that have decided not to sit on the treasury benches.
Which parties have made a move?
PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif said in a speech on Friday from the party headquarters in Lahore that he had instructed his brother Shehbaz Sharif, who was also the prime minister, to reach out to other political parties that have to win seats in the election, to raise. governing coalition.
The PMLN leadership has already met with counterparts from the PPP, as well as representatives from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which won 17 seats in Sindh province.
However, the parties have not indicated whether they intend to proceed with an alliance – and what the shape of any coalition would look like.
What about the PTI? Will their independents join another party?
Meanwhile, the PTI has focused on protesting the alleged manipulation of the election results.
The party leadership claims that the actual results of a large number of their seats have been reversed, removing their candidates from victory, thus ensuring that their seats remain under magic figure of 134 seats.
Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, a senior member of the PTI, has categorically stated that they will not join hands with any of the major political parties.
“Our internal party discussions and consultations are ongoing, and we have many options on the table,” he told Al Jazeera. “A decision will be made to join a party soon, but it will not be one of the three or four main parties. “
A total of 13 parties have won at least one seat in the National Assembly elections, six of which have won one seat.
If PTI-backed candidates decide to join any other party, they must announce their decision within three days after the official notification of results from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP is yet to announce the official result.
Is another party an option for PTI-backed independents?
Former ECP secretary and analyst Kanwar M Dilshad said the PTI-backed independents could in theory form a new party – although the registration process could take a few days.
But that will not help the PTI in forming the government now, as no new party would have been a part of the current election process.
Malik, who is also a Supreme Court advocate, agreed with Dilshad’s assessment: PTI-backed independent candidates can form a new political party, but that will not affect the formation of the incoming government. -in.
“It is [also] It is doubtful whether such a political party, formed after the elections, will enjoy the constitutional protections enjoyed by other political parties registered and registered with the ECP before those elections, ” he said.
Abid Zuberi, another senior lawyer, said the independents could call themselves a group of “like-minded” members. But that too would not be considered a party.
“They can decide on a lot of parliamentary issues, but they will be treated as a group of independents, instead of a party, so they will not be able to get their quota of reserved seats,” Zuberi told Al Jazeera.
Will the PTI get its party symbol and status back?
While the party’s leader Imran Khan has been in jail since August 2023 and has faced a major state-led crackdown since at least May last year, the biggest obstacle has been they were about to lose their election symbol.
They were accused by the ECP of breaking laws on holding internal party elections. The party has maintained that this was a decision aimed at reducing the size of the party and the influence they had.
The party could seek relief from the High Court of the country, to reverse the decision of the ECP. But it is not clear whether even a decision in favor of the party would allow the independents it supported to formally represent the PTI in the new National Assembly.
“Now PTI must hold an election, according to the letter and the spirit. But I don’t think he will allow the party to be part of the current parliament because according to ECP, he is not there regarding the results of these elections,” said Zuberi, the senior lawyer who was also the former barrister, president of the High Court Bar Association.
Senator Ali Zafar, PTI’s senior leader as well as part of its legal team, indicated that the party was not confident that it would get relief from the Supreme Court over the symbol.
“I feel that the issue of symbols may be over now because he wanted to fight the election. I don’t think it will have any effect on the situation after the election. Instead, it is now a question of which party the PTI-backed candidates will join,” he told Al Jazeera.
Malik also criticized the ECP’s initial decision to remove the symbol and said there is currently little evidence that the move could be reversed anytime soon.
“We also see a lack of urgency in the Supreme Court in setting this case for hearing, and it may not be possible to complete this entire exercise before the first session,” he said.