The Puzzle of Presidential Election

The Puzzle of Presidential Election

The prophecy of “Aik baari phir Zardari” now seems to be becoming false as we are heading towards the presidential elections to be held on July 30th, and Zardari not being a candidate. His tenure would definitely be missed; I am sure that he is the only democratically chosen president who has enjoyed such level of popularity (read unpopularity) in public. His Swiss cases, yearly speeches at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, naughty toothy smile, and flying kiss at a rally would surely be remembered by Pakistanis in times to come.

Who will be the New President?

Now that PPP has harvested what it has sown in the last five years, and PML-N now heading the treasury benches in the national parliament, the matter of who is to be the next president is an interesting one. Apparently, two candidates would be contesting against each other. Mamnoon Hussain, an old Muslim Leaguer, and Justice Vajihuddin from the new comer PTI.

The Boycott

Nearly all major opposition parties, except PTI, have boycotted the elections on the pretext that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has preponed the elections on the plea of PML-N. An announcement on 25th July that elections would be held on 30th July definitely looks like a joke. How can parties even prepare their campaign strategies, let alone do some tangible work in mere 5 days? However, the point raised by PML-N on the election date was also valid enough; many of the legislators would not be available to cast their vote for the post of President because of the religious observances in the last ‘ashra’ of Ramadan.

ECP to Blame?

I think that the real one to blame is the Election Commission of Pakistan. Though not expecting anything sensible from it after its questionable conduct on 11th May, the way it has dealt with this presidential election poses an indirect threat to democracy. President Zardari would leave his office on 8th September, 2013, and the constitution says that the Presidential elections could be held anytime between 30 and 60 days prior to the above mentioned date. This makes 8th July to 8th August the acceptable time period. Was ECP not aware of the fact that many of the MPs would not be available during last ashra of Ramzan? It should have chosen an acceptable date after consultation with all the stakeholders, and this would have given enough time to all parties for preparations. By announcing a controversial date of 27th Ramadan which was then preponed by SC, the ECP has surely acted in favour of the PML-N candidate.




Had they be given enough time, the opposition parties might have presented a joint candidate, which would have increased the chances of an upset in results. As the Electoral College for presidential elections are the four provincial assemblies, the national Assembly and the Senate, an alliance between opposition parties could have proved to be disastrous for PML-N; PML-N has a strong position in two provincial assemblies (Punjab and Balochistan) and the national assembly, while remaining two provincial assemblies (KPK and Sindh) and the Senate are dominated by opposition parties. But to form an alliance, the parties need time, and that is what ECP denied them by creating such a mess.

No Need for MPs to Vote!



Another important point is that it is not compulsory for MPs to only vote for candidates of their own parties. As the presidential candidates of the opposition parties were more popular than that of the government, and both (Rabbani and Wajihuddin) having admirers across all parties, it could have been the case that some MPs of PML-N may have voted for opposition candidate(s). We all remember Raza Rabbani for his role in the legislation process when he headed the team who drafted the 18th amendment to the constitution of Pakistan. His hard work was applauded across all circles, including PML-N, at that time. So if opposition was given enough time to work out, it might have been the case that PML-N even lose some of its own votes.

PPP should have Fought Back!

In spite of the picture painted above, I believe that PPP should have contested the elections. No matter how weak your position has been made, you must fight back, and this is the essence of democracy. Though there is no chance of PTI winning this election, the symbolism of real opposition shown by Imran must be appreciated. As he said ‘We do not want to leave an open goal for PML-N’. Though their goal keeper is quite weak, his presence do make a difference.

JUI-F & MQM- in Opposition or Governemnt?



JUI-F and MQM did exactly what was expected of them; always revolving like a top, never conveying clearly whether they are in opposition or government. This time, both have apparently decided to support the candidate of the ruling party.
In the end, I pray and hope that Mamnoon Hussain proves to be good for this country.

Osama Sajid

A blogger for The News/Geo blogs

  • Anonymous

    ECP should have considered the Ramzan factor before trying the secular approach, unless they are a bunch of inept lot. I undersatand that unlike the general election, the presidential election is more dpendent upon the ECP commisioner’s whims than of the Commission and majority members were against the 6th August date. ECP delegated (unwisely) the date responsibility to the SC when they were asked, though the SC should at least have heard the other candidates even if it was clear that decision was not going to be any different. At least Messers Aitzaz & Rabbani would not have a flimsy excuse to boycott. How much time does one need to lobby 706 voters?!

    The way systm is structured, party memebers are expected to tow the party line even in the presidential elections. ECP may have banned mobile phones from the booth (remember 2008 presidential elections), but I doubt even a few if any of PML-N members would have voted for Rabbani as the parties would find other ways to keep the voters in line. With active electoral college of 674(against the maximum 706) PML-N with its own allies excluding MQM would technically have a winning majority in anycase. If Messers Rabbani and Ahsan had any conscience they would not have voted for Zardari in 2008 but Saeed uzamman Siddiqui but I doubt it.

    Mr Rabbani being credited with the 18th amendment achievement as though it was the greatest thing since sliced bread – without tightening 62,63 clauses destroying a coherent education policy by delegating it to the provinces. He has shown his colours by boycotting knowing well that he would not have won and if the SC has erred, his actionsare not exactly strenghthning parliamentary democracy. Mr Ahsan had already claimed his pound of flesh so his views are if little significance when he thinks his opinion is somehow legally balanced becase he is the greatest lawyer in the land and driving a CJ allows him certain transgressions and favours from the SC.

    Sadly IK seems to ve doing the same in his speeches that somehow courts owe them and should pass verdicts favouring their point of view. Perhps all these guys should concentrate on tightening flawed legislation in the Parliament instead of tugging at the SC’s tails as making law through court verdicts is a big problem for the future and the Parliamentarians are to blame not the Courts – for leaving this vacuum.

  • M.Saeed

    Nearly all losers have boycotted on flimsiest of reasons. Otherwise:
    1) Ramzan is holy, equally for the ruling part as to the opposition parties and their members would also be sitting in”Aitaqaaf” during the last Ashra of Ramzan and visiting the holy land for Umrah.
    2) Blame on ECP is lopsided because, it (ECP) cannot change “Constitutional Provisions” at its own. Only Parliament is competent authority which has not been called upon to move and apply amendment under special situation of dates in variance with the conveniences of member-voters.
    3) This is cyber-age and things can be arranged much faster now. Besides, this is an “in-house election” and almost all members are in constant contact with their party leaders. Therefore, there are no real election campaigns involved. All houses of assemblies could sit and conduct their respective elections, just as any other routine normal business.
    4) If given chance, the bad losers would keep lingering-on open-ended, giving more time and chance to the present occupant to the Presidency, for obvious reasons.
    5) People like Raza Rabbani and Aitzaz Ahsen have maligned their images by falling into this unfounded controversy.
    6) Veteran politicians should learn from the hard-learned lesson of PTI which refused a boycott this time and denied an open hunting-ground to the ruling party.

    The President is supposed to be above party affiliations and completely impartial in his dealings. He is required to be a strong cementing force for the Federating Units. Therefore, it would have been better if the election was conducted simply on well established meritorious track records of the candidates.

    • Anonymous

      Saeed Sb

      The Constitution does provide for 30-60 days slot as the author points out. Either the ECP (or its Commissioner) was genuinely inept at recognising the date issue much earlier on its own (which Is doubtful given Fakhru Bhai’s experience) or the whole thing was purposefully done to bring the presidential election into disrepute. As you state, the President is ibdeed uppise to cement the Federation – this episode has created a controversy which will be used divisively by some politicl forces, even knowing that the President this time will only bea figurehead and the power will truly move to the PM!

      • M.Saeed

        A President subservient to the Prime Minister!
        This definitely shows the inherent fault in our context of governance.
        Perhaps, a Presidential system with an amalgamation of two contesting parties would have been better for us. That should also settle of fugitive and anti-state parties.

        • Anonymous

          We will have to re-structure the whole Parliamentary system and the Constitution in this case – publicly elected (instead of appointed) upper house say. Not that it matters too much as long as there is a ‘chief executive’ whether we label him president or prime minister. To orovide a bit more balance we divide into ‘chairman/ceo’ role and usually the chairman is seen but not heard. Their scrutiny and accountability is perhaps more relevant.

          All sentimentality aside, Perhaps the octegenarian CEC was not a good idea – having a figurehead to run the ‘politicised’ ECP where his was only one vote in 5! But the CEC still has sole responsibility for the presidential elections as per the Constitution.

          Nevertheless a pity the Justice (?) retired Wajihuddin too is now questioning the presidential elections having taken part in it. Perhaps PTI is dissapointed that he did not get elected but then they need to mature up politically to find more allies.

      • M.Saeed

        Despite all shortcomings and reservations, the performance of ECP is commendable that it has produced fair and “generally acceptable” results. It needs to be appreciated that, without the octogenarian Chairman people lovingly call “Fakhru Bhai”, it would have been a “ghost of all elections” due to the type of blame still being loaded even on fragile shoulders of Fakhfru Bhai.

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    Article 41 clause 4 of the Constitution:

    “(4) Election to the office of President shall be held not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of the President in office:
    Provided that, if the election cannot be held within the period aforesaid because the National Assembly is dissolved, it shall be held within thirty days of the general election to the Assembly.”

    Current presidential term expires on 8th September. Could the SC pass another judgment given all this andthe issue of rligioys sensitivities? Hence It is ECP’s ineptness that the election could have been held a month earlier to avoid Ramzan altogether. The prspective canidates would have been campaigning too before their official announcements.