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  Opinion   Columnists  30 Apr 2018  Polling season is going to be silly & chaotic

Polling season is going to be silly & chaotic

Published : Apr 30, 2018, 12:32 am IST
Updated : Apr 30, 2018, 12:32 am IST

Khawaja Asif’s disqualification has no systemic implications.

Khawaja Asif  (Photo: File)
 Khawaja Asif (Photo: File)

And we’re off to the races. Big, controversial budget done; another disqualification and maybe a few more to come; possibly a jail sentence soon to be delivered; but it’s pretty much a clear run from here.

Election season is nearly upon us.

But first the noise from this week. From the way they howled and hollered, you’d think the Opposition was desperate to get its hand on the Budget. To come up with a plan, to put the country back on track. Of course, it’s nothing of the sort.

Whoever’s in charge post-September will have an unpleasant, unenviable task: trying to protect growth while slowing the national haemorrhaging of dollars and putting the brakes on a fiscal deficit zooming along.

But the Opposition knows what it’s doing. It was doing its best to make the budget controversial — and blunt the edge the N-League has sought in the election.

There’s no way in hell any party is ever going to give up the opportunity to distribute freebies ahead of an election. So that’s all it was — the usual suspects fighting over the usual non-solutions to some very epic problems.

And the judges. Oh, the judges.

A clever bit of theatre wrapped in a tale of high morality. If only the politicians would settle their problems among themselves and not drag the courts into everything. Khawaja Asif’s disqualification has no systemic implications. While lawyers will do what lawyers do and argue distinctions between what’s come before and what’s been done to Asif, his disqualification has only seemingly confirmed the emerging rule: have an iqama, failed to disclose something trivial, belong to the PML(N) — out you go.

The disqualification test laid out by the Supreme Court is new — and manifestly controversial. Why not flesh out that controversy in legal language and present an opportunity to the SC to re-clarify?

Nothing was going to change at this stage — whoever won, the other was guaranteed to appeal to the SC. It is there that Khawaja Asif’s fate will ultimately be decided. Instead, we were only reminded that the courts are helpless in the face of politicians never learning and never sorting out their issues. It will be one helluva election.

So about that. A full term now seems certain, taking the caretaker government through June and July, with the election in July-end.

The campaign proper is usually short and intense, squeezed into the last six weeks before the election and the real intensity showing after candidates are finalised some three weeks before polling.

This year, it’ll be tighter still: the month of fasting followed by Eid  means a mad dash for votes immediately after. Peak summer, too, affecting campaigns and the N-League’s prospects if load-shedding returns with a vengeance.

It will be a silly, chaotic season. Elections always are, but this one especially so for reasons obvious.

If a relatively unmolested process and open vote, the N-League will again be the largest party, though probably short of a majority. Fence-sitting and hedging for post-election scenarios will mean a significant rabble of Independents. PTI and PPP to finish with fairly similar numbers, though an increase on their 2013 showing.

At that point, it could get more interesting. A solid N-League electoral showing will boost Nawaz personally, but consecutive governments virtually in the grasp of the N-League would create an incentive to reduce his disruptive influence on the party.

Party versus man — the final chapter could be the most riveting yet.

But if the process is significantly manipulated and the PML(N) is cracked open, the PTI will rise to the largest party, though short of a majority. PML(N) will be reduced to current PTI-type numbers; the PPP will hold steady. And a clutch of Independents will be courted by all.

The Sanjrani model worked in the Senate, but it would be a coalition from hell in government. So perhaps PTI leading a coalition, including everyone else in Parliament, minus the PML(N) and with outside support from PPP.

Now, isn’t this silliness better than pondering budget woes and disqualification criteria?

It’s off to the races.

By arrangement with Dawn

Tags: opposition, khawaja asif