Thursday, August 18, 2005
Testing the waters for 2007?
Many political commentators believe that today’s local government elections are a dress rehearsal for the 2007 general elections.
Why so? The answer is that those elected into the powerful positions of district nazims will be able to greatly influence the results of the 2007 elections.
A district may produce a number of MNAs and MPAs, but most of the tools of political patronage (such as development funds and schemes, job appointments and postings) will be routed through the nazim, hence the office holders utility to the Establishment.
In Punjab every attempt will be made to sideline the PPP and PML (Nawaz) leaving the field open for the Establishment’s Pakistan Muslim League (chumcha fasction), known as the PML (Q).
In Sindh Musharraf’s chief minister Arbab Rahim is coercively bulldozing his way to ensure that rural Sindh elects the ‘right’ candidates, which of course means non-PPP.
In the urban areas the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal MMA has been dumped in favour of the MQM.
In Balochistan and NWFP the military regime will do its best to undermine the MMA’s electoral support.
The unwritten alliance between the religious parties and the military government - which allowed the two to coexist despite differing views – is all but dead (read interesting BBC article on this). Some believe that these religious parties will soon find themselves in the political wilderness again (until, of course, the day they prove to be of use to the military again).
If the results of the local government election prove favourable to Musharraf then his confidence is bound to regain itself. He might even ride roughshod over his critics by dismissing the assemblies months before the 2007 elections and instead opt to rule via the ‘democracy’ of local governments.
On the other hand a poor showing of PML(Q) will force Musharraf to re-evaluate his strategy.