Will PTI voters impact the turnout?

ISLAMABAD  -  As over 128 mil­lion vot­ers are going to elect the country’s next government today, there is a complete dif­ference of opinion on how the voter of belea­guered Pakistan Teh­reek-e-Insaf (PTI) will react on the polling day and impact the election results. Most of the opin­ion polls show that founder of PTI Imran Khan, who is now incarcerated in Rawal­pindi’s Adiala Jail, is still the most popular leader of the country but the Paki­stan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is leading the elec­tion to make a future gov­ernment in the center and in most populous Punjab province. At the same time, there is still a widespread perception that the PTI vot­er is still charged despite all agonies and its vast major­ity will come out on poll­ing day, resulting in high­est ever voter turnout and some surprising election results. Some political ana­lysts think otherwise. They say that the voter turn­out can be relatively low as compared to the last two general elections held in 2018 and 2013. In the 2018 general elections, the over­all voter turnout was re­corded at 50.14 percent while in the 2013 polls, 53.62 percent voters had cast their votes. PTI has been in disarray since May 9 last year when the party’s supporters attacked civil and military installations to protest against the arrest of former Prime Minister Im­ran Khan in a corruption case. The top leadership of the party is either in jail or has gone underground. For the past many months, the party workers and support­ers have also been facing ar­rests, abductions and intimi­dation by the police and civil administration. The party lost its iconic electoral sym­bol ‘bat’ as a result of a deci­sion of the Election Commis­sion of Pakistan – a ruling that was upheld by the Su­preme Court. The party can­didates are now contesting the elections as indepen­dents with different elec­tion symbols making it dif­ficult for their supporters to recognize them. The PTI couldn’t get a fair chance to run the election campaign while the leadership of oth­er two major parties – the PML-N and the PPP – got a free hand by the caretakers and the civil administration to hold big rallies country­wide. The party even faced hurdles in running its online election campaigns with the disruption of internet ser­vices. After many of its lead­ers left the PTI following May 9 incidents, the party has given tickets to newcom­ers who are neither popu­lar nor understand the sci­ence of election. Majority of its candidates would not be able to provide transport to their voters to bring them to the polling stations because some are still in hiding due to fear of arrests and others are not financially well-off. The provision of transport to the voters at doorstep is considered a very import­ant factor in Pakistan’s pol­itics if any candidate wants to bring the maximum num­ber of his supporters to the polling station. In the giv­en circumstances, the coun­try faced a lackluster at­mosphere of elections. Eventually, this can be any person’s guess how PTI vot­ers appear in large numbers on the polling day paving a way for the landslide victo­ry for the party. Political an­alyst Zaigham Khan is of the view that past voting trends in Pakistan show that it is al­ways difficult for any polit­ical party, which is ‘under pressure’ to mobilize the voters. “Voters of Pakistan’s major political parties, un­like Jamaat-e-Islami, react differently in different situ­ations,” he added.

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