Understanding Pakistan Project Team October 2nd, 2007
Guest Post By: Pakistan Institute of Legislative Democracy and Transparency (PILDAT)
Starting with this first issue, PILDAT will circulate a weekly, and if required, more frequent Election Monitor to update the Citizens of Pakistan, Media and International Community about the Presidential and General Elections in Pakistan. The Issue 1 of the Election Monitor is devoted to assessing the prospects of the upcoming Presidential Election as a free and fair exercise. This issue of Election Monitor tries to explore the answer to the crucial question. What are the prospects for this crucial Presidential election to be free and fair? Following are some of the indicators which may shed some light on what kind of Presidential Election one may expect on October 6, 2007.
Generally Presidential Election is not of critical importance in a Parliamentary Democracy – the system Pakistan espouses at least on paper. But given the special nature of the current political context and the explicit association of the incumbent President / Chief of Army Staff to the current ruling coalition, the upcoming Presidential election holds the key to the coming General Election. The outcome of the Presidential Election will, to a large measure, determine the result of the General Election – which can be held latest by February 2008. The election of Gen. Pervez Musharraf for a new 5-year term as President will send a clear message to the general electorate that in a patronage-based society like Pakistan, only a pro-Musharraf parliamentarian will have any chance to serve his/her electors while others in the opposition will not be able to ensure development, jobs, protection from state high-handedness, etc., for their constituents. That explains the unique significance of this Presidential Election in Pakistan which is scheduled for October 6, 2007 and this also explains why there were persistent suggestions to hold General Election ahead of Presidential Election.
[With that, here are some of the reasons why the upcoming Presidential Elections may or may not be “free and fair” as is necessary for a genuine transition from military to civilian rule…]
1. Media is Generally Free and Vibrant: Both electronic and print media are generally free, vibrant and, at times, extremely critical of the Government. Despite reports that the Government resorts to behind-the-scene strong-arm tactics to pressurise owners, publishers, editors and reporters, the political debate in the media is generally open and apparently unrestrained.