No matter who wins Pakistan’s general election scheduled for May, the next government will have to reckon with a strong opposition, a new survey by a German institute showed.
The survey by Heinrich Boll Stiftung gave a narrow lead in favour of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), with 29 per cent of the respondents supporting the late Benazir Bhutto’s party that heads the current coalition government.
Nearly 25 per cent said they would vote for the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Another 20 per cent supported cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The survey also showed that no single party will garner a clear majority in the next election.
“Pakistan desperately needs a strong government to solve its major problems from terrorism to energy and economic crisis,” said Britta Petersen, the head of Heinrich Boell foundation’s Islamabad office. “But it looks more as if the parties will paralyse each other in the next parliament.”
For a country with a chequered history of violence, coups and assassinations, this is the first time an elected government will finish its full term, which is coming to an end this month. In the 2008 election, the PPP led by Asif Ali Zardari won 30.8 per cent of votes, while the PML-N came second with 23.1 percent. PTI did not participate.
Imran Khan’s PTI is poised to establish itself as a strong third party, which changes the political coalition dynamics. The party also seems to benefit from the PPP’s flagging popularity, including among its historical base of low and lower-middle class groups. Khan’s support was strongest in the middle-income bracket and the upper-middle class, the poll said.
Corruption is one of the main issues. About 34 per cent of the respondents believed that Khan would fight corruption, the highest mark for any party. Meanwhile, 56 per cent respondents said they considered the PPP to be the most corrupt. Unemployment, energy shortage, inflation, and foreign debt were the chief economic issues, according to the survey. Corruption, incompetent leadership and poor governance were seen as the biggest hurdles to achieve economic growth.
There was no consensus on how the government should deal with the Pakistani Taliban insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives in the past decade. While 36 per cent were in favour of direct negotiations, 24 per cent said they support military action. Petersen said the survey was “a good insight into the complicated mood of Pakistanis.”
On social and religious issues, society was more deeply divided. More than half of respondents said women should be veiled when they leave the house. About 40 per cent said they believed that women should have no right to divorce, while 26 per cent said women and men should not work together in an office. Nearly one-third of those surveyed said they viewed the practice of honour killings as “acceptable” or “sometimes justified.”
Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2013