On 25th July 2018, general elections were held in Pakistan to elect members of the National Assembly and the four Provincial Assemblies. The 2018 elections saw a huge turnout of senior citizens, women, and sick among the voters determined to cast their vote to their respective candidates. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the transgender community also joined the fray as not only were there 13 transgender people contesting in the elections this year but Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also appointed 25 members of the community as election observers. These elections also saw an unprecedented amount of tragedy as a suicide bombing in north-western Quetta left at least 31 dead and 40 wounded; Pakistan witnessed several more deaths as well that day as voters and even government officials died at the polling stations due to heat and exhaustion from the wait.
The 2018 elections faced another major setback at approximately 1:30 AM as problems with the Result Transmission System of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) surfaced. Reports said that the system was being choked, there were connectivity issues, and workers were forced to reboot the system repeatedly. The ECP were then forced to resort to traditional means and manually transmit the results but by then it had already become clear which party was set to win the elections as a massive lead had already been established by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). PTI supporters took to the streets to celebrate while many PML-N members claimed the elections had been rigged. PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif voiced his allegations in a press conference and also tweeted the following:
“Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) wholly rejects the results of General Elections 2018 due to manifest & massive irregularities. Form 45 was not given to our agents, results were stopped & votes were counted in the absence of our poll agents. This is both unbearable & unacceptable!”
Other parties including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) made similar claims and reported discrepancies in the polling. PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto tweeted:
“It’s now past midnight & I haven’t received official results from any constituency I am contesting my myself. My candidates complaining polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Inexcusable & outrageous.”
His sister, Aseefa Zardari also posted a similar tweet:
“The ECP has abdicated all responsibility in this election and have been nothing more than pawns. From throwing out polling agents to withholding results, the facade has been stripped away. This is blatant rigging!”
PML-N will explore legal, political action for redressal of glaring excesses, said Shehbaz Sharif. “It is for the first time in the history of Pakistan that five political parties representatives have raised objections over the election process especially counting,” claimed Senator Mushahid Hussain of the PML-N.
Leader of PTI and, by then, decidedly the new Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan delivered a victory speech in which he promised re-counting of ballots and investigation of polling stations of his rivals’ choosing to address their concerns.
His speech was hailed by many as ‘mature’, ‘humble’, and ‘encouraging’. Understandably so as he stated that “I feel ashamed that I will be staying in the Prime Minister’s palace. I will stay in a smaller house,” he said, writing off the sprawling mansion where the heads of state have been living since 1970s. “My promise to you is to fix public spending, end the economic crisis.” He also stated his plans to better Pakistan’s international relations especially those with its neighbour, India through talks. He also promised a fair and just government where corruption would be weeded out from the top-down as he stated “Our institutions will be stronger, everyone will be held accountable. First I will be subjected to accountability, then my ministers and so on”.
Prior to the elections, some independent organizations had conducted surveys to predict the election results. In light of the official results which have till now been uploaded by the ECP on their site, Currency Market Associates (CMKY) came in the closest which a prediction of 107 seats to PTI, 79 to PML-N, 30 to PPP, and 56 to others. The current actual results hold at 116 to PTI, 64 to PML-N, 43 to PPP, and 43 to others from 270 out of 272 seats as 2 have been postponed for now.
In provincial elections, PML-N managed to win a majority in Punjab which is considered to be their stronghold but not my much as PTI came in at a close second only 5 seats behind PML-N’s 127 seats. There is much still left to be seen as to how this new government will play out and what changes it will see.