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Pakistani youth’s ‘decision making’ in the 2013 elections


Fakiha Hassan Rizvi is a student of B.Sc (Hons) Communication Studies at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Pakistan. She is an avid reader, likes writing on socio-political issues and is a campaigner on education with Ilmpossible. Fakiha serves as a freelance contributor for theDaily Times Pakistan and runs her own blog. You can follow her at @Fakiha_Rizvi.


Pakistan is a young and resilient nation. Ridden with terror, extremism and struggling due to a faltering economy, the people are despondent about the overall situation that their country is facing.

On May 11th 2013, more people lined up at polling booths than in any of the previous elections. There were a number of factors that pushed people towards the ballot boxes. Pakistanis, in general, have started to understand the significance of voting. Small scale campaigns and those on the media urged the masses to get their votes registered and play their part in ensuring the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country. It was for the first time in Pakistan that the ‘right to vote’ was viewed as a ‘social obligation’with all parties, including the rightists like Maulana Sami-ul-Haq (a conservative cleric who runs a religious seminary that trained many Afghan and Pakistani Taliban) convincing people to cast their vote. The same cleric referred to voting as a ‘religious obligation.’

In Pakistan, there are three mainstream political parties. They are:

The ‘youth factor’ can’t be ignored and stands out for the simple reason that never before did the country’s younger population take such a keen interest in the political set up that governed it. With large numbers of unemployed youth due to menaces like corruption and nepotism, the general election was seen as a possible turning point in the political sphere of Pakistan.


Imran Khan addresses a rally in October 2011

Pre-election

The younger generation seemed more enthusiastic in the election saga. After the grand rally of Imran Khan in October 2011, the Pakistani youth had mobilised to a great extent. It was being envisioned by some political analysts and media commentators that the young population might play a decisive role in the 2013 general election.

“…Pakistan’s bulging youth population could be influential in the upcoming election. More than 30 per cent of registered voters, or more than 25 million, are between the ages of 18 and 29, and many will be voting for the first time, the report said. Around 60 per cent of young people plan to vote, while another 10 per cent said they could still be persuaded to turn out.” – Dawn (April 4, 2013) [1]

“The addition of nearly 40 million new voters in the electoral roll, mainly comprising the youth, may prove to be a decisive factor…”  – The News (April 5, 2013) [2]

Most people, rather unfoundedly in retrospect, assumed that a substantial number of young people would stand behind the cricketer-turned-politician and PTI chief, Imran Khan.

“Mr. Khan, 60, who retains his youthful swagger and athletic physique, is particularly popular with young Pakistanis who form the core of his support and make up approximately 40 percent of the country’s registered voters. However, it was not clear how much of this adulation — which borders on the cultlike — would translate into electoral success.” – The New York Times [3]

He was equated to a ‘change maker’ who would prove to be a breath of fresh air in the political conundrum of Pakistan. After a huge rally in October 2011 in support of Khan, youth became an electoral target for all parties, particularly the PML-N who used their places in regional governments to introduce new initiatives such as a “laptop scheme, solar lights and foreign tours” (The News).


Post election

Undoubtedly and surprisingly the overwhelming participation of voters in the elections turned the entire electoral process into a moment of celebration for a country that was governed by dictators (time and again) for 30 years since its independence in 1947. The young, old and the middle-aged, all waited under the scorching sun to drop their votes into the ballot boxes. Social media came into play and everyone proudly updated their Facebook status after casting with photographs of stained thumbs covering news feeds all day.

The results made it plain and clear that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had won the most number of seats in the National Assembly. Nawaf Sharif became Prime Minister as head of the majority party, while Imran Khan joined the opposition benches.


The youth vote

It is interesting to note that majority of the youth also voted for the winning party, and not Imran Khan as predicted. According to a Gallup Pakistan survey which on May 11th 2013, among the new voters who took part in the general elections this time, 37% voted in favour of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) whereas 26% of them voted for PTI [4].  

PK election results

Demographic share of the vote across the three major parties

Though PTI’s support was indeed highest amongst youth, the results and voting behaviour came as a surprise for many who believed that the majority of the youth were blindly following Imran Khan.

“The mistake the PTI leadership made was that of a foolish army: it believed its own propaganda. On television, Khan advanced the complacent view that PTI would be swept to power by a wave of new young voters. No supportive data was furnished. Neither the media, nor Khan’s team, scrutinized the claim of a monolithic youth vote. In reality, young voters were divided.” – Dawn (May 28, 2013)

After the election, the rational conclusion that could be drawn was that the young vote bank in Pakistan was as divided as the entire country was. PML-N remained dominant in Punjab, PTI swept in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK), Sindh remains with PPPP and Balochistan will be ruled by PML-N with the support if its coalition partners. Youth’s inclination towards Imran Khan was over-stated and most of the urban elite favoured his party. Moreover, PML-N also resisted the influence of PTI on the young voters by launching timely e-youth initiatives, which included distribution of laptops to bright students of public sector universities. It must not be forgotten that majority of the Pakistani youth dwells in public sector universities and only a fraction can afford to pursue degrees privately.


A democratic future?

Though much of the debate has focused on where youth political support lies, a larger and more complex issue must be considered. A survey published by the British Council Pakistan [5] before the elections in early 2013 revealed that only 29% of youth even see democracy as the best system of government in Pakistan. This is trumped by 38% who view it as an unacceptable model of governance, with many of those supporting Islamic Shariah law.

Young people’s role in the 2013 election was historic and proved the electoral strength of Pakistan’s increasingly bulging youth demographic and the triumph of democracy over violence, terrorism and intimidation. At the next election, youth will continue to be an electoral battleground and young Pakistanis must be ready for such an opportunity.

But how will young people use their power to ensure the issues they care about are matched with decent policy and action? And how will they mobilise and organise themselves into an effective political force?  


References :

This article was edited by Alex Farrow.

Originally published at http://www.youthpolicy.org/participation/2013/pakistani-youths-decision-making-in-the-2013-elections/

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Watchdog’s version of Elections 2013


Fakiha Hassan Rizvi
JournalismPakistan.com
May 13, 2013

LAHORE: The much coveted elections were conducted on the proposed date and with an overwhelming voter turnout. Ultimately, the lions roared, taking the leverage from the citadel of Punjab province and the bat swept prominently in the valleys of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), except for the province of Sindh, limped in other parts of the country.

Amidst all the hassle of electioneering, counting of votes and the overall coverage of the ‘Election Day’, the role of media had been worthwhile and interesting at the same time. It was, perhaps, the only election in the political history of Pakistan, to which the media gave ample time and space. The pre-planned structure of General Elections, a relatively viable socio-political environment and the mushrooming of private television channels, together, contributed to lend the elections better media coverage.

On May 9, 2013, it was Geo TV that inaugurated an emotionally-charged election headquarters with Iqbal’s poem (Lab pai ati hai dua ban kai tamana mairee- My longing comes to my lips as a supplication of mine) with the entire Geo and Jang network vowing to give credible coverage of Elections 2013 to its viewers.

The entire set of Geo studio was transformed, in order to make the elections a special occasion for the nation. Both political analysts and public figures were invited to share their expert opinions about the elections. Such headquarters were the only one of its kind in the ‘mass media time line’ of Pakistan. This channel swung its coverage in favor of PTI the day Imran Khan fell and the nation commiserated with the captain. Such a U-turn must have been a surprise for supporters of PML-N who were enjoying favorable media coverage from Geo network days before the unfortunate incident overtook PTI’s chairman.

Dunya TV adopted an anti-PML-N stance right from the beginning of election campaign. It was apparently involved in a cut-throat competition with Geo network to declare unofficial results of the ‘vote-count’. The state television, PTV, took a proper route to announce unofficial results. Unlike the other private channels, the satellite based PTV didn’t announce results before the time for casting votes ended. Interestingly, during the bombardment of unofficial results, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reminded the media outlets that they were violating the rules by declaring results before the polling closed.

However, the intriguing aspect was that electoral malpractices and cases of rigging were first reported through the social media. For instance, the most trending topics for the social information network, ‘Twitter’, were #NofearKhi and #DisqualifyMQM followed by #rigging and #Saad Rafiq.

The blast in NA-1, Peshawar that claimed the life of 11 people, was first reported by citizen journalists through websites like Facebook. The citizen journalists effectively used tools of communication like Internet and Smart phones to collect and report data. An interesting and healthy campaign, ‘iVoted’, published pictures of people with stained thumbs to show that Pakistanis were cognizant about their social obligation of casting votes.

It can be concluded that in the future, election coverage will be a battle between social media versus conventional media. On the other hand, watchdog’s version of Elections 2013, can be compared to a canvas, which every television channel wanted to stain first without paying much heed to rules and credibility.

 

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May 11, 2013: The Big Day, Pakistanis line up in Polling Booths


I celebrate the inclusion of “true” multi-party system in the political arena of my country and the defeat of long standing notion that politics in Pakistan is mere partnership between individuals. It was the first ever vote of my life and I fulfilled my social obligation for Pakistan and not for individuals. 

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Apart from the quantified data and other post-election alliances, some manifestations are healthy for the poltical structure of the country. I don’t promise accuracy or precision, but being a student of mass communication and Journalism this is what I have deduced:

  • Regardless of who wins, PTI is the winner for bringing its leaders into National Assembly after 17 years of strenous efforts. 
  • Apart from MQM and other who deliberately banked on murky electoral malpractices, all other political stakeholders and the Army as an institution deserves a laud for conducting the elections. 
  • The role of citizens with regards to observation, following and participation in the elections has been unprecedented. 
  • The nation might have called for change, however, it has proved today that it covets for ‘democracy’ and ‘pluralism’. 
  • Media needs to be more vigilant than ever as reports about rigging and other untoward events were reported by the social media at a pace that left the mushroom-sized channels apart. 

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Elections in Ecuador


Elections in Ecuador will be held on February 17, 2013 and are likely to receive a vigilant reception from the United States of America. The incumbent president, Rafael Correa has substantial chances of grabbing the third (also the last) term as Ecuador’s president. However, he is viewed skeptically from those in the White House. Belonging to a Christain socialist party (PAIS (Proud and Sovereign Fatherland) Alliance Movement (Movimiento Alianza PAIS [Patria Altiva i Soberana]) he has worked for the social uplift of the masses and has aligned himself with the South American nations. Much to the dismay of Americans, the popular president is also a good friend of ailing Hugo Chavez. Despite the irritation that he can stir for Washington, he has his reasons for making his ‘citizen revolution’ irreversible. On the other hand, his supporters have started to chant that they already have a president!

Before Rafael Correa took charge of the Andean country, it had been an unstable mob of 15 million people. Political quagmire was fomented with rapid succession of seven different presidents in a decade. Rafael with his bent towards ‘socialist reforms’ managed to ameliorate the inconstant socio-economic landscape of the country. His efforts yielded a positive outcome and helped him to win the support of the masses. During his two presidential terms (starting from 2007) the unemployment fell to 4.1%. This decline in the rate of unemployment hasn’t been achieved in the past 25 years. Much to the relief of those dwelling in Ecuador, poverty was reduced by 27%. Rafael didn’t stop here- public spending on education was doubled, health care reforms were improved. The debt-to-GDP ratio for Ecuador is 25%. All this progress was cobbled skilfully.

The country presented the most comprehensive economic reform by taking control of the central bank. Reserves resting abroad were brought back (almost $2 billion) to improve the agriculture, local industry and infrastructure. Taxes were imposed on money flying out of the country. Correa, a PhD economist, played his financial cards with prudence. The revolutionary reforms ensured that the public lives a comfortable life. Such swift development also made Correa a popular leader who gave priority to public interest and not to foreign dictate. The reason that his popularity graph is above 50%.

He isn’t concerned about the US wrath. For now on he is eyeing for a landslide win and that is what an average Ecuadoran wants as well. They want to thrive. What irks the American hawks is the communication and transport linkage being developed among South American nations with the support of Ecuador. Rafael has given more crunchy punches than that, especially when he granted asylum to Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. The new dawn of February 17, 2013 will allow Rafael Correa another chance as a president. What is left to be seen is that how do his critics grind their teeth and the margin by which he finds success in the elections.

 

 

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