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Smaller parties may emerge kingmaker in Pakistan elections

In addition to the smaller parties, it is the independents who will make or break the next government in the event of a hung parliament and a coalition government.

world Updated: Jul 23, 2018 23:49 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan,Pakistan elections,Pakistan polls
A street is decorated with flags and banner of political parties ahead of general elections in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.(REUTERS)

With the big three - the Pakistan Muslim League (N), the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tipped to take the lion's share of seats in the Pakistan's next parliament, smaller parties too cannot be ignored given the role they will play in case of a hung parliament.

The two parties to look out to for, say analysts, are the left-of-centre Awami National Party, and the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement. In addition, smaller parties which have formed alliances like the ethnic-based Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and the religion-based Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) will all be vying for a slice of the action once any of the big three looks at forming a government.

Analysts say that the PML-N and the PTI are on polar opposites. In between stands the PPP, which could end up being a political ally of either party.

“With or without the PPP, the two would need smaller parties to form alliances,” comments political analyst Zafar Mehdi.

Mehdi says that both the MQM and the ANP have allied in the past with the PML-N at one point on another. Neither of these parties has direct competition with the PML-N but are both fighting against PTI in their home turf.

For its part, the MQM stands as a fragmented party. It was once Pakistan's third largest but after its leader Altaf Hussain was banned by the courts for his incendiary speeches while in exile in the UK, the party has gradually broken up into factions. Despite this, it continues to retain its popularity in Karachi.

For the PTI, its traditional allies are the GDA, which has already entered into an electoral understanding with the PTI and the MMA.

“PTI has been able to woo the rightist parties at the expense of the PML-N which was a natural ally in the past,” comments another analyst Imran Shirvanee.

In addition to the smaller parties, it is the independents who will make or break the next government in the event of a hung parliament and a coalition government.

In the past, such candidates have gone to the highest bidder.

These candidates are able to extract the highest concessions, say observers. Given Imran Khan's promise of a clean government, wooing them would be quite a challenge to his party.

First Published: Jul 23, 2018 23:44 IST