Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pakistan Election Primer

The Pakistani General Elections are set to occur at the end of this week and in an effort to educate myself on some of the background and people involved in this election I've decided to write up a few posts about the election because...Knowledge is power? I don't know why exactly but this is what I'm going to do. As always my information comes primarily from the Internet, mostly Wikipedia, also BBC and Al-Jazeera with the occasional Pakistani news source.

Mr. Ten Percent is the real nickname of Pakistan's president. He is so corrupt people gave him a nickname about it. He's the president. 

The Pakistani General Election is supposed to happen on May 11th provided it isn't disrupted by a coup or a terrorist attack or something equally plausible. If the election is allowed to continue uninterrupted then this will be the very first time in Pakistan's 66 year history that a democratically elected government will be able to finish its entire term. Usually the military steps in but they've been able to restrain themselves these past five years although I don't know how, it has been a horrible five years. Which brings me to my next point. It has been a horrible five years. 

Pakistan has been facing serious issues for a few decades now but it seems like everything has only gotten worse the past five years. Some major issues are, as always, corruption and crime. There's also provincial strife, particularly in Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (Which for my money is the ugliest name in the word. The "kh" sound just reminds me of poop. Just horrible, should have stuck with North-West-Frontier-Province. Or like Nebraska or something. Just...ugh, can we vote on changing that name?) Other issues are the economy (obviously), terrorism, and load shedding/power shortages. Unfortunately minority rights, women's rights, actually just all human rights across the board do not seem to be major issues in this election. 

The election, by the way, is for the National Assembly, lower house of Parliament (I have no idea what they're responsible for), and the provincial assemblies. The Prime Minister is the chief executive of the country and is responsible for creating a cabinet and making executive decisions. He or She is elected by the National Assembly and generally the head of the party with the most National Assembly seats is elected Prime Minister. As an aside, the previous Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf was known as "Rental Raja" for being known to take bribes during his time as the head of the wildly inefficient Power Ministry. So to recap, both the Prime Minister AND the President were widely known to be corrupt and were even given cute nicknames in reference to that corruption before they were elected to the highest offices in the land. I'm so glad I live in the United States. Anyways, the election is being contested by just about every party and crooked bastard in the country but the major players are Pakistan People Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami. They are all horrible horrible choices. God help Pakistan. 

All of these parties are fighting for the votes of 86 million registered voters. Punjab has the most registered voters of all the provinces at 48 million, more than twice the number of voters in Sindh which has the second most voters. Karachi has (unsurprisingly) the most registered voters of all the cities at 7 million voters. That is more than the entire province of Balochistan has which explains why they get shafted year after year by the federal government. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems activities in Asia (IDIFESAA) helped the Election Commission of Pakistan create a computerized voter database which removed 35 million bogus voters from the previous database. THIRTY FIVE MILLION FAKE VOTERS! So hopefully this election will at least be fair. 

On Saturday millions of Pakistanis will participate in the election of the 14th parliament of Pakistan. They will go to polling offices with probably equal amounts of hope and cynicism as they decide whose hands they should put their futures in. The government has taken steps to ensure a freer and fairer election than Pakistan has had in the past but doubts still exist and with many of the usual suspects campaigning all along the country so do fears that nothing will change for Pakistan. At the very least though, we can at last say goodbye to Asif Ali Zardari. God I hate that asshole.