This year many countries in Asia, Middle East, Europe and Latin America will be testing the popularity of their political leaders by conducting general elections and subsequently undergoing a period of transition. Pakistan is among those countries that will be gearing up to welcome its third consecutive democratic government since 2008. The transition is important because it will mark another year of victory of democracy after waves of military rule. Despite massive corruption, embezzlement charges and political bumps and bloopers, the Pakistan Peoples Party regime had managed to complete its tenure in 2013, with a smooth handover to its main rival, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, to form the government at the centre. However, the PML-N government has met with a public and media backlash, owing to its sheer audacity to speak out against the country’s establishment and question the Supreme Court’s transparency in the verdicts awarded to the party’s founder.
The incumbent government will soon leave for home, with an interim setup running the affairs until after the elections. The PTI’s recent show of strength to its political rivals at the Minar-e-Pakistan combined with the PML-N’s big-wigs joining it one after the other, leaving behind their age-long political association, might have made political philosophers revise their thoughts about seeing the PTI forming a government at the centre. But many are still unsure, unless a fair and transparent election may reveal the other side of the truth.
In the west of Pakistan, Afghanistan’s parliamentary and district council elections would be held on October 20th this year after a delay of three years due to the political crisis and disputes over voter registration halting the progress. President Ashraf Ghani is trying his best to hold elections, after 17 years of the ouster of the Taliban regime from Kabul, ahead of presidential polls scheduled for the next year.
Moving on to southwest Asia, we have witnessed elections in Lebanon on May 6th after the last polls took place back in 2009. A de-facto parliament extended its term for the second time, though it was supposed to cease after completing a four-year term but remained on the pretext of an ongoing war in the neighbouring country, Syria, and to bring reforms in the electoral process. However, for the first time, thousands of Lebanese expatriates were allowed to cast their ballots, albeit with a reduced number of districts and a proportional system for voting with seats equally distributed amongst various Christian and Islamic groups, which had formed the bases of a long unrest because of the lack of consent of sharing political power. To address this, the Lebanese parliament will have an equal share of representation of Christians and Muslims and the president, the prime minister and the speaker must come from each religious background.
In the centre of Asia, Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is looking forward to presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24. Erdogan is heading to form a coalition with a nationalist party, whilst the opposition has formed a greater alliance in a bid to prevent him from securing more executive powers, as the country makes a transition from parliamentary to a presidential election.
In the northwest of Turkey, Italy marked the saddest day in its history in March as the Italian general elections marked a sweeping victory for the anti-European, anti-establishment and a nationalist party, forming a coalition government, which might be a final wakeup call for Europe. The results are certainly not reassuring for the EU, with the gradual spread of xenophobic and nationalist political parties taking over the rule in a region, as previously witnessed in the Netherlands, France and Austria. Both the former Italian prime minister Matteo and Silvio ended up losing, with a landmark defeat. The presence of mafia, unemployment and mistrust of institutions and economic depressions were the causes that gave way to xenophobic parties of the right wing.
In Egypt, President Abdel Fateh al Sisi was re-elected for a second time in March 2018 after a sweeping victory of around 97% of votes. Sisi’s opponents believe that as Sisi wanted to secure his second term, he crushed the voices of dissent to block any possibility to get five potential opponents’ names printed on the ballot. Despite his inevitable victory, Sisi has to face discontent to his rule within the state.
Training of election officials starts in Rawalpindi district
This month Iraqis cast their votes to elect a new parliament for the fourth time since the 2003 invasion. These elections were the first since the Islamic State’s defeat in the country. With the exception of new players in the political scene, the elections were dominated by the same parties, which rose to prominence in 2005.
Likewise, others from Latin America will experience a major political change, after holding a series of elections in the region for the presidencies of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia to establish a democratic rule. Furthermore, the government will also renew their congresses and state governments and help to shape economic policies in the region.
Free and fair elections are imperative for the state and its inhabitants. Although transparency is becoming harder to achieve as each time with a change in the executive body, there comes a new vision to revolutionise practices to benefit the corrupt.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2018.