LG polls in Sindh: Why PPP won

PPP's social programmes for rural women in Sindh are paying dividends and party has established clear edge among women voters

Khalid Bhatti
Presiding officers and other election staff are receiving and shifting election material after collecting from returning officer for conducting the local bodies election at the Government Pilot Higher Secondary School in Larkana, on June 25, 2022. — PPI
Presiding officers and other election staff are receiving and shifting election material after collecting from returning officer for conducting the local bodies election at the Government Pilot Higher Secondary School in Larkana, on June 25, 2022. — PPI

As the PPP celebrates its thumping victory in the first phase of Sindh’s local government elections held in 14 districts on June 26, the opposition parties are crying foul after losing the elections. The opposition parties have levelled serious allegations against the Sindh government, including rigging and arm-twisting by using the Sindh police.

The opposition parties in Sindh have rejected the entire electoral process and demanded that the ECP declare the election null and void and call a fresh one. They are claiming that the PPP used government resources, police and local administration to manipulate the elections.

It is a matter of record that losing political parties in Pakistan have never accepted defeat gracefully by admitting that they may have failed to win over or attract voters. Instead of learning lessons from defeat and preparing a better strategy for the future, our political leaders across the spectrum prefer to hide behind rigging allegations.

The PPP’s victory does not seem to be the result of manipulation and rigging as the opposition parties are claiming. To me, this victory is not the result of systematic rigging on a mass scale.

The PPP had the advantage of being a ruling party. There is also the fact that the PPP is the most dominant political force in almost all of Sindh.

Women voters have played a key role in the PPP’s victory.

The social programmes launched by the PPP for rural women in Sindh are paying dividends and the party has established a clear edge among women voters. The PPP government has done well to provide health services to the people in rural Sindh. Many new hospitals have been established to provide free health services.

The 14 districts of Sindh that went to the polls for local government on June 26 were Larkana, Kambar-Shahdadkot, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Sukkur, Ghotki, Khairpur, Naushehro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, and Tharparkar.

Unfortunately, the elections were marred by violence and low voter turnout. The violence took two precious lives and injured nearly a dozen people while also disrupting the voting process at 30 polling stations out of more than 9,000 polling stations. Voting was also postponed in nearly 40 polling stations due to mismanagement and misprinting of election symbols on ballot papers.

The exact numbers of voters are not known yet but initial estimates indicate a lower turnout. The hot weather, voters’ apathy and the inability of political parties to mobilise voters will have contributed to this low turnout.

As mentioned earlier, PPP candidates dominated the first phase of local government elections. According to the unofficial results, the PPP has won more than 5,500 out of 6,277 seats.

This is more than 85% seats. The opposition parties and independents combined could only manage to win 15% of the seats. In some districts, the ruling party in Sindh has won more than 90% of the seats.

In many municipal and town committees, PPP candidates swept the elections. The party has also won big in major urban centres like Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Larkana, Shikarpur, Shaheed Benazir Abad (Nawab Shah) and Sukkur.

Looking at the numbers, the PPP won 860 out of 946 local government representatives elected unopposed in 14 districts, and 274 out of 354 seats on municipal committees. Opposition parties and independents combined managed to win 80 seats.

The PPP also dominated the district council elections as it won an overwhelming majority of district councils in 13 districts. The party also won 507 out of 694 general seats.

The opposition parties have won more than 530 seats combined, including the independents. Before the elections, many analysts were expecting tough competition from the five-party opposition alliance that includes the PTI, JUI-F, GDA and SUP and local alliances.

But like in the 2018 general elections, the opposition parties have failed to make any significant impact in the elections.

Only the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) led by the PML-F defeated the PPP in the Dokri town committee in Larkana district and Kot DG town committee in the Khairpur district.

The GDA has won more than 100 seats in 14 districts. It also put up a strong fight in the Ghotki district but fell short of winning the district. The party has succeeded in winning a good number of seats in district council Ghotki.

The JUI-F has gained some seats in the Ghotki, Shikarpur, Sukkur and Larkana districts. The JUI-F is an ally in the PDM government but plays the role of an opposition party in Sindh.

It was part of the multi-party opposition alliance. The party did well in the last local government elections in Ghotki, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Larkana. But in this election, the JUI-F finished behind the GDA and independents.

The PTI has been almost wiped out as it has won just 25 seats so far. The party failed to win a single seat from Jacobabad where Muhammad Mian Soomro is a sitting PTI MNA.

This is a big setback for the PTI. It seems both Imran Khan’s personal popularity and his narrative of a ‘foreign conspiracy’ have failed to win over voters in Sindh.

Voters in Sindh have rejected the PTI in the first phase of local government elections. The party suffered another setback after having been wiped out in the Balochistan local government elections.

The PTI has so far failed to organise the party at the grassroots level in Sindh. Many prominent leaders who joined the PTI left in the last couple of years. The party lacks strong party structures and popular candidates to gain ground in Sindh.

The MQM-P suffered a humiliating defeat in its former strongholds. It lost badly in Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah). The MQM used to perform better in all three cities in both general and local government elections but the MQM-P failed to win a single seat on the municipal committee in Nawabshah.

It won just four seats in Mirpurkhas. The MQM-P’s performance in the Karachi by-polls and now local government elections has raised serious questions about the support base of a party that once was the most dominating political force in urban Sindh.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Originally published in The News