Home Editorial Editorial: A Government of Everyone-But-PTI

Editorial: A Government of Everyone-But-PTI

The latest attempt to form a coalition government is yet opportunity for Pakistan to adopt a new brand of politics

by Editorial

Screengrab of the press conference announcing the new coalition government

The Feb. 8 general elections have delivered a split verdict, triggering many unpredictable developments. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), despite lacking its electoral symbol, has secured a majority but insufficient numbers to form a government on its own. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), similarly, must work together, recalling the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government that emerged after Khan’s ouster as prime minister. There was the potential for a PTI-PPP coalition, but Khan rejected that option, resulting in an everyone-but-PTI government led by Shehbaz Sharif. Thus begins another era of unpredictable developments, with old rivals learning to live together for the “national interest.”

The unofficial results of last week’s polls have yielded 93 seats for PTI-backed independents; 75 for the PMLN; and 54 for the PPP. Formation of government requires a simple majority of 134 seats of the 266 general seats in the National Assembly. Predictably, the PTI has alleged rigging, insisting it secured a two-thirds majority. But barring “relief” from courts, and an unwillingness to ally itself with any other major party, it appears to be out of the power race. Provincially, the PPP will form the Sindh government; PTI-backed independents Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; PMLN Punjab under nominated C.M. Maryam Nawaz; and a coalition setup in Balochistan.

Are these developments going to yield a new brand of politics in the country? PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has made clear the PPP will not seek any ministries in the new government, even as it will support the election of Sharif as the prime minister “in the larger interest of the country.” But while this bonhomie might suggest the possibility of politics without rancor, it is unlikely to yield political stability so long as the PTI maintains it was denied its full mandate. The same party spent months protesting alleged rigging in 2014; there is little to indicate it won’t attempt the same this time. But if the PPP and PMLN can fend off the PTI’s traditional brand of agitation, they might just adopt a policy of reconciliation that sees them move past their traditional roles of regional rivals.

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