Thursday, 20 September 2007

Date set for major Pakistani election

Pakistan's presidential election will take place on 6 October, the official electoral commission stated today.

Pakistan's election commission Thursday named October 6 as the date for a presidential poll in which embattled military ruler Pervez Musharraf will seek re-election in uniform.

Musharraf has a history of trickery when it comes to elections. He will probably run in uniform, as the above article says, which directly contradicts a previous ruling by the Supreme Court. If challenged, he will either temporize more, or declare martial law and reshuffle the government only with people he likes. He already deported former PM Nawaz Sharif after he dared to come back to his country earlier this month after the courts ruled he could. Musharraf is like any other dictator: he likes power, and will hold on to power for as long as he can, doing whatever it takes to maintain the presidency.

General Musharraf will not worry about this. He wants to cling to power, and he has two options. First, he can seal a deal with Ms Bhutto.
The army, and it alone, is General Musharraf's constituency and the source of his power. By stripping himself of its uniform he reasonably fears that he would be an emperor without clothes.

His alternative is to go it alone. He already has a simple majority in Parliament, which is sufficient for a presidential re-election. Without the PPP, he will not have the two-thirds majority necessary to make constitutional changes. In effect, that means that if his re-election were challenged on legal grounds—as it surely would be—General Musharraf would be at the mercy of the Supreme Court.

On recent form, the judges might rule against him. If so, General Musharraf would probably then declare martial law. This would allow him to re-run the events that followed his 1999 coup: he would gut the Supreme Court of dissidents, ask the remaining sycophants to rule on the legality of his suspension of democracy, then hold elections. So long as a fair portion of the opposition participated in these, they would probably pass muster with America. But how would Pakistanis respond?

Will the election be free and fair, as America and others wish? Don't count on it. What happens next could be more clashes between the courts and Gen Musharraf, but it looks like he will stay in power -- for now. Pakistani politics are notoriously hard to predict.

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