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Elections 2007  

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The upcoming elections are a crucial turning point for the country. Considering that will they have far reaching impact on the future, it is only natural that they have become the primary focus of political parties and the public alike. Gallup Pakistan has been trying to capture the opinions of the people on the subject over the past year by including relevant questions in its weekly polls.
In a survey conducted in early 2006, the people were asked about the possibility of the current government holding the next elections on time. 28% of those questioned were of the view that it was highly likely, 52% considered it to be somewhat possible and 17% felt that it was not all likely. 3% said that they did not know. 64% were of the opinion that Benazir Bhutto should return to the country prior to the elections as compared to 35% who were against her return. Similarly, 62% wanted Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan before the upcoming elections while 37% opposed his return. 48% believed that Benazir Bhutto should be able to participate in the next elections. The proportion of people who wanted Nawaz Sharif to take part in the elections also stood at 48%.
PPP seems to have been the most popular party in early 2006 as 19% of the people said that they would vote for it. PML-Q was also in close competition as 18% of the people supported it. On the other hand, 14% favored PML-N, 7% sided with MMA, 9% supported MQM and 3% said that they would vote for ANP. 20%, however, were undecided. Similarly, President Musharraf was the most popular candidate for the post of Prime Minister as 34% of the people claimed that they would support him if he stood for the post. 24% favored Shaukat Aziz, 24% supported Nawaz Sharif, 23% sided with Benazir Bhutto and 13% preferred Fazal-ur-Rehman. Imran Khan, Qazi H. Ahmed and Altaf Hussain managed to capture 16%, 10%, and 14% of the votes respectively. (The respondents were asked to name all the candidates they were likely to support for the Prime Minister’s post.) 45% of the people were also of the opinion that the army would maintain its influence on the government after the next elections, 27% believed that it would lose its weight and 28% were unsure.
A similar survey was conducted in late 2006. 62% of the people questioned in that survey believed that the current government will be able to complete its tenure, 32% thought that it would dissolve earlier and 6% expressed their uncertainly. 34% were of the opinion that all the opposition parties should work together against the present government, 32% were against their coalition and 34% said that they did not know. The popularity of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto appears to have declined by late 2006. 55% of the respondents believed that Benazir Bhutto should return to Pakistan prior to the elections, 43% were against her return and 2% were unsure. Similarly, 54% supported Nawaz Sharif’s return to the country before the elections, 45% opposed his return and 1% said that they were not sure. 39% of the people also advocated that that Benazir and Nawaz should reach a compromise and work together, 30% were against their working together and 31% said that they did not know.
PPP had lost its position to PML-Q by late 2006 when 22% of the people claimed that they would vote for PML-Q as compared to 21% who supported PPP. PML-N was also in close competition with 20% of the votes, 12% favored MMA and 10% sided with MQM. 13% were undecided. President Musharraf, however, retained his popularity and 39% of the respondents stated that they would vote for him if he stood for the post of Prime Minister. On the other hand, 29% said that they would vote for Shaukat Aziz, 27% favored Nawaz Sharif, 17% supported Benazir Bhutto and 18% claimed to like Imran Khan. 15%, 14% and 13% of the people supported Fazal-ur-Rehman, Qazi H. Ahmed and Altaf Hussain respectively. (The respondents were requested to name all the candidates that they would support for the Prime Miminster’s position.)
Similar questions were presented to the masses in April 2007. In 2007, 33% of the people felt confident that the government would hold the elections on time, 46% considered it as somewhat likely, 19% thought of it as impossible and 2% stated they had no idea. On the other hand, only 17% thought that it was highly likely that the government will try to hold fair and unbiased elections, 32% viewed it as somewhat likely, 28% were of the view that there was no such possibility and 15% were unsure. 71% were of the opinion that the current government will be able to complete its tenure and 26% believed that it would dissolve earlier.
42% of the respondents felt that elections were very important and would help resolve the political problems plaguing the country. 36% disagreed with this viewpoint and believed that the country needed a revolution and 21% said that they did not know. 36% of them advocated that the opposition parties should form an alliance against the government, 34% suggested that they should work independently, 16% did not offer any opinion and 14% were not sure.
In April 2007, 58% of the people were of the viewpoint that Benazir Bhutto should return to Pakistan before the next elections while 41% opposed her return. In comparison, 57% of the respondents were in favor of Nawaz Sharif returning to the country prior to the upcoming elections and 42% were against his return. 34% of the respondents believed that the two leaders should work together in contrast to 44% who were not in favor of their forming an alliance. 21% did not offer a definite opinion in this regard.
PPP regained its position as the most popular political party in 2007. 17% claimed that they would vote for PPP, 14% supported PML-G, 9% favored MMA, 10% sided with PML-N and 8% said that they would vote for MQM. Tehrik-e-Insaf and ANP won 5% and 1% of the votes respectively. 3% stated that they preferred independent candidates and 23% revealed that they did not plan to vote. While President Musharraf remained the post popular candidate for the Prime Minister’s post, the percentage of people supporting him had shrunk. 29% of those questioned claimed that they would vote for him, 27% asserted that they would support Nawaz Sharif, 25% said that they would vote for Benazir Bhutto, 23% were willing to side with Shaukat Aziz and 18% backed Imran Khan. Fazal-ur-Rehman, Qazi H. Ahmed and Altaf Hussain captured the support of 21%, 14% and 13% of the people respectively. (The respondents were requested to name all the candidates that they would support for the Prime Miminster’s position.)
In response to a similar question, 15% of the people said that they would support President Musharraf if he stood up for Presidential elections, 14% expressed their support for Benazir Bhutto, 10% favored Nawaz Sharif and 8% preferred Qazi H.Ahmen. 42%, however, said that they did not know.
While these results indicate the public’s support for President Musharraf, not a lot of people seem to have faith in the current government’s ability to hold unbiased and timely elections. At the same time, it must be remembered that these surveys only illustrate the public’s opinions up to April 2007 and any events that occur after that date can have a significant impact on the outcome of the upcoming elections.
These surveys and polls were conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of Gallup International, on a sample of over 1100 respondents in urban areas of all four provinces of Pakistan. This sample was statistically selected across all ages, income groups and educational levels. The error for a sample of this kind is estimated to be +/- 5% at a 95% confidence level.

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