Understanding PPP’s Electoral Success In Sindh

PPP's electoral success is a classic case of patronage politics and winning allegiances of diverse groups offering multiple incentives. 

Understanding PPP’s Electoral Success In Sindh

The Pakistan People’s Party has won a successive fourth election in Sindh, winning a whopping 84 out of 130 general seats of Sindh Assembly. In doing so it has not only increased its popular vote by more than 7 percent but has also managed to get a lion’s share out of total cast votes. The PPP got 45.88% of total votes that were polled on February 8. The party has been in government in Sindh since 2008 and it has increased its number of seats in the last two elections. 

As everywhere else, results in Sindh have also been alleged to be rigged. While these allegations in urban Sindh are substantive but same cannot be said for the results of rural Sindh as the ruling party did not face any opposition on the ground and most of its candidates won by huge margins. 

Last Friday Grand Democratic Alliance, a conglomerate of opposition parties, staged a protest at Jamshoro in Sindh, against the alleged rigging. GDA was formed before the 2013 general elections to unite opposition parties under one banner to fight PPP in rural Sindh. It included the political giants from different areas of Sindh like Pir Pagaro, Jatoi of Naushehro, Feroze and Mirza from Badin. It also gathered all the nationalist parties like Sindh Taraqi Pasad Party, Sindh United Party, Ayaz Latif Palijo’s Qaumi Awami Tehreek, Mumtaz Bhutto’s Sindh National Front and a few others. 

This coalition failed in its very first assignment in 2018 when it only managed to get 15.11% popular vote, translating into only 11 seats of provincial assembly. 

The coalition’s performance in recent elections is even more abysmal, it could only manage to win two provincial assembly seats. Blaming this failure and PPP’s success only on rigging is the simplest way of avoiding responsibility of this political catastrophe for the politics of opposition parties.

Umair Javed, a teacher and writer for Dawn, attributes PPP’s electoral success to continued relevance of a politics that provides space for provincial rights and cultural/ ethnic assertion. On the other hand PPP claims it to be testimony of its delivery and governance in Sindh. But what we need is a comprehensive understanding of the mode of politics that PPP employs in Sindh. It is a classic case of patronage politics and winning allegiances of diverse groups offering multiple incentives. 

Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of the party has successfully managed to consolidate the party on district levels. If you look at the list of 191 candidates placed by PPP on all the provincial and national assembly seats of Sindh, one will find it strikingly evident that it also has those names who won against PPP candidates in the last two elections. Be it the Mahars of Ghotki and Shikarpur or the Sherazis of Thatta. 

There can be multiple opinions on what motivated these families to join PPP, some would argue that they were coerced into joining PPP while some would say that they were fed up with being in opposition for over a decade and could not take it anymore. Whatever one may say, but the reality is that those are now not just part of the PPP but also part of government. 

Asif Ali Zardari’s politics and the non-seriousness of opposition parties have turned Sindh into an impregnable political fortress of PPP. Electoral and constituency politics is a full-time job, at least in rural areas. Voters expect their representatives to be available and accessible and be a part of their everyday life. PPP’s candidates are mostly accessible and due to being in power, can do the traditional Thana-Kachahri politics. 

On the other hand, major stake holders of GDA are traditional feudal families and for them politics seems like a recreational activity once every five years. This creates a gap between their voters and PPP successfully catches on to that and it shows into consistent increase in PPP’s popular vote which was 32.86% in 2013, 38.44% in 2014 and now stands at almost 46% which means almost half of the eligible voters choose PPP.  

These statistics reflect that PPP is the choice of voter in Sindh even after whatever the governance issues and alleged corruption. The mantra of rigging is not going to cut it for opposition parties anytime soon. What they need is a comprehensive assessment and analysis of their mistakes and a broad-based strategy to engage with voters constantly. If they cannot do this, they will be on the streets again after elections against another alleged rigging.

The author is a student of Political Science at the Forman Christian College University.