Opinion Pak Affairs

44pc Pakistanis reject all Presidential candidates

Polling for the presidential election will be held today. The contest will be between Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan Peoples Party, retired Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui of Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Mushahid Hussain Syed of Pakistan Muslim League (Q). Polling would be held simultaneously at the Parliament House and the four Provincial Assemblies from 10 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon. The unofficial results would be announced soon after the counting is complete. The Election Commission has finalised arrangements for holding the polling for the presidential election.

However Public opinion findings on the forthcoming Presidential Elections reflect a growing sense of alienation between the public at large, the society and the political system and political parties. When asked as to which of the nominees of the major political parties would they like to have as their next President none of the three was able to get popular acclaim, with the single largest response saying they wanted a non-party President.

Thirty four percent gave that response when asked which party nominee they wanted to see as President and even a higher number at 44 percent gave the same response when presented with a list of candidates.

Ironically the Constitution of Pakistan is closer to the position of the ordinary man on the street. The office of the President is that of the Head of the State and is supposed to be above party politics, exercising little executive power. The chief executive authority and associated ‘politics’ is supposed to rest with the Prime Minister. A deeper analysis of survey findings shows the continuation of a pattern of attitudes among Pakistani public – unexpected but consistent support for upholding rule of law and the Constitution of the country. In nominating a much respected former Chief Justice of Supreme Court, PML-N tried to reflect that public view. But survey findings show that their nominee was still seen as politicizing the office. He is seen largely with the same sentiment as the two partisan politicians nominated by the other two major parties, including Asif Ali Zardari and Mushahid Hussain.

Give a choice between party nominees and a list of hypothetical non-party persons, popular sentiment favors a non-party President. With Election so close, this is not a real possibility. Nor is the President elected by popular vote in Pakistan. Its constituency is limited to less than 2000 members of the Parliament, most of who are subject to their party decision which may or may not be reflective of popular sentiments.

These findings are based on a recent national survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan (Pakistan Institute of Public Opinion) the Pakistani affiliate of Gallup International. The sample size was approximately 2000 men and women statistically chosen from all four provinces of the country comprising a cross-section of all ages, socio-economic and linguistic groups. Interviews were carried face to face between August 31 and September 1, 2008. Error margin is estimated to be approx.+ 3-5 percent at 95 percent confidence level. -SANA

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Mubashar Nizam

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