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February 18, 2008
Turnout Low for Pakistani Elections
Reflecting both a cynicism that their vote will be jiggered with by President Musharraf and a genuine fear of terrorism, Pakistani voters stayed home in droves today while the vote for a new parliament was conducted:
A number of clashes among polling officials and voters resulted in 10 people killed and 70 injured, according to Pakistani television channels. I suppose when 10 people are killed in clashes with authorities, we can consider that "relatively calm?" One shudders to think what Pakistani government officials would say if the number were 5 times that many.
Voter turnout was low; in the North-West Frontier Province, which abuts the lawless tribal areas, turnout was only 20 percent, according to election officials. In Peshawar, the provincial capital, Islamic militants prevented many women from voting. Election official estimated that only 523 of 6,431 registered female voters at six polling stations cast ballots.
In Lahore, the political capital of Punjab province, lines were thin, and many voters complained they could not find their names on the voting lists. But as the polls closed at 5 p.m. local time, election officials said that nationwide voting had been relatively calm compared with past elections.
This was about as far from a free and fair election you could get and still have the outcome validated by the United States government. Opposition parties were extremely restricted in their movements and in getting their message out since the state run TV network tended only to show Musharraf and his party on the tube. In addition, watch if Musharraf's party gets more than 25% of the vote. That's just about the president's approval rating in Pakistan right now and any more than that probably means a significant amount of vote fraud was undertakne to fix the outcome. Not to rig it so Musharraf's party won the election. But rather to hold down the majorities of both the Pakistani Peoples Party (organization of former PM Bhutto) and the Muslim League which is headed up by another former PM Nawaz Sharif.
If those two parties can combine for more than 2/3 of the seats in Parliament, they would be able to force Musharraf's resignation if they desired. But even without Musharraf trying to fiddle with the vote, it would have been a stretch for those two parties to get that number.