Musharraf’s Party Projected to Lose–Badly

Let’s see if these results last after they count the vote, but it looks like Musharraf’s party lost today’s election–resoundingly.

From unofficial results the private news channel, Aaj Television, forecast that the Pakistan Peoples Party would win 110 seats in the 272-seat National Assembly, with Mr. Sharif’s party taking 100 seats.

Mr. Musharraf’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, was crushed, holding on to just 20 to 30 seats. Early results released by the state news agency, The Associated Press of Pakistan, also showed the Pakistan Peoples Party to be leading in the number of seats won.

The Election Commission of Pakistan declared the elections free and fair and said the polling passed relatively peacefully, despite some irregularities and scattered violence. Ten people were killed and 70 injured around the country, including one candidate who was shot in Lahore on the night before the vote, Pakistani news channels reported.

Fearful of violence and deterred by confusion at polling stations, voters did not turn out in large numbers. Yet fears from opposition parties that the government would try to rig the elections did not materialize, as the early losses showed.

If it’s true that Musharraf’s government didn’t (or didn’t succeed in) rigging the elections, score one for democracy. But that doesn’t mean the US is prepared to deal with the aftermath–even if, as projected, Bhutto’s party the PPP comes out ahead.

The results opened a host of new challenges for the Bush administration, which has been criticized in Congress and by Pakistan analysts for relying too heavily on Mr. Musharraf. Even as Mr. Musharraf’s standing plummeted and the insurgency gained strength, senior Bush administration officials praised Mr. Musharraf as a valued partner in the effort against terrorism.

The NYT, at least, makes it sounds as if Musharraf is ready to pack it in.

Two politicians close to Mr. Musharraf have said in the past week that the president was well aware of the drift in the country against him and they suggested that he would not remain in office if the new government was in direct opposition to him. “He does not have the fire in the belly for another fight,” said one member of his party. He added that Mr. Musharraf was building a house for himself in Islamabad and would be ready soon to move.

What will Dick Cheney do without his faithful puppet?

15 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    Man, we were just talking Saturday about the whiffs at the plate these idiots repeatedly took with Chalabi, Alawi, etc.; they just can’t find a foreign political stalking horse to hitch their wagon on to save their life eh?

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, I was thinking of AJ’s book: him predicting the Iraq 2005 elections, and at the same time as State was surprised that Hamas won the Paletsinian elections, them beating up AJ for his prediction.

      Though they were probably pretty sure this would be rigged. I wonder what happened?

      • bmaz says:

        Heh, I dunno; but you would think that if it was rigged, it wouldn’t be in this direction. I can’t figure out our own politics, much less those of Pakistan; but that was my thought. Didn’t the US send some folks (Joe Biden?) over on a “junket” to observe? (I was very excited to be able to use Deadeye Dick’s term here!)

  2. MadDog says:

    Personally, I put little faith in the NYT’s reporting that ”The Election Commission of Pakistan declared the elections free and fair…”

    It may be that the election was indeed rigged and that the ISI has chosen to move beyond Musharraf toward some other successor who will maintain the ISI’s grip on power.

    Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is the exception of course, but if the baby stinks too much…

  3. freepatriot says:

    the early reports ain’t looking good for mushi

    but that could change

    too early to judge this situation

  4. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Well, let this send a message to anyone who fails to use touch screen election machines from Diebold, or servers in Ohio paid for by the RNC.

    Tsk, tsk.

  5. abinitio says:

    It seems that both the opposition parties are rather evenly matched. So how do they form a government and which party will get the prime minister spot?

    And will the new government reinstate the Chief Justice and judges that were fired by Musharaf and then follow up with impeachment or the C-130s all fired up fr a short flight to Turkey as the NYT article seemed to imply?

    We’ll see how all this plays out. And if the ISI sponsored jihadists play along?

  6. skdadl says:

    The report in the Guardian emphasizes the low turnout and general disillusionment with most of the politicians, which is worrisome in the context of such deep divisions.

    Thanks for the link back to your June 2007 post, EW, still so acute on many scores. Ishmael’s first comment about Baluchistan is important — another border balancing act in the region, and one that is especially interesting to Cheney for obvious reasons (Iran). I suspect that Musharraf’s co-operation in suppressing the nationalists there earned him a wink and a pass on pressing too hard against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I just don’t believe that Cheney has ever cared much about them and Afghanistan at all, and he knew the tricky situation Musharraf was in with their supporters in the ISI and the military.

    I can believe that Musharraf will go fairly soon (taking dangerous knowledge about where a lot of bodies are buried with him?). Even Cheney must see how tainted he is now. So what will Cheney do? I assume he will already be working away to clue in whoever he thinks might be his next useful puppet. Hard to see who that would be, though, with a weak opposition PM and an uncertain successor as president.

  7. Sara says:

    NPR reporting this morning that the Army refused the usual job of stuffing ballot boxes, thus at least one normal means of fixing the election failed. Interesting that the Army would refuse.

    I still cannot find breakdowns on NWFP and the religious parties — but the split between PPP and MLP-N appears to be regional, PPP doing very well in Sind, MLP-N taking Punjab. So yet one more sign of the weakness of the Nation or Center versus the strength of provincial interests.

  8. JimWhite says:

    Bush and Cheney really are in the hot seat on this one. How will they justify continued support for Mushy when secular moderates have won the election?

  9. Sara says:

    EW — I suspect he lost the military plus either the families or the Saudi support. One thing I noticed is that Rawalipindi had a pretty low voter turnout, and that city is just loaded with serving and retired Army Officers. It usually returns a significant numerical vote for who ever the Army supports. Looks like many didn’t vote. One candidate, running for two seats (in Pakistan one can take nominations for multiple seats, so as to increase probability of election) — an associate of Musharraf, well he lost both races.

    NWFP — great news. The Religious parties lost most of their seats, and a secular left of center came in first, with the PPP in second place, and together they can form a majority. Just think, they can have TV and Movies and music again. Blowing up the Awami League rally last week, and blowing up people praying in mosques on religious holidays just is not an effective electorial technique.

    The change in NWFP means that the local police likely will begin to deal with the Security Problems, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda linked groups that are in the NWFP, which includes the Tribal Areas and the Swat Valley where they recently expanded. The place may not be so bin-Laden friendly for at least the next few years.

    So as we say, looks like for the next few weeks, Pakistan has jumped the shark. Looks like Biden is making some good noise — cut way back on the Military Aid, and switch it to Democracy building programs. Bush and Cheney will not be happy with that notion.

    One element in the election not commented on much here, and that is the role Cricket played in it. This year Pakistan was scheduled to hold the Cricket matches among the major Cricket playing countries — and several had already said that it was not secure enough to come and play. Pakistan was to lose its turn as the host, something that only comes round about every fifteen years or so. I suspect this may have had as much influence on “voting down the extremists” as anything. Pakistan is Cricket mad. About like telling Americans you have been badly behaved, so no World Series or Super Bowl for you.

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