ERIS holds roundtable discussion on Pakistan's elections

May 2013

As the Pakistani elections approached, ERIS held a series of roundtable discussions in partnership with Democracy Reporting International and Friends of Europe in London, Brussels and Berlin. The event included key figures from the media, government and academia, who assessed recent political developments, democratic reforms undertaken by the current legislature, the state of the electoral framework and the implications for Pakistan’s democratisation.

The below is a summary of key issues raised in the London event, which took place in the Houses of Parliament:

The possibility of a full transition from one democratically elected civilian government to another – the first of its kind for Pakistan – is tangible. However, despite progress in some areas, the country faces challenges including

Amendments to the constitution that support provincial governments and the creation of an independent electoral body represent positive steps. This is a watershed moment in Pakistan’s recent history. 

However, there is still some way to go before Pakistan represents a secure and democratic state. Limited governance and the economic situation have raised questions over the delivery of basic goods and services, and with no long-term policies in place to address such issues, problems appear likely to persist.

Similar challenges relating to lack of political consensus and government policy have not prevented a rise in religious and sectarian violence, while around 40,000 deaths have been linked to insurgency and terrorism. 

Pakistan’s borders remain a source of instability, with continuing army operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) against militant groups. This has deterred foreign investment and building up broader support to bring down violence. The next government will face similar problems.

Meanwhile, narrow political structures and limited education allow political patronage to continue, risking disillusioning voters.

Even the 50% of first-time voters who have a huge desire for action (and are likely to be the determining factor during this election) are becoming disillusioned, as the political class struggles to work out how to approach a much younger electorate of 18-35 year olds with different aspirations. Real uncertainty over the results remains, and there is still much to be done to strengthen democracy in the country.

Read the Friends of Europe's full report on the Brussels event here