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Pakistan: the mother of all rigged elections
  • Nawaz Sharif
    Nawaz Sharif
The mother of all rigged elections, the latest round of elections in Pakistan, has reached the necessary comical finale. Nawaz Sharif, the Anointed One of the Generals on his way to becoming prime minister for the fourth time, amiably admitted, complete with a tear of emotion, that he had won the election. Before the counting was over, but these are details. Nawaz did in fact win his seat in Lahore with an overwhelming majority: 240,000 votes out of a total of 239,000 voters. And no, this is not a misprint, but the official figures reported in the closing minutes of the polling station in question.

The other fourteen candidates got zero votes. Basically, they did not even vote for themselves. Pakistanis, on the other hand, rather than elections speak of political "selections," and the joke of the day goes like this: until midnight yesterday the elections were only "agreed upon," after midnight they were rigged. Surprisingly, in fact, it was the independent candidates who took the lion's share: whose success was immediately read by the local media and many people as if it were an overwhelming victory of former premier and currently imprisoned Imran Khan. His party in fact had been banned from using the usual election symbol, and many candidates had been forced to run as independents. Not all independent candidates were supported by Imran's party, however. And all independents, who won by a majority and are in fact the largest party in the country, cannot form a government. Once elected, they have to choose sides: and by morning there were already rumors of massive support for Nawaz Sharif's party. Which technically, it is true, turns out to be the party that took the most votes. Not so many as to be able to form a government, but enough to be able to sing victory and not make the generals who went to so much trouble to organize this farcical election kermis completely lose face.

Voting took place in a civilized, democratic and relaxed atmosphere, in fact: the army deployed in force at every street corner, the cell phone network silenced, the Internet silenced. Journalists were prevented from entering polling stations, some members of the electoral commissions reported the presence of "torture chambers" inside the polling stations, international observers were allowed to make a quick tour in the afternoon, accompanied by escorts necessary for their safety, to see that the voting was running smoothly. The ballots are rigged at night anyway.

Nawaz Sharif promises the people 'panem et circenses', and instructs his brother Shahbaz and his nephew Hamza (whose respective criminal charges were suddenly cleared when Shahbaz became premier and Hamza chief minister of Punjab) to explore electoral coalitions with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari: son of the late Benazir and Asif Ali Zardari, the famous Mr. Ten per cent (the percentage required to promote various affaires) former president of Pakistan and just re-elected in Sindh.

Nawaz Sharif, the future premier, is the political version of a wobble doll: he has been jailed a couple of times, sent into exile, banned for ten years from public office, but he always comes back. The harder you hit, the more smiling Nawaz comes back to save Pakistan from himself and his family from the constant threat of fraudulent bankruptcy. They say he has finally learned his lesson, and this time he will be careful not to displease the army that benevolently put him back in charge of the country after exiling and imprisoning him. On the other hand, this time the army has staged a masterpiece worthy of Feydau: Nawaz wins and all the nominees in khaki uniforms win, but Imran Khan's party ideally reasserts itself as the nation's leading party. Just in case, in the not-so-distant future, the generals need to bring him back to power. By the book, with a free, independent election, and certified by international observers. Pakistan, after all, is known to be the land of possibilities.
Francesca Marino