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The lion’s share: elections and democracy in Pakistan

Title: The lion’s share: elections and democracy in Pakistan

Author: Paul Rollier

Affiliation: University of St. Gallen

Organization/Publisher: Routledge

Date/Place: December 2019, U.K.

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Number of Pages: 20


Keywords: Vernacular Democracy, Clientelistic Networks, PML-N


The article focused on the 2013 elections in Pakistan and argued that elections form part of a ‘vernacular democracy’ shaped by local understanding of politics. The notion and practice of democracy was debated in the context of the general election. But it also centers on the performative, aesthetic and sensorial qualities of elections–how the electoral campaigns relate to the occurrence of political violence, or the absence thereof. Regarding the violence during electoral campaigns, the author imprecisely mentioned that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led its own campaign to support conservative political parties, PML-N and PTI and issued them blank cheque through selective attacks.  The absence of terrorist attacks within Punjab gave the impression that if nothing else, within PML-N controlled-territory, the state possessed a monopoly over the means of violence. Though not articulated explicitly in their campaign, the PML-N was effectively selling protection to its constituents which kept the profile of PPP low.  He further elaborated that the PML-N’s Clientelistic networks facilitated its victory by allowing them to exercise unprecedented power through administrative means. But the localized pacification of political life and the electoral success of the PML-N were not solely contingent on the efficacy of patron-client ties. The author concluded that, the PML-N through skilful political performances aimed at establishing a material, sensory and corporal ascendancy over a given constituency. The pacified rituals of elections in Pakistan constitute an effective, albeit increasingly unpredictable means of reproducing a position of dominance gained through other means.

By: Razia Wadood, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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