Archive for Elections

The Indian Elections: a Game Changer?

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs with tags , , , , , , , on May 20, 2009 by Umer

by Vijay Prashad

The Indian general election of 2009 is finally over. 445 million voters entered 828,000 polling booths to elect 543 candidates to the lower house of the parliament, the Lok Sabha. An immense state apparatus went into play to ensure that the voters’ will was not subverted by theft (2.1 million security guards were joined by 74,729 videographers to observe the polls). The entire process took just over a month. On Saturday, May 16, the Election Commission released news of the outcome. This is the first election in decades where there was no foreseeable victor; neither was there one singular issue. Four major coalitions vied for position, and the issues on the table appeared to be far more local than national. The result has belied this expectation. The Indian National Congress won decisively, over 200 seats, and for the first time since the 1960s, is able to form a government in Delhi without any major allies. This is a remarkable feat, given that the Congress ran an election promising more of the same, a certain tonic for defeat in anti-incumbency democratic politics. It projected the current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as its leader, even as it had the various scions of the Nehru family as the central icons of the party and of its campaigning (Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi both won their seats this election). Little suggested that the Congress would do better than it did in 2004 (with 145 seats).

The Congress’ victory came at the expense of various regional parties, and the Left. Its gains were taken directly from the Left (in West Bengal and Kerala), and from two other regions where it had previously been shut-out (Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh). The Left suffered, in many ways, from the perils of governance in neo-liberal times: able to bring justice to the countryside, the Left faced a growing unemployment problem that it could not solve through a feasible alternative. Attempts to break the intractable bind of jobless industrial growth failed, not only because the Left had to operate within the confines of bourgeois law, but also because of the privations of governance in regions without the treasury of oil. The Left’s allies in places such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh had an overly expedient relationship to anti-capitalism; the voters saw right through them. The Left had engineered a Third Front, which, at one time, projected as its prime ministerial candidate the leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Mayawati. The BSP was originally the party of the most oppressed, Dalit, castes, but it has since crafted itself as a wily player, making alliances with Brahmins to fend off the dominant, rural castes who are not at either end of the hypothetical caste totem pole. Mayawati’s party maintained its 2004 position, making no gains.

The party of political Hinduism (the Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP) won 138 seats in 2004, but this time could only pull off 117. Confined to a few states, the BJP suffered from the gradual demise of its irascible politics: when one of its candidates, Varun Gandhi (another great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, as it turns out), made anti-Muslim statements, it dented the BJP’s claim to being an inclusive party. Its leader, L. K. Advani, wanted desperately to be the next Prime Minister, but his close association with the politics of animus failed him. Concern for their economic well-being trumped any anxiety among the voters about national security, so that the BJP had little to run on. Both the Congress and the BJP have close ties to big money, and to economic “reform” (which is essentially the process to dismantle the public sector), but the Congress unlike the BJP also has some measure of commitment to social welfare. The siren of national security was so weak that the BJP was unable to make capital out of the Mumbai terror attacks of last year. The BJP’s alliance partners have also failed it, afraid for good reason that Hindu supremacy’s engine might be slowly winding down. Advani has resigned as leader of his party. In the wings stands Narendra Modi, the leader from Gujarat, who is known for his efficiency and his brutality, a combination that chills. The BJP is not down and out, only wounded. Its social base has not abandoned it, even as the party has left them down electorally.

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CMKP Condemns Failure to Restore Judiciary

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , on May 13, 2008 by Umer

It has now become blatantly clear that Zardari has completely failed the democratic movement. In exchange for the NRO, Zardari has agreed not to restore the pre-November 3nd judiciary and has de facto accepted General Pervaiz Musharraf as the President of Pakistan. This is a complete betrayal of the struggle against military rule that so many people, including the cadres of the PPP, fought for so valiantly.

Given the promises made by the government, we were willing to wait for the 30 day period. Following that period, we still waited till May 12th. However, it has now become absolutely clear that the current government does not wish to commit itself to a serious struggle against the military establishment. Every passing day plunges our country deeper into the crisis created by military rule. Every passing day brings only new resentment and disappointments.

Under these unfortunate circumstances, the breakup of the coalition has benefited Musharraf.  Neither the cause of the judiciary nor democracy has advanced as a consequence of the recent actions of mainstream parties. It is our understanding that Pakistan requires a mass based left party that upholds the interests of workers and peasants with complete integrity.

The current political leadership has proven to be deeply opportunistic and has failed the people. While we have absolutely nothing in common with pro-establishment and right-wing criticisms of mainstream parties, the CMKP unequivocally condemns the failure of the current government to restore the judiciary and realize the nations clear aspirations for democracy.

The CMKP will fully support the lawyers movement led by Aitzaz Ahsen, Ali Ahmed Kurd, and Munir A. Malik and uphold in letter and spirit the line of action decided by the Pakistan Representative Convention of Lawyers May 17th.

Restore the Judiciary Now
Down with Military Dictatorship
Long Live Democracy

Celebrating Jalib: Main Nay Kaha

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by Umer

“Main Nay Kaha” is a satirical poem by the famous leftist poet Habib Jalib called “Musheer” (Advisor). Jalib wrote it in response to a conversation he had with Hafiz Jalandari during the time of Ayub Khan’s dictatorship. It remains just as fresh and valid today.

This poem has been put to music by Laal (Shahram Azhar & Taimur Rahman) a new Pakistani music group dedicated to resistance music and poetry. Shahram Azhar and Taimur Rahman are also political activists of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party and their poetry, music, and activism constitute an integrated whole the essence of which is always revolutionary. The CMKP has been an integral part of the lawyers movement and the movement for democracy in Pakistan.

The music video contains real images of events in Karachi, London, and Lahore during the tumultuous period between December 27th and February 18th. The song and video were recorded on a shoe-string budget of one session each.

This video and song are connected to a documentary on a journey through a life-changing period in the history of Pakistan. The journey begins in Pakistan on the eve of the assassination of Benazir and the ensuing grief, violence, and carnage. The film maker travels to London to discover a group of young activists organizing protests against Emergency rule. Following these activists full circle to Pakistan, the documentary captures the events around the 2008 elections. The film thus captures a moment in the life of Pakistan, from Benazir’s assassination to the elections, through the lens of young activists. The documentary by Widei Films will also be released shortly.

Habib Jalib – Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha
Shahram Azhar – Vocals
Taimur Rahman – Music
Mahvash Waqar – Backing Vocals
Taimur Khan – Director Producer
Dita Peskova – Assistant Director
Jamie Mill – Recording Director
Laal & Taimur Khan – Music Producer
WIDEi Films – Production Company

For the “golden prospect”

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2008 by Umer

Following is my short reply to the message of Farooq Tariq of Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) ‘A golden prospect to oust Musharaf’:

The elections have changed everything. Many political unions, forged into existence by doubtful personalities who wanted the revival of the religious Right in Pakistan, fell flat on its face on February, 18th. Unfortunately, some Leftist and Nationalist parties also took part in the “holy alliance” that came to be known as the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM). These Leftist parties too had to face the “glory” coming to them through their mistaken stance when people went to vote.

However, one mistake by a section of the Left does not merit strong denunciation from other Leftists, particularly the young ones like me. All of us commit errors – no one is an angel here, so we are told. However, one who does not realize his mistakes in time, trying to hide it from the public eye with inept justifications, merits criticism in the strongest possible terms. The only way to redeem an error and to stand tall is to self-criticize as soon as possible. This spirit of self-criticism is required not only to reach correct conclusions in the future, but also for the unity of the broad Left in Pakistan.

The Awami Jamhori Tahreek (AJT), a united front of many Leftist Parties in Pakistan, primarily LPP and National Workers’ Party (NWP), made a serious error when they joined with the APDM. The composition of APDM raises serious concerns to begin with. It is led by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Hamid Gul, and, last but not the least, the semi-Mullah Imran Khan. APDM, in short, was a united front of the religious Right that demanded the boycott of elections. Any benefits that the Left could have been gained from joining such a front must be compared with the serious compromises that would accompany such a decision, not only in the long-term, but also in the anti-dictatorship struggle of today. The stance of AJT was subjected to serious criticism by other parties of the Left, chiefly Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP), but their advice was not heeded.

Now, with the results of elections before us, we can see that APDM has failed miserably in its boycott campaign. Everyone can see that joining the APDM was a mistake for the Left Parties. What did the Left gain from APDM? Nothing. And yet, while we were expecting some self-criticism, Farooq Tariq of LPP has emerged with an attempt to justify the decision of Left to join APDM with twisted logic.

According to Farooq Tariq, the APDM “helped anti Musharaf vote to express in a united manner” and “the boycott campaign was particularly successful in Balochistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP)”. Was boycott a success in Balochistan? Let’s look at the polls. The King’s Party, PML-Q, has won around 17 seats in the province of Balochistan, a clear majority. Had the nationalist parties contested the elections, the results would have been very different. The “success” of APDM appears to translate into the victory of PML-Q in Balochistan.

As for NWFP, Farooq Tariq says that the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) benefited from the split in the Right-wing MMA. This is the truth, but only half the truth. With hindsight, one can see that had MMA been standing united, it would have helped them only marginally. MMA was discredited among the people and there were few chances of them emerging successful in the recent elections. Anyhow, how did the Leftists in the APDM contribute to the appearance of cracks in the MMA? Clearly, they had nothing to do with these cracks. MMA had undergone a de facto split long before the Left decided to join the APDM. The Leftists within the APDM cannot take claim credit for causing the split in MMA.

APDM only succeed in weakening the anti-Musharraf campaign. What else was to be expected from an alliance which included General Hamid Gul and Qazi Hussain Ahmed? APDM is responsible for the low turn-out of voters and victory of PML-Q in Balochistan. Thankfully, the APDM project remained unsuccessful nationally and only marginally affected the anti-Musharraf campaign, which may now be waged from both inside and outside the parliament. In the meanwhile, the Left in APDM needs to self-criticize and break themselves from the decadent elements of the religious-Right to fortify the struggle against dictatorship and religious extremism. Only then we can utilize from the golden prospect.

Election 2008 Results

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , on February 19, 2008 by Umer
PPPP 85 76 65 7 15
PML(N) 64 100 0 0 5
MQM 19 0 38 0 0
PML(Q) 36 64 9 17 6
ANP 10 0 2 1 29
PPP(S) 1 0 0 0 5
BNP(A) 1 0 0 5 0
MMA 2 2 0 6 8
NPP 2 0 3 0 0
PML F 4 3 7 0 0
INDEPENDENT 26 35 1 8 17
TOTAL RESULTS 250 280 125 44 85
TOTALSEATS CONTESTED 268 293 130 51 96

It gives me great pleasure to post the results of Elections, 2008. As you can see, the King’s Party, PMLQ, has been been routed by PPP and PMLN. PMLQ is over. The Elections night was full of pleasant surprises as major leaders of PMLQ lost in electoral battles. PMLQ leaders who lost in elections include Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (former federal Railways Minister), Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein (lost by a margin of 13000 votes), Chaudhry Amir Hussain (former National Assembly speaker), Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi (former federal Law Minister), Khursheed Mehmodd Kasoori, and Rao Sikander Iqbal. Maulana Fazlur Rehman also lost in one of his constituencies. The PMLQ that provided the essential political support to the rule of Pervez Musharraf is now brought down to dust.

As far as I can see, the people of Pakistan have been successful in avoiding any massive rigging of elections, despite sporadic instances. Moreover, the election results show a clear vote against Musharraf and Military, both associated with a myriad of problems faced by the citizenry,  from the people of Pakistan. Musharraf needs to take the cue and leave.

Elections in Lahore, Pakistan

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2008 by Umer

The Elections Day in Lahore was relatively calm, as compared to previous elections, though it was not expected to be after the murder of one of the candidates to provincial assembly of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz last night. As I write this post, I can listen to many analysts on the news channels expressing their surprise over the comparative smoothness with which the elections proceeded in the district.

I spent most of my day, after casting my vote for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), with the Election Monitors of the Students Action Committee (SAC) Lahore and Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP). I traveled around Thoker Niaz Beg area visiting several polling booths in order to look for any illegal activities.

The most pervasive complaint, while the detailed report of SAC is pending, was the exclusion of opposition party voters from the voting lists. According to the voters, who exercised their right to vote in the last elections, they could not find their names and the names of their family members in the voting lists, though it was present a few days ago. Many alleged that the voting lists might be changed overnight before the elections. There were also complaints about lack of polling booths and polling staff particularly in the opposition constituencies. Additionally, there were also some reports regarding intimidation of the polling staff by the local authorities.

In the pre-poll phase, there was rampant information of money being distributed by PML-Q and the development works being carried out in the late hours.

As the news is coming in, it appears that the King’s Party, PML-Q, is going down swiftly. Many PML-Q stalwarts – Moonis Elahi (who spent so much money in elections that his face seemed to be everywhere), Shujat Hussain, and Sheikh Rashid – have reportedly lost (the latter two are contesting from more than one constituencies, so whether they will make it to the legislature or not is still unconfirmed).

Here also some short-messages that I received throughout the day:

SAC mock referendum results:
Turnout: 812
Against Musharraf: 782
For Musharraf: 24

From Geo: Majority polling stations have not received their allotted number of ballot papers and boxes.

Mianwali; NA-72: Pervez Elahi’s relative Humair Hayat Rokri’s (candidate for PML-Q) supporters giving money to female voters outside polling stations.

Narowal; NA-117: Ransacked polling stations go up to 25. Armed gangs of criminals carried out the operation on the behest of PML-Q and took away boxes.

Boycott of Elections?

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , on December 8, 2007 by Umer

Electoral boycott is usually effective when most of the political parties, who have effective street power, follow it. Otherwise, it can potentially isolate the the boycotter with the mobalization that is carried out for elections, which is the last thing that we will like to have in this country. That being said, there are good points on the side of pushing a boycott at the present moment. A boycott of elections, if followed popularly, can create a very difficult situation for the present regime which will get totally isolated from the people and major political parties. This isolation expressed politically can result in the death knell for the rule of Pervez Musharraf. The democratic movement will progress to another level where people will start seeking for an alternative with independence of judiciary and rule of law for the Federation. The Parties in parliament will loose all legitimacy and the line between forces in the struggle will be clearly defined.

However, this is big HOWEVER, what if things don’t turn out the way we want them to? While our principles are as solid as iron, our tactics must be fluid and flexible like water. While our “Plan A” is to boycott elections with full force and convince political organizations to do that too, we must also have a “Plan B” for the not-so-desirable situation, if we don’t want to land in wilderness. The essence of “Plan B” is simply to recognize elections as a tool for promotion of lawyers movement and for bringing to light the undesirable elements in our polity. The Plan B is to understand that we must try to exhaust all instruments that we have at our disposal. This is what I want to point here. Aitzaz Ahsan, in his letter to legal community, has provided some very good suggestion for the Plan B. These tactics can help us steer the people of our nation through some essential political experience, which is a great teacher.