On Saturday morning, Pakistanis will vote for what could be the first peaceful transfer of power from one civilian government to the next in the country’s long, coup-ridden history.
Credibility is a major concern, however, with the campaign season beset by constant violence, terrorist attacks against political rallies, and a number of candidates assassinated before they could even contest the vote.
Balochistan, the nation’s largest province, is going through a general strike, with secessionists calling for a boycott of the vote. Turnout in some districts nationwide is expected to be limited, nearly non-existent where the Pakistani Taliban have a large foothold.
The distribution of seats, even assuming the election does get carried out, is always a factor, as decades of half-finished reforms leave parliamentary representation skewed in numerous directions, with set-asides for some groups and almost no seats available for others. Some parts of Pakistan’s far northeast (Pakistani Kashmir) won’t even have an election, since they don’t get any seats anyhow.