Public interest in the impending municipal elections has plummeted drastically. As the election nominees and the political parties sponsoring them are canvassing for votes, the public is losing interest in the elections and becoming unsure if their votes actually matter.
The municipal elections will begin on May 29 in the 32 districts of Balochistan. The preparations have been completed and the doors of the polling stations will be opened on Sunday for the public. Security arrangements have been beefed up and almost 5236 polling stations have been prepared. Approximately 17774 candidates are running in the elections. The Election Commission has declared over 2000 polling stations as “highly sensitive.”
There are about 2 million registered male voters and almost 1.7 million female voters in Balochistan. The voter turnout, however, is expected to be at an all-time low in the impending elections.
The Baloch Raj Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella organization of Baloch “pro-independence” groups – released a statement earlier this month to dissuade the public from voting in the elections. BRAS spokesperson Baloch Khan said that these so-called elections are a charade, a petty tactic to organize and shape the “occupation” of Balochistan to the grassroots level. He said that this election is a “divide and rule” tactic designed to pit the Baloch against one another and then capitalize on their disunity.
Baloch Khan said that BRAS believes in and supports the democratic process, but calling elections in an “occupied territory” is not for the sake of democracy but to entrench the “occupation” of the colonial powers. He said that public opinion does not matter – the Pakistani military cherry-picks its favourite candidates and puts them at the helm. He said that the Baloch “pro-independence” groups called on the Baloch nation to boycott the 2013 general elections which they did. This was effectively a referendum in support of the struggle for the independence of Balochistan, he said.
BRAS said that the Pakistani state does not respect the democratic right of the Baloch nation and ignores their choices by installing “puppets” in power.
Baloch social media activists and political workers held a Space on Twitter where they unanimously denounced the upcoming municipal elections as an “undemocratic farce.” They said that no election so far has been beneficial for the Baloch cause in any way. They said that the public has lost interest in the elections and it is highly likely that the voter turnout will be at an all-time low.
The social media activists said that the military leadership has already prepared a list of the successful candidates. “These are not elections; these are selections, and the winners have been selected”, they said.
Political parties like the National Party and the Balochistan National Party Mengal say that the municipal elections are “extremely important” in the current situation of Balochistan. They say that these elections devolve power and authority at the grassroots level giving the locals opportunity to participate in the democratic process and become the driving force of positive change in their societies.