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Party strongholds: will they hold?

July 12, 2018

A stronghold is a constituency whose voters have been loyal to one party for a long time. Take NA-256 (formerly NA-245) Paposh, Sakhi Hasan and Nazimabad in Karachi, for example. The MQM has won here for the past ten years. 

A constituency is called a stronghold when a party has:

  • Consistently won from it, year after year, after year…
  • Consistently won with a high margin — meaning, they will with a lot of votes. A LOT of votes.

Margin =  Winner’s votes – Runner-up’s votes
4,000 = 20,000 minus 16,000
(So if the PPP won 20k votes and the runner-up from the MQM got 16k votes, the PPP won by a margin of 4k votes.)

The PPP under Asif Zardari emerged victorious in the 2008 elections with 119 seats in the National Assembly. Of these, 32 were won with a high margin. These were the party strongholds.

The PML-N under Nawaz Sharif won 89 seats of which 18 had a considerable margin.

The MQM won 19 seats from which 16 got a high margin.

Party Seats won Won with high margin % won with high margin
PPP 119 32 26.89%
PML-N 89 18 20.22%
MQM 19 16 84.21%

In 2013, the PML-N won 125 NA seats, of which there was a high margin of victory in 42 constituencies.

The PPP secured only 33, of which 14 were with a high margin.

As with the 2008 elections, the MQM won 19 seats and 13 were with a considerable margin.

The PTI under Imran Khan emerged as the third largest party with 28 seats, however, only six of them were secured with a high margin.

Party Seats won Won with high margin % won with high margin
PML-N 125 42 33.60%
PPP 33 14 42.42%
PTI 28 6 21.42%
MQM 19 13 68.42%

Looking at these election results in isolation, however, is not enough to declare whether a constituency is a party stronghold or not. Consistency is key.

Number of seats consecutively won with high margin in 2013 and 2008

This visual gives us the number of constituencies where one political party won with a high margin in the same constituency in 2008 and 2013. For example, six seats were secured with a high margin by the PML-N in 2008 and 2013 consecutively. These constituencies consist of areas in Sialkot, Lahore and Gujranwala. NA-123 Lahore is one such constituency.

Nine constituencies were secured with a high margin in 2008 and 2013 by the PPPP. These ‘strongholds’ are scattered throughout Sindh: areas from Larkana, Nawabshah, Hyderabad, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Dadu and Karachi (mainly Lyari) make up the nine constituencies.

The MQM has the highest number of party strongholds. The MQM holds strong in a total of 12 constituencies, these constituencies make up most of Karachi and Hyderabad.

The political landscape has changed considerably since 2013 and this year’s elections are being contested on a vastly different playing field.

Photo: AFP

In our analysis, the MQM seemingly emerges as the victor with the highest number of power-centres. Since 2013, however, the MQM has splintered into three groups significantly dividing its vote bank. This is the first time the MQM is entering the general elections without its founder Altaf Hussain.

Photo: AFP

This also the first time PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be leading his party into the general elections.

Photo: AFP

In the PML-N, due to his disqualification and subsequent sentencing to 10 years in prison, former prime minister Nawaz will not be leading his party into the ballot for the first time in a long time. The last time this happened was in the 2002 general elections, when Nawaz was in exile and the PML-N was only able to win 19 seats in the National Assembly.

Photo: AFP

The ranks of the PTI have recently swollen with deserters from other parties joining the party. At the same time however, dissatisfaction among party loyalists seems to be at its highest with claims of unjust distribution of party tickets. Unlike 2013, the PTI under Imran has more to offer its potential voters this election than just promises; its five years heading the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government has been termed more or less exemplary by many.

Central to this piece is our definition of high, considerable or significant margin. We define a high margin of victory, as a seat being won with a margin of victory (as a percentage of the total validated vote for that constituency) being greater than the 75th percentile or the third quartile of the margin of victories for all seats won in the National Assembly, in that particular General Election.

This analysis is based on ECP data.


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