Monday, February 11, 2008

New Polls Show Musharraf Approval Rating Plummeting

A new poll released Monday, a week before the scheduled Pakistani parliamentary elections, revealed that President Pervez Musharraf's popularity has hit an all-time low "and opposition parties seem capable of a landslide victory that could jeopardize his efforts to cling to power," reported the Washington Post. The poll, conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) "found that just 15 percent of Pakistanis approve of Musharraf's job performance, exactly half the number who expressed approval in November. The two main opposition parties, meanwhile, had the backing of a combined 72 percent of those surveyed." The Post cited Christine Fair, a senior political analyst at Rand Corp., who announced, "If a coalition of revenge gets a two-thirds majority, he's done. Absolutely done."

According to the Post today, "The poll results are the latest in a series of troubling indicators for Musharraf. In recent months, he has suspended the constitution, fired many judges on the Supreme Court and engineered a legally dubious reelection in his quest to stay in power." Although the constitution has been restored, the president's repeated crackdowns against political opponents, the judiciary, and the mass media have further cut his support. Another widely covered poll, conducted by the U.S.-based Terror Free Tomorrow last month, found that the PPP, the party of the recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto, was the most popular just ahead of the February 18th elections. According to the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, the survey closely affirmed the numbers from the IRI poll, finding that 70 percent of Pakistanis wanted Musharraf to quit. Interestingly, TFT also found that sympathy for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban has dropped sharply. Dawn reported, "According to the poll results, only 24 percent of Pakistanis approved of Osama when the survey was conducted last month, compared with 46 percent during a similar survey in August. Backing for Al Qaeda fell to 18 per cent from 33 per cent."

According to the Post piece, "There are widespread fears in Pakistan that Musharraf and his allies will rig next Monday's vote." However, the IRI poll indicated that that could be a "perilous" step for the leader, especially since only 14 percent said they would back Musharraf's party, the PML-Q in the upcoming elections. Today, The News' editorial further discussed the issue of the elections, but noted, "Whoever wins the election and by whatever means, they face a daunting set of problems, none of which have been addressed in terms of policy or manifesto by any of the political parties." According to a report from the World Bank, "The water, power irrigation and transport sectors" in Pakistan are all "woefully deficient," and whoever comes into power must effectively address these issues. The bottom line of the editorial? "The World Bank has provided a checklist of uncomfortable truths backed up with solid evidence that would be a wake-up call for any politician anywhere, except Pakistan. Expect no action."

With the elections just a week away, there seems to a powerful sense that the next party in power will be a welcome change from Musharraf's regime. However, are we so focused on voting the current president out of power that we can't focus on what could occur after the elections? How will the next elected party handle the multitude of problems currently plaguing the country?

Breaking News: the Associated Press reported this morning that the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan was missing and "feared kidnapped" in the tribal border region

1 comment:

Noor said...

Although it is fair to ask if the debate centered around Musharraf's ouster has consumed too much of the public's attention vis-a-vis other pressing issues, it is natural for citizens to focus their frustration on those in power. In this case, a form of paralysis seems to have set in and it is evident that as long as the unpopular Musharraf remains in power, it will be difficult for the nation to move onto the business of fixing their national problems. Once Musharraf is gone, the new national leader will have a popular mandate to change things quickly and with strong public support, the new President will be much more effective at enacting reforms. These types of political cyclical pattersn tend to emerge acorss the spectrum and it merely requires a change in leadership to alter the landscape enough for credible and tangible change to take place.