Connections and Elections in Lahore: How Network Centrality Affects Electoral Politics in Pakistan

Pakistani election 2018This paper creates a unique map of Lahore’s political and nonpolitical networks to gauge the degree to which the area’s politicians are interconnected. In Pakistan, a politician must be awarded a party ticket before standing for election; the candidate is usually a prominent and well-connected politician chosen from a pool of local politicians. By mapping these political and nonpolitical connections, we identify the most centrally located politicians on the basis of their eigenvector centrality. We use data on the 2013 provincial (Punjab Assembly) and National Assembly elections to look at the relationship between centrality and the likelihood of securing a party ticket and, subsequently, of winning a seat in the general elections.

The results show that politics in Pakistan are fairly sophisticated; parties tend to field politically well-connected candidates from constituencies where previous elections were highly competitive to increase their odds of winning. At the provincial level, the results show that party tickets are awarded to candidates who are politically well-connected within and across parties, while elections are won by candidates who are politically and socially well connected within the party. This implies that, at the provincial level, voters give their ballots to the party rather than to individual candidates since only within-party connectedness matters.

Election Tickets Awarded

At the national level, the results reveal that tickets are awarded to candidates who are socially better connected within and across parties, but that elections are won by candidates who are politically better connected within and across parties. This implies that, at the national level, people vote for candidates who are politically better connected,
possibly reflecting the belief that these connections will translate into greater political influence on the national stag.

Connections and Elections in Lahore

The choice of candidates in electoral politics can be a long, difficult process, as illustrated by the primary system that exists in countries such as the US. Typically, in Pakistan, candidates must appeal to members of their own party before they are given party tickets and then appeal to a majority of voters in order to win the seat. If one adds to this the argument that parties will field their strongest candidates in the most competitive electoral races, then the choice of candidate for a particular electoral constituency becomes a balancing act between those who are strong within their own party and those considered to be more popular with the electorate. We aim to analyze exactly this at the provincial and national level in Pakistan.

First, we establish that parties prefer to field more central candidates from constituencies where the previous election was a close contest because central candidates have a higher likelihood of securing a win. Our results
show that, in National Assembly constituencies characterized by a high voter turnout and a close election in 2008, parties fielded candidates who were politically well connected both within and across parties in 2013. No such efforts were made for the Punjab Assembly constituencies where the party appeared to matter more than the individual at the provincial level.

Second, our results establish that parties give election tickets to more central politicians in order to increase their odds of winning. At the provincial level, tickets are given to candidates who are politically well connected both within and across parties; sound political connections within a party can ensure that sufficient campaign funds are generated, while strong political connections outside the party can determine a larger vote bank. The idea behind this is that political connections with party elites help candidates gain access to party leaders as well as key government officials, which makes it easier to obtain campaign funds and resolve local-level problems. At the national level, tickets are given to politicians who are socially well connected within their own party and across other parties; the party leadership presumes that strong social connections will generate a larger vote bank because the electorate is more likely to be familiar with the candidate.

Finally, our results distinguish between those connections that improve the chances of being awarded a party ticket and those connections that increase the likelihood of winning a seat. The findings show that only within-party
political and social connectedness matters in winning a provincial assembly seat because votes are cast on the basis of the party, not the individual. At the national level, the opposite holds: the individual’s own political connections matter in addition to within-party political connections. Voters tend to choose prominent, politically connected politicians because they see them as being more dominant and resourceful than other candidates, and therefore better able to bring about policy changes and reforms as well as to deliver goods to their constituencies.

This study looks at how networks are created and how they influence political choices in Pakistan. While studies of social networks are well established, the analysis of how political networks determine electoral outcomes is relatively new. Our aim was to map networks based on the ties among politicians and observe the role of these networks in the
political representation of the country. The idea was to build a series of networks based on factors that politicians have in common and identify the central-most politicians within these networks. We have focused on politicians and electoral outcomes in Lahore, which includes some of the most prominent politicians of Pakistan as well as some of the most visible voting constituencies.


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