The speculation surrounding the PML-N’s choice of candidate as a replacement for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the vacated NA-120 seat can finally come to an end; Kulsoom Nawaz’s nomination papers were submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday. With the candidate now finalised, the ruling party must immediately start its election campaign in the by-election, or risk losing to a more active opposition candidate in Dr Yasmin Rasheed of PTI.

Other parties are almost inconsequential in this contest; PPP has so far failed to submit nomination papers for a candidate of its own for this seat. Both PTI and PML-N might soon be approaching other parties to throw their weight behind one of the two main contenders.

NA-120 also looks set to be the test case for the ECP to implement the biometric voting system, which if functional, could go a long way in decreasing the chance of rigging in future elections. However, for this to take place, NADRA has to send detailed voter lists, thumb impressions and other relevant data to the ECP by August 17 – so far, the data keeping body has not even responded to the requests made by the electoral regulatory institution.

While opposition supporters always find reasons to attack the other party’s choice of candidate, PML-N choosing the former PMs wife is a smart move, where Ms Kulsoom comes in untainted and with no allegations of corruption surrounding her. The one weakness PTI is keen to exploit is the corruption allegation, and if the PML-N plays its cards right, it can use Ms Kulsoom’s unblemished reputation to their advantage. Replacing her husband, who is looking to paint his sudden exit as a sacrifice, can also get party loyalists – of which there are plenty – and others to give PML-N the sympathy vote.

But Ms Kulsoom Nawaz still has a tough battle facing her in NA-120. Dr Yasmin won over 50,000 votes in Nawaz’s home constituency, leading many to believe that the PTI candidate might just win if Nawaz Sharif himself is not the opposing candidate. Dr Yasmin has already started a door-to-door campaign in the constituency, while PML-N has not started campaigning for the seat; the party will have a lot of catching up to do.

It must not be forgotten however, that Nawaz Sharif won over 90,000 votes – almost double the tally of Dr Yasmin – which tells us that this constituency is essentially PML-N’s to lose. With the right campaigning strategy and ensuring that the opposition’s attacks are successfully staved off, the PML-N should be winning this one, although Dr Yasmin’s popularity in the area and diligent campaign efforts might just give her a surprise win. In any case, this is no forgone conclusion for either side, and a tough competition is to be expected.