The stage is set across the country for the by-elections, which will ensue across 35 constituencies on the 14th of October. Across those constituencies, the roads have been decorated with campaign posters and the streets are rife with the sounds of political party catchphrases and soundtracks. Over 100 candidates are contesting for 35 national and provincial assembly seats, including 11 from National Assembly, 11 from Punjab Assembly, nine from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two each from Sindh and Balochistan. These by-elections are the last chapter of the General Elections 2018, and will conclude the final makeup of the parliament.

It has not been a smooth road towards the by-elections and it cannot be said that the elections are occurring in the best of circumstances. The arrest of the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif has cast a shadow over the elections and propelled allegations of pre-poll rigging. The conduct of some ministers when it comes to adhering to the rules of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also been questionable.

However, the suspect circumstance of the by-elections has not dampened the spirit of contesting among the participants. While by-elections are usually almost always thought to side the party in power, these elections may be the most competitive yet. This is due to the fact that the two giant parties, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which posed the main threat to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI), have joined hands and vowed to share constituencies. While previous alliances between PPP and PML-N have always been flimsy, it is to be seen whether this coordination effort will succeed and weaken PTI’s grip in power. PPP and PML-N together have the numbers to give PTI a difficult time.

The real battleground for the parties is Punjab, where surprise wins in the by-elections could actually impact the policies of the Punjab Assembly. The number of seats in the Punjab Assembly won by PTI and PML-N are neck-to-neck and a swing in the votes might shift the power balance to the right in the assembly.

It is hoped that these by-elections will proceed more smoothly and fairly than the general. ECP stated that a special security plan has been chalked out to ensure foolproof security for sensitive polling station on by-election day. Conclusively, the high cost of security and contesting the elections will hopefully serve as a deterrent from fielding one candidate in several constituencies.