The by-elections, which are set to be scheduled on October 14th, are around the corner, and with their end, we will have the final parliament for the next five years. It is time for political parties to revive some of that election competitive spirit, as they gear up to announce their list of candidates who will be fielding the by-elections. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI), the largest party, has taken the lead and announced the names of the candidates it is putting forward.

Usually, the by-elections did not merit much hype, as they were largely thought to go in the government party’s favour. The importance of by-elections reside in the fact that while it may not bring about a large change in the parliament structure, it helps in retaining or decreasing the government’s majority, which decides how much the ruling party would have to depend on other members to pass bills.

This time, with spectacularly close elections, the by-elections will be more interesting than past times. While PTI is also heavily favoured to win the by-elections as well, the party will still have to play its part strategically.

PTI faces some very challenging competitors in some areas of Punjab, where it barely managed to clinch a victory, and might find it difficult to do so again. A glaring example of this is NA 131 where PTI has pitched Humayan Akhtar against PML-N’s strong-horse Saad Rafique. It remains to be seen if Humayun Akhtar, who has switched parties often, will be able to beat Saad Rafique, whose constituency was the closest competition in the General Elections, with Imran Khan barely getting a majority. Another difficult competition from PML-N is former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who despite facing cases, is slated to contest from Lahore, according to PML-N sources. Abbasi’s loss in the General Election from Murree had been controversial due to reported irregularities in procedure, and will prove a daunting challenge this time too. The parliament structure will not change if Rafique and Abbasi manage to beat PTI, but the momentum of the opposition will definitely shift with these two powerhouses in the National Assembly.

It is worth noting that three months after the elections, the parties still have to be on election mode to clinch the by-elections as well. Perhaps the expense and political costs of the by-elections should serve as a deterrent to parties to stop contesting from several constituencies.