LAHORE - Although various parties claim they will defeat their rivals and get majority seats in the July 25 election, the fact is that it is very difficult to assess the likely performance of the contesting parties because of the unpredictability of the role of various factors.

The results may be totally astonishing for all contenders if the election is free, fair and transparent, which the Election Commission of Pakistan says it will be.

This means a party which is expected to leave all others behind may show the poorest performance and the one facing the maximum odds can be ahead of others.

The PML-N, the PTI and the PPP are the major parties in the field, in addition to the regional forces active in various provinces.

For the PML-N, Mian Nawaz Sharif is the most popular leader and people will vote for his party because of its ‘unmatched’ services to the nation.

But for his opponents like PTI, he is a convict, disqualified by the court, because of which the law-abiding people may not like to support his party.

For these people Imran Khan is a hero, who played an important role first in the ouster and then disqualification of the three-time prime minister.

Even the PPP had welcomed the action against Mr Sharif, which is a clear indication that its followers will also vote against the PML-N.

The PML-N has consistently been portraying Mr Sharif as a victim, singled out by the judiciary and the establishment. For the PML-N supporters Nawaz Sharif is a hero who has paid a heavy price for the supremacy of parliament – and his latest resolve to get vote its due respect. They don’t accept Mr Sharif’s disqualification in the Panama papers case or conviction in Avenfield property reference.

This means the hero of a section of society is a culprit for the other, and vice versa.

In such a situation it is hard to determine how many people regard Nawaz and Imran as their hero or culprit.

Likewise, Nawaz Sharif’s confrontation against the establishment and the judiciary may be an appreciable decision for some but condemnable for others. Both sides will express their opinion by voting for or against the PML-N.

There are many who are convinced that Imran should rule the country after the July 25 election as he alone can meet the numerous challenges facing the nation.

The judiciary and the establishment will also be playing a role in the election, no matter whether this is visible or invisible. The extent of this role may also favour or damage a party in the election.

(The PPP and the PML-N have been alternating each other in power because of the alleged role of various institutions).

Another important factor behind unpredictability of the election is the many voters’ approach to support their parties, ignoring all kinds of allegations against them. There is no dearth of such people and they will vote for the PML-N, PTI or the PPP, disregarding the opponents’ propaganda.

The change of loyalties by a number of PML-N ‘electables’ right before the election, the return of party tickets by many others and the role being played by dissident Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan are some other factors that are an important factor in the election. However, the collective impact of all these factors would be clear only when the ballots are counted.

The emergence of some new religious parties and the presence of their candidates in large numbers is also an important factor. These parties’ decision to put up their own candidates despite the fact that an alliance of religious parties – MMA - is already there in the field, amounts to a no-confidence in the five-party conglomerate.

The new splinter groups will affect both the MMA and the PML-N. However, the extent of damage cannot be assessed at present as this is the first time they have offered themselves for public judgment.

One thing that can be said with a degree of uncertainty is that after the election parties like the ANP, PkMAP will ultimately join hands with the PML-N. Parties like the JUI-F, JUP, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith also feel very close to the PML-N and they may use their influence to make the entire MMA as an ally of the party of Nawaz Sharif.

This shows that with the cooperation of these allies the PML-N’s position will further improve even if its own performance on the election day was not according to its calculations.