At first glance, the PPP has done what every politician does when virtually sure to lose an election: boycott it. The PPP candidate for President, Senator Raza Rabbani, announced the boycott on Friday using the change in date to claim that it did not leave him time to campaign among the MPAs. The boycott is unilateral, as the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf has decided to keep Mr Justice (r) Wahiduddin Ahmad in the field. The PPP had already been in touch with all other party chiefs, and its failure to gather support from them meant that the single opposition candidate, who alone had a chance of overcoming the government candidate, was not possible. His campaigning among the MPAs was hardly likely to have made enough of them buck the party line. The change of day leaves just enough time for the candidates to meet the MPAs, though it is probably not possible to call on individuals in their homes. The timing of Senator Rabbani’s announcement also indicated that the MQM decision to throw its weight behind the PML-N candidate, pushed him to the decision. Not only did it mean that the MQM was ignoring its old alliance with the PPP, but it also meant the government was assured the numbers to have its candidate elected.

Because M Justice Wajihuddin is not retiring, there will be an election, even though Senator Rabbani will not be contesting. Senator Rabbani should also note that there will be a successor to Asif Zardari elected at the end of the exercise, ready to take over when his term expires. He should also note that no other candidate has boycotted the election because of this. His claim that the federation is in danger is also specious, because the inability to campaign among the MPAs is counterbalanced by the ability to campaign among the Senators, who are elected by the MPAs.

If Senator Rabbani wanted to campaign among the MPAs just as they themselves campaigned among the voters in their constituencies, he should have conceded his opponents the right of appealing the ECP decision in the Supreme Court. The process of obtaining an earlier date for the poll was entirely legal, no appeal was entered against the court's decision, and to use it as an excuse to boycott the election merely sets an inapt example for those contesting other elections, such as national or provincial.