While the caretaker Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers have been appointed, moving the country inexorably to the elections, it must be noted that Pakistan’s elections are by no means the only ones taking place and thus it is hardly a stand-out. So the task of navigating the shoals of government involve a complication; this complication is hardly limited to Pakistan. If we are to look at the difficulty that Pakistan faces, all its interlocutors internationally have either faced an election, or will do so.

The USA has had its third election only last year, since it invaded Afghanistan. It has re-elected its second President. Afghanistan itself will go to the polls next year, in an American presidential-style election, which will not just be the last election under occupation, but will have a new President, since President Hamid Karzai is coming up against the two-term limit.

India, which has grown so close to the USA, is due to have an election not later than next year that might mean a different Prime Minister even if the Congress again manages to form the government, which is by no means a certainty.

Other US allies that experienced changes of government were Japan and South Korea. Japan elected the Liberal Democratic Party back to power, which formed a government headed by Shintaro Abe, a former Foreign Minister. South Korea not only elected a woman President in Park Geun-Hye, but also the daughter of Park Chung Hee, a general who had taken over in 1961, before himself being assassinated in a coup attempt in 1979.

Daughters of dead rulers have been tried elsewhere in Asia, most notably in South Asia, where Indira Gandhi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and Hasina Wajid of Bangladesh all not just reminded their nations of famous fathers, but preceded Megawati Soekarnoputri of Indonesia, who was the Muslim world’s first female President.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi provides another example of the daughter of a national leader achieving political prominence, being the daughter of Aung San, Myanmar’s fist leader after independence in 1948, though she has not been her country’s chief executive, but leader of its opposition.

However, one of the results that the USA was most interested in, was that of the Israeli election, in which Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected Prime Minister. That he, himself pro-settlement, headed a government which pushed harder for Zionist settlements in the occupied West Bank, was probably something the USA, and certainly its legislators, found helpful, though it would retard the peace process with the Palestinians.

One of the main differences for the USA lies in that between the British parliamentary-style and the American presidential-style elections. While both India and Pakistan are former British colonies, with parliamentary-governments, Afghanistan has a presidential government.

Similarly, Japan has a parliamentary form, whereas South Korea a presidential. However, since prime ministers produced by the parliamentary system have grown into president-style chief executives, rather than the originally conceived cabinet chairmen, whether a prime minister is elected or a president, it does not seem there will be any substantial difference in dealing with a fully empowered chief executive. Any differences will be national, not systemic. The rule of thumb seems to be that if a country has a parliamentary system already, it will be allowed to retain it, but it will have a presidential system if it has been conquered by the USA.

Another US ally with a parliamentary system and a recent election has been Italy, which might have to go to the polls again soon, because the poll has not yet yielded a government that could do what is required of it by the European Central Bank.

This is the dilemma already faced by Greece, another US ally with recent polls after it had threatened to pull down the euro, and with all the economies of the Euro Zone. Mexico has a presidential system, with a president just elected in the middle of a crime wave because of drug smuggling into the USA.

Nevertheless, where leaders have been re-elected, and thus apparently face no further electoral pressure to behave in a certain manner, their parties remain, and need candidates for the next election. This can be observed in Afghanistan, the USA and South Korea (which has a one-term limit).

In Pakistan, the situation is complicated. One of the advantages of a presidential system over a parliamentary is that the chief executive on offer is clear. One of the factors that has made the parliamentary system more presidential is that parties have needed personalities to lead them in campaigns, and thus in government.

Aspirants to the prime ministership have stepped in with natural consequences when any of them actually won office.

In Pakistan, the PPP does not have a candidate for the prime ministership. ‘Nominee of Asif Zardari’ was what the party had to offer last time, but that is hardly a prospect to enthuse the workers when coming off a less-than-distinguished tenure of government, especially when the nominees seemed more devoted to preventing President Zardari from being faced with the corruption cases against him than with solving the nation’s problems.

If it was sure which party would win if the PPP lost, at least then it might be clear who would be the next Prime Minister. In 1997, it was crystal clear that if the PPP lost, only the PML-N would win, and if it did, then Mian Nawaz Sharif would be Prime Minister. It was reasonably clear all along that Benazir Bhutto was the PPP’s candidate for Prime Minister.

At this point, however, there is no certainty which party will take office, because the PPP faces two candidates to replace it. While it may not have a natural prime ministerial candidate, both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have their hats in the ring as replacements. For all the advantages of electoral democracy, it is not clear who are the possibilities for the prime ministership.

While the USA may be inconvenienced by this change at this point, it is also the first step heralding the end of the US occupation of Afghanistan. It even precedes the impending retirements of the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief Justice.

If the PPP retains office, it is unlikely to see Raja Pervaiz Ashraf remain PM. Though President Zardari will, probably, be re-elected, and will nominate the next PM, at this point it seems that the electorate will punish it for failing to control inflation or end the energy crisis.

The issues in the election are plentiful, and the PPP seems restricted to pleading that it is not the PML-N. From an out-and-out leftist party, it has evolved to one that is left of centre, but which has adopted the capitalist agenda wholeheartedly. As such, it might have an uphill task differentiating itself from the PML-N, which has also adopted that agenda, or the PTI and its reform agenda.

Worldwide, however, the USA seems in the process of having its allies re-elected. That is, perhaps, the only factor that allows the PPP some hope. But the US knows that the policy it is really interested in is determined by the army, not the elected government. So, perhaps, it will not mind a civilian change of guard.

The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as executive editor of TheNation. Email: maniazi@nation.com.pk