PTI Leads in National Popularity, but PMLN Closes Gap in Punjab: Report

With less than six weeks to go before the general elections on Feb 8, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party still enjoys the highest popularity among the voters across the country, according to informed sources.

However, the sources also revealed that the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), led by Nawaz Sharif, has made significant gains in Punjab, the largest and most populous province, where it has traditionally been dominant.

The sources, who referred to the latest on-ground assessments of the political situation, said that the difference in popularity between PTI and PMLN in Punjab, which was around 15% in favour of PTI a few months ago, has now shrunk to around 5%.

This means that PMLN is poised to give a tough fight to PTI in the province, which accounts for more than half of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

The sources attributed the rise of PMLN in Punjab to the return of Nawaz Sharif from self-exile in October last year, after he was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison on corruption charges in 2018.

Sharif, who has maintained his innocence and accused the military establishment of orchestrating his ouster and imprisonment, has been leading a vigorous campaign against the PTI government, which he alleges came to power through a rigged election.

Sharif’s daughter and political heir, Maryam Nawaz, has also been mobilizing the party’s supporters and workers through rallies and public meetings, despite facing several cases and restrictions.

The Sources said that the events of May 9th have significantly affected PTI’s popularity. It was also affected by internal rifts and divisions within the party, as well as the allegations of corruption and incompetence against some of its former ministers and members.

However, the sources added that the PTI still has an edge over the PMLN at the national level, as it has a higher approval rating in other provinces, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), where it has been ruling since 2013, and in Balochistan, where it was part of the ruling coalition.

The sources cited a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan in June-July last year, which showed that 38% of the respondents strongly liked PTI, while 16% strongly liked PMLN, 10% strongly liked Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), 15% strongly liked Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), 9% strongly liked Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), and 6% strongly liked Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQMP).

Among the politicians, the survey showed that Imran Khan had the highest positive approval rating at 60%, followed by Saad Rizvi and Pervaiz Elahi at 38% each, Shah Mehmood Qureshi at 37%, Nawaz Sharif at 36%, Shehbaz Sharif at 35%, Maryam Nawaz at 30%, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at 28%, and others.

In Punjab, the survey showed that Imran Khan had a positive approval rating of 58%, Saad Rizvi of 49%, Pervaiz Elahi of 49%, Shah Mehmood Qureshi of 43%, Shehbaz Sharif of 43%, Nawaz Sharif of 41%, Maryam Nawaz of 37%, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of 33%, and others. The survey did not include Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chairman of PPP, as he was not assessed.

The sources said that the next five weeks are crucial for the political parties and the voters, as the election campaign will gain momentum and the voters’ trend will also change.

They said that the surveys and assessments about the election results become more relevant when done close to the polling day, as many factors can influence the voters’ choice, such as the performance of the caretaker government, the security situation, the media coverage, the candidates’ profiles, and the voters’ turnout.

They said that the PTI and the PMLN are expected to be the main contenders for the majority of the seats in the National Assembly, while the PPP, the TLP, the JI, the MQMP, and other regional and religious parties will also play an important role in some constituencies and in the formation of the next government.

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