hree narratives have defined the 2018 elections: service delivery, corruption and respect for vote. The Herald-SDPI opinion survey, conducted between June 25 and July 12 this year, elicited public opinions regarding these narratives to ascertain which of them is resonating with the voters and whether there are any electorally significant narratives that are missing from the media discourse on the upcoming elections.
Using results and original survey data from the November 2015 local government elections in the Sargodha District of rural Punjab, Pakistan, insights are offered into the institutional and organisational responses that can help strengthen local democracy. These results form part of a larger research project being conducted by the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS), which examines how voters make choices broadly. It explores the relative weight voters give to party performance vs. candidates’ political and bureaucratic connections. It highlights the need for reporting, debate and a rule-based separation of functions and finances to strengthen local democracy in Pakistan.
Why do some citizens receive better municipal services than others?
Comparative political economy is deeply concerned with this question, but most answers so far suggest that unequal access to these services is determined by either class or partisan voting. This research from Pakistan found that the unequal provision of functional municipal services is a particular challenge in the central neighbourhoods of megacities in emerging democracies.
What explains this trend? The difference in urban citizens’ access to services in Lahore appears to be linked to the density of party worker networks at the local level, and to levels of electoral competition faced by political representatives.
This is an important finding for policy purposes because it establishes the intrinsic value of multiparty competition, which, in and of itself, can make politicians more responsive to citizens’ demands for the provision of services, even when institutions are weak.
These findings suggest that improvements to service delivery will require institutional reforms that strengthen channels of political accountability at the local level.