Saturday, January 16, 2010

Political Participation And Party Membership

Political Participation And Party Membership:


Akhtar Ali.


The common impression is that political parties in Pakistan discouraged general membership, and prefer to have “core workers”. The possible reason for this is the apprehension that the party may be hijacked by some “interest groups” who may manage to mobilize general party workers who may not be as ideologically committed to parties’ mission, characters and ideology, as core workers would be. Nevertheless, large pool of workers is required to maintain party organization and win elections. Thus there is a varying level of motivation to induct party members and launch membership campaigns. Reliance is usually made to induct members through personal contacts.

The ambivalent attitude is also reflected by lack of proper membership registers and databases of party members, and accurate statistics thereof, as we find this in established democracies.


Following estimates of political party membership are usually guessed by commentators;

  PPP                     20, 000.

  PML (N):           100,000.

  MQM     :            50,000.

  Jamaat E Islami: 25,000.



                             Required Number Of Workers For Political Parties :



%Votes polled 2008

Potentially allied electorate million

Required no of workers @


Guess estimates no of workers.






































Total Registered Voters
















Admittedly, the political participation in most European countries has come down from a high level in 1960s to a much reduced level in 2005. In 1960s in Austria and Scandinavian countries, political participatory rate used to be between 15-25%, which came down to a level of 5-20% in 2005. In the UK, participation rate in 1960 was 10% and came down to 2% in 2005. In Italy it came down to 4% from 12%, in Germany, the rate increased 4% in 1980s and came down to 3%; in Netherlands from 9% to 3%. A general average for Europe can be taken as 4 % that is 4 political workers out of every 100 electorates (voters).

In India, with a population of 1.0 billion and registered voters 671 million have some 60 to 80 million estimated party workers, which is more than 10% of the electorates.

In Pakistan, at a participation rate of 4%, both PPP and PML(N) should have 1.0 million strong party workers , each a slightly more. As against these members, PPP has 2% of the required number and PML 10% of the required number. By comparison in India, BJP had 30 million workers in 1980,  Shiv Sena 5 million and Congress 15 million.             

Without a strong worker base, the political parties cannot mobilize public opinion and much less resist military coups, which is a frequent requirement of political parties in Pakistan. Infact absence of core workers in required numbers is one of the major reasons, the military dictator is able to assume power so swiftly and amicably without any resistance. Military dictator goes away only when general discontentment against him and his policies becomes too widespread.

Recent success of lawyers’ movement is a case in point, proving what an organized force can achieve in the context of popular support.

If democracy is to be strengthened and re-enforced and military coups resisted and repulsed, political parties will have to strengthen their cadre by;

a)   enhancing the numbers

b)   training and motivation

c)    indoctrinating the workers with party ideology and programme.


Fortunately Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N) have started

their membership campaigns under strong competitive pressure. We wish them success. Democracy has started paying dividends and right kinds of incentives have already started operating. It is hoped that the democratic order sustain and flourish.

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