Musharraf gets his moment (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 8/26/05, Asia Times)

The first of three stages of local council elections has been completed in Pakistan, with the initial results marking victory for people allied with President General Pervez Musharraf.

The longer-term implications of the results, according to analysts, are that Musharraf can now position himself to further consolidate his power, and at the same time do something to answer international pressure for change in the country.

The local elections involve all of Pakistan’s 110 districts. In the first stage 53 districts voted, with the remainder due to cast their votes this week. Then, on September 29 the councilors elected in the first two rounds will elect district chiefs. These chiefs have a power far beyond their local communities: they can influence elections for both national and provincial assemblies, which are due in 2007, the same year that presidential elections will be held.

Thus, by gaining support at the grass-roots level, Musharraf is taking a big step toward ensuring his political future as a democratically elected leader, rather than the military ruler he is now, having seized power in a coup in 1999.

The General understands his own need for democratic legitimacy, even if his Western critics don’t.

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