With PM Imran Khan’s ouster likely to bring another round of instability in the nuclear-armed nation, a look at how the no-confidence vote works.
Pakistan’s parliament is set to begin debating a no-confidence motion in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which could see the former cricket star removed and the return of political uncertainty to the nuclear-armed country.
Khan, 69, has been facing mounting criticism of his performance, including his management of an economy beset by high inflation and rising deficits, and he lost his majority in parliament on Wednesday when a main ally quit his coalition.
On Wednesday, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), abandoned Khan’s coalition and threw its lot in with the opposition seeking to remove him.
“The prime minister is as good as gone,” the influential English-language Dawn newspaper said in an editorial on the front page of its website on Wednesday.
A vote on the motion is expected to be held by Monday.
How does a no-confidence vote work?
Under the constitution, a prime minister is elected by a majority of the lower house National Assembly, which has 342 members.
A candidate needs a majority of legislators, 172 or more, to vote for him to become prime minister. That is the same number of votes needed to pass a no-confidence vote against him and his cabinet.
So Khan could still survive a no-confidence vote if he gets fewer votes than the opposition, but only if the latter does not get the requisite 172 votes.
What happens after the vote?
If Khan loses the vote, parliament can continue to function until its five-year tenure ends in August 2023, after which a general election is due within 60 days.
There will be a vote in the National Assembly to elect a new prime minister to serve until then. Candidates can be put forward by any party represented in the assembly.
The new prime minister can, however, call a general election immediately, without waiting until 2023.
Some constitutional analysts say the assembly can be dissolved and a general election held if no candidate can secure a majority of votes to become the prime minister.
What is the timeline for the vote?
Opposition parties filed the no-confidence motion in early March and it was presented and tabled before the National Assembly on Monday.
The speaker of the National Assembly has to carry out the vote no sooner than three days and no later than seven days after the motion is tabled.
The earliest the vote can happen is Thursday. The latest, by most accounts, is Monday.
Is the vote close?
Yes, Khan faces a tight vote, especially with the loss of coalition partners.
He became prime minister after his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), won the most seats in the 2018 general elections but the PTI did not have a simple majority and had to form a coalition.
The PTI has 155 members, and it was coalition partners that allowed Khan to cross the 172-vote threshold to be elected prime minister in 2018. The PTI-led coalition increased its numbers over the past three years.
What is Khan’s strategy?
Khan has ordered all PTI legislators to not attend the assembly on the day of the vote to mitigate any chance of dissidents secretly supporting the motion to remove him.
Absenteeism would not hurt Khan’s cause because he does not need to win, he just needs to ensure that the opposition cannot get the 172 votes they need.
Khan has also filed a petition in the courts seeking lifetime electoral bans against individuals who broke ranks with his cause, in a bid to dissuade potential dissidents.