2017 Election Law: FAFEN urges government to refrain from making changes – Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Electoral Network (FAFEN) urged the government to hastily refrain from introducing changes to the 2017 electoral law, in particular the adoption of electronic voting and biometric machines, a statement said Press.
He also called for a wider public debate and political discourse on much needed electoral reforms.
The network said that if structural and systemic issues undermining the integrity and credibility of the electoral process and its results are not addressed, democracy will continue to be breathless.
Instead of identifying solutions before an evidence-based diagnosis of troubled diseases in the elections and their results, and following democratic consolidation in Pakistan, FAFEN urges political parties to get back to basics, asking them to work together to set up an electoral system. this can ensure the fulfillment of the constitutional preamble, which says that the will of the Pakistani people will establish an order in which the state will exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.
Therefore, any debate must begin with a detailed examination of the electoral system in vogue in the country, which has become obsolete.
The first past the post system (FPTP) practiced in Pakistan since the 1970 general election (GE) does not translate all the votes cast into representation.
This results in a parliament and a government which does not represent a majority.
The governments thus formed were weak because they never represented more than 17 percent of the votes cast and 46 percent of the votes polled.
The current government represents 31 percent of respondents, 16 percent of registrants and eight percent of the population.
This institutionalization of minority governments has never enabled democratic institutions to strengthen and democratic values ââto flourish.
According to a historical analysis of election results, 53% of all votes polled in GE 2002 did not result in any representation, 50% in GE 2008, 52% in GE 2013 and 57% in GE 2018.
As a result, political parties get seats in assemblies that are disproportionate to their share of the vote.
For example, Muttahida Majlis Amal garnered 2,604,086 votes in GE 2018 with 12 seats in the National Assembly, while Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan garnered 2,194,978 votes but without seats.
The voting rate by seat of other political parties in GE 2018 also presents a compelling case for a more in-depth debate on changing the electoral system.
Alternative and more advanced representation systems such as the list proportional representation system can be considered to ensure that electoral results reflect a maximum number of votes cast in representation, reflecting political diversity.
As many as 89 countries around the world are now using variants of PR systems for their representational efficiency.
Another critical area is voter registration. Unless the voter register is complete, there can be no election that can be considered entirely fair.
No less than 12.41 million women continue to be disenfranchised despite intense efforts by the Pakistan Election Commission (ECP) to register them since December 2017.
Since these women do not have a National Identity Card (NIC), a legal prerequisite for their registration on the electoral roll, it is incumbent on the government to take special measures to ensure that they are registered with the electoral register. the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), as also required by the National Registration and Database Authority (NADRA). the Election Law of 2017.
There may also be a few million men of eligible age who are not enrolled.
However, the true extent of under-registration will not be established until the government reports the age-disaggregated results of the population census carried out in 2017.
An effort to reform the electoral system will be incomplete if it does not remedy its inability to produce representation of all economic classes, ethnicities, religious minorities and genders in elected chambers.
Tangible steps are needed to make the electoral system more inclusive, enabling it to turn political, ethnic and religious diversity in Pakistan into a force rather than a source of division and fragmentation.
The model of elitist democracy must be urgently rethought through appropriate measures that can minimize the use of money in elections.
Equally important will be measures to ensure the impartiality of state and governmental institutions in the electoral process.
This question continued to dominate post-election debates and political challenges for decades, but remains unanswered.
Another critical area is delineation.
The principle of constituencies of equal size must be strictly protected in any future reform.
There are at least 81 constituencies in the National Assembly (AN) and 92 in the Provincial Assembly (AP) that do not meet the legal requirement of a +10 percent change in the population.
As a result, the National Assembly constituencies now range from 1,167,892 (NA-35 Bannu) to a population of 254,356 (NA-47, Orakzai Agency Tribal Area-VIII). A comparative evaluation of electoral districts reveals an unequal population between districts.
Such differences also undermine the legitimacy and integrity of the electoral process.
Boundaries based on an equal number of voters, as recommended by the government in its 2020 Election Law (Amendment) bill, may be more appropriate to address this issue. However, it also requires political negotiation.
FAFEN recommends that the government hold a referendum as permitted by the Constitution on these matters of public interest.
He must bring the issues to the Pakistani people as a means of strengthening democracy.
Referendum questions can include whether Pakistanis want electronic voting machines (EVMs) / biometrics and whether Pakistanis want a public relations system.
Article 48 (6) of the Constitution provides: “If at any time the Prime Minister considers it necessary to hold a referendum on a question of national importance, he may refer the question to a joint sitting of Parliament, and if it is approved at a joint meeting, the Prime Minister may have such a question referred to a referendum in the form of a question which can be answered with “yes” or “no”.
The haste with which the government is pushing for electoral reforms, including the introduction of EVDs and biometric machines, is cause for concern.
This raises serious questions about the outcome of any political dialogue that might take place on the reform process. Despite the importance of technology in instilling efficiency, transparency and consistency in the electoral process, the introduction of EVDs and biometrics is a significant change. It should not be introduced without a broader public and political discourse.
An ordinance is certainly not the way to take measures to strengthen democracy.
Only citizens should have the right to decide on matters related to their constitutional right to vote.
For these matters of public importance, the drafters of the Constitution included the provision for a referendum.
The referendum process will allow all political parties to freely take a stand on the use of technology with Pakistani citizens.
Such a step will also give Pakistani citizens a sense of much needed political empowerment.
Each of them will participate in shaping the framework for future elections in the country.
Copyright recorder, 2021