Electoral System Suited to Pakistan and The Needful Reforms
The preamble of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 elucidates, “the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.”
The word ‘chosen’ mentioned herein puts a guiding light on the need of free and fair elections in Pakistan. If the representatives sitting in Parliament do not carry the confidence of general public and if they make their way to the legislature through improper means, all the work done by them, in legal perspective, is mala fide and does not come up to effectual tied. Furthermore, people lose their confidence in the system and eventually such system collapses, bit by bit.
In its 2013 General Elections report, the European Union Election Observer Mission, observed that “Fundamental problems remain with the legal framework and the implementation of certain provisions, leaving future processes vulnerable to malpractice and Pakistan not fully meeting its obligations to provide citizens the right and opportunity to stand as candidates and to vote.”
According to this observation, problem lies in two facets; firstly the non-implementation of existing laws and secondly the vacuity of robust legal fabric. Therefore, we need serious deliberations, in this regard, and the objective of this work is to suggest workable solutions for democratic participation so that the marginalized population in Pakistan is represented, fully.
Basically, in recent time, two starring electoral systems are working in the most part of the world; one is FPTP System and the second is PR System.
What is Proportional Representation System?
Proportional Representation (PR) portrays electoral system by which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. On the off chance that 30% of the electorate underpins a specific political party, then approximately 30% of seats will be won by that party. The embodiment of such system is that all votes add to the outcome: not only a majority, or an uncovered larger part, of them.
What is First Past the Post System?
First Past the Post (FPTP) is a straightforward majority appointive system in which the triumphant competitor just needs a majority of votes i.e. one vote more than his driving rival, in order to win a seat. The purpose behind the race is to choose a man from the constituency who can be either a member of the political party or an independent competitor.
System Suitable in the dynamics of Pakistan and Rationale behind it:
The socio-political dynamics of Pakistan are such that it can better adjust and survive with FPTP System. The logical support behind it is as follows;
• FPTP is the existing system in the country and so it is predicted that reforms in the system can be easily initiated and implemented. On the contrary, PR system would be a new practice not only for the politicians but also and more importantly for the voters- an overwhelming majority of whom is illiterate. This makes it difficult for the voters to reorient themselves and participate in the voting process which would be directly defying the purpose of the reforms.
• Pakistan is a very diverse county with multiple ethnicities, communal and religious groups existing at the same time. The presence of so many varying communities means that it is usually hard for people from different backgrounds to agree to the simplest issues. Establishing the PR system means that we would be taking these differences to the parliament. It is foreseen that the differences might become a hurdle in the adoption of proper legislation – a situation which is in conflict with the purpose of the parliament. Hence, to avoid hung parliament FPTP system would be more suitable electorate system in Pakistan.
• Accountability has been a long standing issue in Pakistan. FPTP system gives voters a direct authority over who is chosen and ensures if a candidate is not responsible; voters have a right to prevent his/her re-election. However, in PR system people have no choice over who would represent them, given that the party would be selecting the candidate in each constituency once the elections have been conducted.
• There would be a relatively less chance of for nepotism because selection of candidates would be done by voters not by party leaders.
• FPTP will also ensure that there is a less chance of inclusion of extremist/fundamentalist parties within the system. This is because in PR system seats in the parliament are given on the basis of total votes received by a certain party ensuring representation of fundamental thoughts.
• In FPTP system, candidates are elected by elections taking place in their respective constituencies. Contrary to the PR system, where candidates are assigned by the party. This would prevent assignment of people who have no real experience and or connection to a certain constituency.
• In PR system, the seats are proportional to the number of votes given to a certain party. This means that a party which belongs to the largest province, that is Punjab in this case, would always be in the majority in the parliament and might result in conflict of interests and exploitation of smaller and/or scarcely populated provinces.
• In FPTP system, there is a strong opposition which can keep the leading party accountable for all the actions taken in their term.
• FPTP system also gives the voters a chance to choose between party and personality and hence, greater choice. Furthermore, independent candidates will also be able to contest in the elections.
• FPTP system is more likely to discourage the dynastic system, usually prevalent within Pakistani Politics as candidates would only be selected on the basis of the voter’s preference.
Needful Electoral Reforms:
To amend the Election Commission order of 2002 and Representation of Public Act (1976)
o Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should be provided with more administrative powers such as the credential placements of administration and other bureaucratic officers as practiced in India.
• To conduct a population census as soon as possible to verify the vote bank across the country as the last census was conducted in 1998 and there have been a significant demographic change in the population of Pakistan and many unidentified voters reside in the region making it difficult for National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to maintain the voter records.
• To launch a pilot project to experiment and check the viability of bio-metric system in the upcoming by-elections. Bio-metric system has been in debate since a very long time and its practicality has been challenged over time. Therefore, we need to experiment it at smaller levels before introducing it in the general elections.
• To strengthen the local government by conducting local bodies elections under the supervision of Election Commission of Pakistan. Political power should trickle down the system to strengthen democracy and the only practical approach to do so is by conducting local government elections and transferring power to the general representatives of the People of Pakistan.
• Increase the time period provided to Returning officers for the scrutiny of those who submit their nomination papers by providing them with at least 21 days instead of just 7 days. Only seven days are provided to the Returning Officer to scrutinize the nomination papers which is inadequate and leads to mismanagement of records. Other Federal Institutions such as FBR, NAB, SBP and FIA should be asked to provide assistance in this process;
• Article 213 (2) should be revised leaving it unconditional for the Chief Election Commissioner to be from Judicial background. In fact, people from other backgrounds such as Bureaucrats, Market Experts and other Civil Servants should also be allowed to comply for this position.
• To seek assistance from United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) in submission of election results to Election Commission of Pakistan through computerized system. UNDP should be involved as previously done in 2013 general elections, to avoid time delays and fabrication of the original results.
• To maximize and capitalize on our voter base, overseas Pakistani should be encouraged to vote through postal ballot papers.
• As per law, Member Provincial Assembly is allowed to spend Rs. 1 Million on their election campaign whereas Member National Assembly is allowed Rs. 1.5 million. So, it is suggested not to alter the figures but at the same time it is strongly recommended to the interim government to provide uniform assistance to all participating parties by providing airtime on state televisions, conducting debates etc. as practiced in Presidential Elections of United States of America.
We bolster endeavors to dispose of hindrances to democratic participation in Pakistan by guaranteeing that nose count, redistricting and electoral systems are reasonable and comprehensive. These endeavors incorporate expanding exoteric understanding of the issues in question; specifically captivating prohibited groups of people in reform efforts; and supporting groups that work to fortify and uphold the law. But the challenge is to transform the substantive reforms from appraisal to reality. Whatever the present result of political crisis is, every single political leader ought to recognize that holding another election without another nose count, and without attending to shortcomings in the legitimate and authoritative system, is not in Pakistan’s greatest interest. Truth be told, it would a hazard risking Pakistan’s hard won vote based democratic amplification.