Role of Election Commission In Intra Party Elections
The political parties play a pivotal role in fostering a constitutional and democratic political culture in a country. The intra-party elections and the practice of democracy within the political parties not only promote democratic governance for sustaining democracy but also ensures a political environment conductive to the promotion of a democratic system as enshrined in the constitution.
It is mandatory for a political party, by means of Political Parties Order 2002, to conduct intra-party elections within a stipulated time period. The framework, procedure and mechanism entrenched in the Political Parties Order, 2002 and the Political Parties Rules, 2002 provides that the party leader and other office-bearers of every political party at the Federal, Provincial and local levels, wherever applicable, shall be elected periodically in accordance with party’s constitution through secret ballot based on a democratic and transparent system, Provided that a period, not exceeding four years, shall intervene between any two elections (Article 11).
Article 14 of the Political Parties Order, 2002 provides as under;
- 14. Eligibility of party to obtain election symbol.—(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, a political party shall be eligible to obtain an election symbol for contesting elections for Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) and Provincial Assemblies on submission of certificates and statement referred to in Articles 12 and 13:
- Provided that a combination of political parties shall be entitled to obtain a common election symbol for such election only if, each party constituting such combination, submits the certificates and statement referred to in Articles 12 and 13.
- (2) Where any political party or a combination of political parties, severally or collectively, contravenes the provisions of Article 12 or 13, it shall not be entitled to obtain an election symbol for election to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or the Provincial Assemblies, and the Election Commission shall not allocate an election symbol to such party or, as the case may be, the combination of political parties for such election.
Article 7 of the Political Parties Rules, 2002 provides as under;
- Submission of certificate to the Election Commission regarding intra-party elections:
- (1) The Party Leader of each political party under his signatures shall, within seven days of the completion of intra-party elections, submit a certificate to the Election Commission in Form-II specifying that the intra- party elections have been held in accordance with the constitution of the party and the provisions of the Order.
- (2) The Election Commission shall, after satisfying itself that the certificate fulfills the requirements of Articles 11 and 12 of the Order, publish the certificate including the details of election in the official Gazette.
It is obvious from the bare reading of the above provisions of law that it is mandatory for a political party to conduct free, fair and transparent intra-party elections as per the constitution of the party and to submits its record to the Election Commission of Pakistan. However, law does not only make political parties bound to conduct intra party elections but also empowers the Election Commission of Pakistan to make rules and implies that the Election Commission of Pakistan is empowered and responsible for making all necessary arrangements for the said purpose. Law conferred such responsibility to the Election Commission of Pakistan and ensured that all activities that were carried out in anticipation thereof, adhered to standards of justness and fairness, were honest, in accordance with law. Relevant provisions of law are reproduced here;
Article 218 (1) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 provides two purposes of establishment of the Election Commission;
- Election Commission.—[(1) For the purpose of election to both Houses of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), Provincial Assemblies and for election to such other public offices as may be specified by law, a permanent Election Commission shall be constituted in accordance with this Article].
Article 218 (3) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 provides two duties upon the Election Commission;
It shall be the duty of the Election Commission to organize and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against.
Article 19 of the Political Parties Order, 2002 provides as under;
- The Election Commission may, with approval of the [President], make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Order.
And Rule 12 of the Political Parties Rules, 2002 provides as under;
- The Election Commission may, from time to time, prescribe such performance as it may deem necessary for carrying out the purposes of the Order.
There can be no escape from the fact that it is the duty of the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, be it a general election or a by-election or any other election and for the election to any other public office as prescribed by law. It is the command of the Constitution under Article 218(3) that the Election Commission of Pakistan is charged with the duty to ensure free, fair and just elections in the country for any public office as prescribed by law. Consequently, Election Commission must fulfill its obligation cast upon it by Article 218 of the Constitution for ensuring the holding of free, fair and transparent elections and to achieve such purpose seek assistance, if necessary from the Executive Authorities in the federation in this regard that are obliged to render such assistance by virtue of Article 220 of the Constitution and also to make Rules, if necessary, to ensure that the elections may be conducted, honestly fairly and justly.
The Honorable Supreme Court in its judgment in Imran Khan case reported as PLD 2013 SC 120 held as under;
- (g) Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, Articles 218(3), 219(a), 51(2)(c)A free, fair, just and transparent election is the very heart of our democratic system, as envisaged by the Constitution. Such elections must not only be held in a fair, just and honest manner but also appear to be so; in order to inspire the confidence of the electorate. The provisions of Article 219 of the Constitution and the Electoral Rolls Act, 1974 and rules framed there under must necessarily be interpreted in manner so as to achieve the said object.
Article 218 of the Constitution gives mandate to the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure a free, fair and transparent election of any public office including offices of political parties while Article 19 of the Political Order 2002 empowers the Election Commission of Pakistan to make Rules to carry on the purpose of the Order, and Rule 12 of the Political Parties Rules, 2002 empowers the Election Commission of Pakistan may, from time to time, prescribe such performance as it may deem necessary for carrying out the purposes of the Order, therefore, the Election Commission of Pakistan is legally bound to make arrangements so that the a political party may ensure free, credible, transparent, honest and just intra-party elections.
Very serious concerns and reservations have been arisen against the role and performance of Election Commission of Pakistan who has a track record of failures to fulfill its constitutional mandate that even the term “jhurloo” regarding massive rigging which was firstly popularized in 1951, still exists and has become a concept largely adopted by the political parties of Pakistan while the Election Commission is unable to adopt the modes to guard against the corrupt practices committed by its staff in elections. On the other hand, in intra-party elections, where the Commission has to play a vital role of facilitating political parties to ensure a transparent election, it has badly failed to perform its statutory functions. Recently, when Tasneem Noorani, the Chief Election Election Commissioner of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf requested the Commission to verify the electoral lists of the voters for intra-party elections to ensure a credible electoral list, the Commission refused to do so. The case is pending before the Supreme Court but has raised many questions again on the credibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.