Thursday December 07, 2023

ECP report

By Editorial Board
October 02, 2023

The ECP last week released the provisional report on the delimitation of constituencies based on the recently concluded census. This is the first step the ECP has taken towards the upcoming general elections – with the preliminary report and map of constituencies available on the ECP’s website. The electoral watchdog has said that the publication of preliminary constituencies would continue for 30 days till October 26 and voters of a constituency are free to approach the ECP if they have any objection to the delimitation. However, the delimitation report has also led to some questions. For example, the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has said that as many as 180 constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies as proposed by the ECP do not meet the legal preferability of 10 per cent variation in population, which had been added to the Elections Act via amendments by the previous parliament. This is a significant number of constituencies and the ECP must clarify because these and other objections need to be heard properly.

The ECP will need to address objections and comments to its report as per process so that it can then announce a final polling date. Political observers say that some political parties have been affected more than others – with some pointing at the PPP and Balochistan overall as an example of having been short-changed. Whatever happens with appeals and objections by the ECP now will determine what the elections have in store for us. We definitely need elections as soon as possible because the country’s political stability depends on that. But we need elections to be free and fair and we need voters to know that their vote and constituency counts and matters. Many voters have complained of their polling booths being changed arbitrarily despite the same address on their CNIC that they had earlier. The other issue that FAFEN has pointed out is equally important – inequality in population of constituencies. Election observers have also pointed out that, while there has been little real change due to the delimitation exercise, the process in itself seems arbitrary and should ideally – perhaps at a later date – be rethought.

The entire delimitation exercise will take another month or so. The ECP had earlier said that the elections may take place at the end of January. However, some observers have pointed out that without a final date, the ECP can delay the elections even further. They say that there may be some issues related to the cold weather – including snow and fog in some areas – that could delay the elections by a few weeks, for them to finally take place in February. While it is too early to say anything at the moment about the possibility of another delay in elections, it is important that the ECP first addresses the issue of delimitations to satisfy all objections. This will be the second step towards a final date for the election. The third step would of course be a date and then the real test will come when elections finally take place next year. Free and fair elections are imperative for a conflict resolution between political parties and their supporters. These elections have already become controversial due to the situation regarding the PTI and Imran Khan. Pakistan really cannot afford controversial elections right now; the ECP has a big job ahead – it needs to make sure it does while rising above any and all differences and pressures.