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August 15, 2018

Will MNAs follow party discipline in speaker’s election?

Top Story

August 15, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Will members of the National Assembly (MNAs) religiously vote along party lines in the election of the Speaker and his Deputy?

Both sides – the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allies, and the opposition coalition, Pakistan Alliance for Fair & Free Elections (PAFFE) – expect gains over and above their actual strengths.

As the respective numerical power of the upcoming ruling alliance and opposition grouping is known and documented, any erosion in it will mark defections from their ranks.

Since the election of the Speaker will be held through a secret ballot, it will be difficult to precisely recognise defector(s) from any side. Same had happened in the election of the Senate chairman and his deputy in March this year when desertions had taken place from the ranks of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The PML-N had privately claimed that it identified the defectors in a subsequent internal probe but it never made their names public.

All the parties of the ruling coalition and opposition cluster are not under the discipline of PTI chairman and prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan and next leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif respectively in the Speaker’s election. Rather, the MPs of every party are required to follow the instructions of their own party head.

Keeping in view the expectations of the incoming ruling coalition and opposition alliance to get more than what is due and legal, some people have predicted an upset in the Speaker’s election.

Although, on the eve of the Speaker’s election, a kind of bad feeling has been created in the PML-N due to the PPP’s expression of reservations over the nomination of Shahbaz Sharif as the prime minister’s candidate, the former, according to one of its senior leaders who talked to The News, will vote for Khursheed Shah as per the understanding reached between the two sides.

“We hope with the same spirit the PPP will support Shahbaz Sharif in the race for the premier’s office,” he said. “The opposition parties can’t afford even a minor disunity in their ranks. We will remain a major parliamentary force only if we are a solid, cohesive bloc.”

The balloting for the Speaker and prime minister will test the solidity and harmony in the multiparty PAFFE. It will be the first time that its components will be taking part in the voting process for their joint candidates.

All elections held under the Constitution except those of the prime minister and chief ministers are held through secret ballot. The election of the premier and chief ministers is organised through show of hands under which the MPs are divided into different lobbies.

Importantly, those voting in this election against the party discipline may not be hit by the defection clause of the Constitution although it will be an immoral and dishonest practice, despised universally.

The Article 63A specifies who will be struck by the floor-crossing provision. It gives specific categories, which don’t include the speaker’s election.

It says that if a member of a parliamentary party composed of a single political party in a House [National Assembly, Senate and provincial assembly] resigns from its membership or joins another parliamentary party; or votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill; he may be declared in writing by the party head to have defected from the political party, and the party head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer [speaker or chairman] and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and shall similarly forward a copy thereof to the member concerned.

However, before making the declaration, the party head shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him. The party head means any person, by whatever name called, declared as such by the party.

An MP shall be deemed to be a member of a parliamentary party if he, having been elected as a candidate or nominee of a political party which constitutes the parliamentary party in the House or, having been elected otherwise than as a candidate or nominee of a political party, has become a member of such parliamentary party after such election by means of a declaration in writing.

Upon receipt of such declaration, the Presiding Officer shall within two days refer, and in case he fails to do so it shall be deemed that he has referred, the declaration to the CEC who shall lay the declaration before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for its decision thereon confirming the declaration or otherwise within thirty days of its receipt by the CEC.

Where the ECP confirms the declaration, the concerned member shall cease to be an MP and his seat shall become vacant. Any party aggrieved by the decision of the ECP may, within thirty days, prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court which shall decide the matter within ninety days from the date of the filing of the appeal.

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