Monday November 29, 2021

Senate election: ECP declines to endorse open ballot

The ECP said a constitutional amendment will be required to bring about an end to secret balloting,

January 17, 2021

Senate election: ECP declines to endorse open ballot

ISLAMABAD: In its written response to the Supreme Court in the presidential reference seeking opinion on the Senate elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has stated that an amendment to the Constitution will be required in order to switch from secret to open balloting.

A five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed is hearing the presidential reference.

The attorney general is arguing in the court on behalf of the federal government.

The Commission said the Senate elections, much like the elections for the prime minister and the president, fell under the Constitution.

"To bring about an end to secret balloting, a constitutional amendment will be required," said the Commission.

Advocate Shahjeel Shehryar Swati filed the 12-page response with the court on behalf of the ECP secretary.

The Commission submitted that Articles 59, 219, 224 (3) & (5) of the Constitution provided for elections to the Senate and, 'Election of the Senate is election under the Constitution' for the purposes of Article 226 of the Constitution.

The most ordinary and natural meaning elucidated by Article 226 is that elections ‘under the constitution’ are those elections that are held by or under the authority of the Constitution,” the ECP contended.

It further submitted that Article 226 provided only two exceptions i.e. election to the office of prime minister and chief minister (which on true construction refers to only one exception, the leader of the House).

On December 23, the federal government had requested the Supreme Court to give its opinion on the Senate elections through open balloting and show of hands.

President Dr. Arif Alvi after approving the proposal of prime minister filed a reference with the apex court under Article 186 of the Constitution, seeking the court opinion on the elections.

The reference claimed that it will promote transparency and accountability in the electoral process, acknowledge respect for the choice and desires of the citizen voters, strengthen political parties and their discipline, which is essential for parliamentary democracy, and discourage floor-crossing and use of laundered money for vote buying in elections which grossly insulted the public mandate.

The apex court had directed the advocate generals of all the provinces to submit written synopsis besides asking the Election Commission as well as Chairman Senate and Speaker National Assembly to also submit the same.

The larger bench will resume hearing in the instant reference on January 18.

Meanwhile, the Sindh government has recommended a "show of hands" method and opposed any changes in the mode of elections.

Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister on Law Murtaza Wahab confirmed that the provincial government was against the open balloting.

He said the Sindh government's response in the reference would be filed next week.

The provincial government is of the view that open balloting is "against the Constitution and freedom of expression".

Wahab said the Constitution was "clear" on the Senate elections. He said in the Sindh government's response Articles 226 and 63-A of the Constitution had also been referenced.

He said Article 226 clearly laid out the process to conduct the Senate elections.

The Sindh government spokesperson said open balloting was in contrast to the very "soul" of the Constitution.

"We will provide strong justification against this method with references from the Constitution in our response," Wahab said.