Thursday, February 2, 2023

General elections cannot be held in three months: ECP

A number of legal obstacles and procedural hurdles have been cited by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as the reason for its inability to conduct general elections within three months.

A top official from the ECP estimated that the preparations for the general elections would take approximately six months. He stated that the most difficult difficulties would be the redistricting of constituencies, notably in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the number of seats had been raised as a result of the 26th Amendment, and the unification of district- and constituency-level electoral records.

According to him, “delimitation is a time-consuming exercise in which the legislation gives for one month’s time simply to welcome objections,” and a further one month was required to address the issues raised by the objections. He estimated that it would take a minimum of three months to finish the process, which would be followed by another massive work of revising voter registration databases.

According to the official, obstacles included the acquisition of election materials, the distribution of ballot papers, and the employment and training of polling employees. He said that, in accordance with the legislation, ballot papers with a watermark had to be used, which were not readily accessible in the country and would have to be imported from elsewhere. He revealed that the ECP has recommended amending the law to require ballot papers to have security features rather than a ‘watermark,’ as is now the case.

According to the source, the process of requesting bids and scrutinizing financial and technical quotations will take some time as well. He stated that approximately two million stamp pads would be necessary for approximately 100,000 polling stations in regard to election materials. “This is just one illustration. Obtaining other supplies in large quantities, such as scissors and ballpoint pens, will also be necessary, according to the expert.”

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Speaking of legal difficulties, the official explained that under Section 14 of the Elections Act, the ECP was required to announce an election strategy four months before the polls were scheduled to be held. He stated that the law requiring the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) as well as the statute granting overseas Pakistanis voting rights were both unconstitutional and needed to be repealed.

Officials from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) claimed that the commission has already issued the calendar for local government (LG) elections in Baluchistan, with polling day set for May 29, and that the process was also underway to hold LG elections in Punjab, Sindh, and Islamabad.

As a result, if general elections are to be held, “we will have to abandon our plans for LG elections,” he stated.

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