The government has reportedly decided to hold Senate elections in February instead of March 2021. The decision was taken on Tuesday during a meeting of the federal cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The Information Minister said a bill has also been introduced in the parliament regarding the Senate elections with the aim to check the horse trading@shiblifaraz https://t.co/XJNq8OGssx pic.twitter.com/kI3R6mfpdf
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) December 15, 2020
The government has decided to use “open voting” for the elections, informed sources told GVS.
Addressing a post-cabinet meeting press conference, Ministering for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said that the PTI-led government is striving to make the Senate elections free and fair. “Controversies have always surrounded the Senate elections. It is such an old practice that it is assumed that in the elections, [horse trading] will surely take place,” he said.
Over 65 percent of the senators who are set to retire on March 11, 2021 after completing their six-year constitutional term belong to the opposition parties.
The move to hold elections early was proposed by Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, according to sources, which was agreed to by the prime minister and other members of the cabinet.
Through the open voting process, everyone will know who voted for whom in the Senate elections.
The government, according to sources, has decided to approach the Supreme Court to ensure the polls are held in February. However, Chaudhry opposed the move, saying that the government should instead consult the Opposition for any electoral reforms.
Imran Niazi Govt now seems desperate to steal & rig Senate Elections due by 11th March 2020. Senate is a constitutional body and elections to the Senate are ipso facto under the Constitution of Pakistan. As per Article 226, all elections under the Constitution, other than 1/6
— Ishaq Dar (@MIshaqDar50) December 16, 2020
“We are ready to talk to the Opposition on electoral reforms,” answered the prime minister. “[However] Whenever we try to talk to the Opposition, they tell us to throw out their [corruption] cases,” he said.
The term-wise data of the senators shows that out of the 52 members retiring from the present 103-member Senate in March next year, 34 belong to the opposition parties and 18 from the treasury benches.
The total strength of the Senate is 104, but former finance minister of the PML-N Ishaq Dar has not taken oath as a senator since he has been living in self-exile in London along with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
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The PML-N will be the biggest loser in terms of representation in the Senate as 57 percent of its members — the largest number belonging to a single party — are set to retire this March after completion of their six-year term. The data shows that out of its 30 present senators, 17 are set to retire in March next year.
PTI to emerge as the winning party?
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, opines that “if the Senate election takes place in March 2021 as scheduled, the PTI is likely to emerge as the largest party in the house, displacing the PML-N from that position”.
It is, however, important to note that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has announced to resign from the assemblies. PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is one of the parties rallying against the government. Syed Murad Shah, Chief Minister Sindh, may advise the dissolution of the assembly shortly ahead of the Senate election in March 2021 which may keep an entire province out of the election.
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Mehboob writes that “in case this happens, it will be the first time that a province skips the Senate election cycle”. “Since there is no clear and explicit provision in the Constitution and the Elections Act regarding such a situation, the matter may end up in a court of law for resolution and interpretation of the Constitution,” he continued. “This may become necessary also because fresh election of the chair and deputy chair of the Senate has to take place immediately after the March 2021 election and the absence of half the representation of a province may significantly impact the outcome of these elections,” he concluded.