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PML-N Senate candidates declared independent by ECP

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Candidates nominated by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were declared independent by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday. The ECP had earlier removed Nawaz Sharif as the president of PML-N in light of the Supreme Court (SC) order that disqualified him as the chief of PML-N. His disqualification had created a predicament for the ruling party as every decision made by Nawaz Sharif as the chief of PML-N was declared null and void.

These decisions included granting the tickets to PML-N candidates in the NA-154 and PP-30 by-elections and also the nomination of PML-N candidates for the Senate seats. ECP has declared all the PML-N candidates nominated by Nawaz in the by-elections and for the Senate elections as independent and declared that the Senate elections will be held on time that is on 3rd March.

PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq went to the ECL today to resubmit the nomination papers of PML-N candidates. He stated that the president and the chairman of the party, both had the right to grant tickets to candidates for election but the deadline for submission of papers had already passed so Zafarul Haq’s request was rejected, though the independent candidates for the Senate elections can later join the PML-N after winning the elections.

Another possibility that can be created is that the PML-N legislators in the provincial assemblies might not vote in favor of the independent candidates and the disgruntled candidates might see this as a good opportunity to leave the party and vote in favor of another political group.

It appears that there were no real consequences for the PML-N after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as the party head. The speculations by media and legal experts that Senate elections will be delayed and the election results of NA-154 and PP-30 will be declared void proved to be wrong. Senate elections will go on as scheduled which buried the speculations that undemocratic forces were at work behind Sharif’s disqualification.

Read more: Census crisis: Can the senate uproar ensure timely elections?

The decision of the ECP to declare PML-N nominees as independent candidates has the potential to create an internal challenge for the PML-N as horse trading is a common phenomenon in Pakistani politics. There is no way to guarantee that independent candidates will stay loyal to the PML-N and follow party policies if they are elected as independents even though from PML-N seats.

They might shift alliances if the 2018 general elections don’t go in PML-N’s favor. PML-N would need a leap of faith to trust those candidates to follow party decisions after they are elected. Another possibility that can be created is that the PML-N legislators in the provincial assemblies might not vote in favor of the independent candidates and the disgruntled candidates might see this as a good opportunity to leave the party and vote in favor of another political group.


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