Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday has cleared that it cannot hold Senate elections before February 11. Half of the Senators to retire on March 11, 2021, and the ECP cannot hold the polls on the said before February 10, the statement issued by Pakistan’s supreme electoral body said.
“A law defining procedure of the Senate polls is already present,” the election commission said adding that the ECP has 30 days to hold the elections on the seats of retiring Senators.
An election for the slot of Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate would be held on March 12. The chairman and deputy chairman would take oath of their responsibilities on the same day.
The ECP said that the schedule for the Senate polls will be announced later.
It is pertinent to mention here that on December 15, the federal government decided to hold Senate elections in February rather than in March.
The government, according to sources, has decided to approach the Supreme Court to ensure the polls are held in February. However, Fawad Chaudhry opposed the move, saying that the government should instead consult the Opposition for any electoral reforms.
“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.