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Senate elections: How many seats is each party expected to win?

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News Analysis |

Senate elections are taking place on 3rd March as announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The final date for submission of nomination papers is 8th February. We’ll break down how Senators are elected and the number of seats that each party is expected to win according to their representation in Constituent Assemblies. 

The legislative system of Pakistan is bicameral, meaning that it is made up of two assemblies; the upper house Senate and the lower house National Assembly (NA). The powers of the lower house, National Assembly, are established according to Article 52 of the Constitution of Pakistan and it consists of 342 members, 272 of which are directly elected members while 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for minorities. The members of the NA serve for a collective 5 years.

The 28th July 2017 SC verdict and the graft and contempt cases against their leaders in the courts are certain to make a dent in their election campaign. The Senate elections are the best chance for PML-N to secure a strong position in the center even if they lose the general elections.

The powers of the upper house, the Senate, are established according to Article 59 of the Constitution. It consists of 104 members but they are not directly elected by the people, the members of Senate are elected from four provincial assemblies, FATA and Islamabad. 23 members are elected from each province, 8 from FATA and 4 from Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Members of the Senate serve for 6 years but their tenure is staggered. Half of the senators retire after three years. The Senate cannot be dissolved according to the Constitution of Pakistan.

The purpose of a bicameral system is that Pakistan is a Federation; it consists of multiple federating units. Since members of the NA are elected by a simple majority, to avoid mob rule and protect the rights of smaller federating units, the Senate was formed. All provinces get equal representation in the Senate and no amendment can be passed without the approval of the Senate. The chairman of the Senate also acts as the President of Pakistan if the post of the President becomes vacant for any reason.

Read more: Elections 2018

The 3rd March 2018 Senate elections will be held for 52 seats since half of the 104 Senators will be retiring. 7 members will be elected from general seats from each province, 2 women and 2 technocrats will also be elected from each assembly. Only Punjab and Sindh will elect 1 minority member, each from their assemblies.

Senate elections will play a major role in the next government formed after the general elections of 2018. PML-N is going through a tough time with graft cases under process against their chief Nawaz Sharif in the accountability court.

Four senators on general seats will be elected from FATA and 2, one woman and one technocrat, from ICT. The number of votes required to elect a general member depends on the size of each assembly while half of the number of total members in a provincial assembly are required to elect women and technocrats. A simple majority is needed for the election of minorities.

Currently, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) holds the majority in the Senate with 27 senators, followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which has 26 senators after the disqualification of Nehal Hashmi. Even though PPP marginally lost the 2013 general elections, it has held the majority in the Senate for the whole duration of PML-N’s government in the center. The reason is because PPP won the 2008 elections and it has enjoyed good representation in the provinces.

Read more: Divide in MQM-P again: Ostensibly over senate tickets?

The senators elected during the PPP’s tenure still played a major part in the PML-N’s government since they serve for a total of six years. Since PPP had the majority in the Senate, PML-N faced a challenge in introducing any new bills and amendments in the constitution. All amendments and bills had to go through the Senate and the party with the majority in the Senate remains a major player in national politics.

They are expected to win one seat from the KP assembly and the ruling party PTI is expected to win around 4 Senate seats from KP. The Senate elections is a time of breaking and making alliances. Each party is trying to appease old foes and make new friends.

The winner of this Senate election will be a key player for the tenure of the whole next government. PML-N is expected to win the next Senate elections. 9 PML-N senators will be retiring this year but they are expected to win 16 senate seats in the upcoming election. The PML-N enjoys a simple majority in the Punjab Assembly (PA). They have 310 out of a total of 371 seats, followed by PTI with 30 seats.

7 members will be elected on general seats in the PA, which means that 53 PA members are required to elect one senator. The joint opposition in Punjab has a total of 53 seats but it is unlikely that they’ll agree on one member so PML-N is expected to win all 12 seats: 7 general, 4 women and technocrats and 1 minority seat from Punjab.

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

The PPP holds the majority in the Sindh Assembly (SA). They have 94 members in the 168 member assembly. 7 general members will be elected from the SA which means that 24 members are needed to elect one senator. PPP is expected to win 4 general member seats, 3 seats for women and technocrats and one seat for minorities. So PPP will win 8 seats from the SA. MQM holds 50 seats in the SA; they are expected to win the remaining 3 general member seats and one seat reserved for women and technocrats.

PTI is the biggest party in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly with 61 seats out of a total 124 seats in the assembly. Almost 18 members are required to win one seat in the senate from KP. PML-N has 16 MPAs in KP.

But 8 MQM MPAs have quit the party and joined Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). They are expected to let their own members contest for one senate seat. Some media reports are also suggesting that PML-N will try to buy one seat from the Sindh assembly with the help of its allies so the competition in Sindh will be tough for the MQM.

In the Balochistan Assembly (BA), PML-N holds the majority with 21 seats in the 65 member assembly despite the recent turmoil which toppled the PML-N government in the province. The situation of Balochistan is very uncertain because the disgruntled MPAs of PML-N could vote for either side. 7 general members will be elected from the Balochistan Assembly so 9 BA members are required to elect one Senator.

Read more: Ishaq Dar among PML-N nominees for Senate elections

If things go in PML-N’s way, they are expected to win at least 3 seats from the Baloch assembly. PTI is the biggest party in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly with 61 seats out of a total 124 seats in the assembly. Almost 18 members are required to win one seat in the senate from KP. PML-N has 16 MPAs in KP. They are expected to win one seat from the KP assembly and the ruling party PTI is expected to win around 4 Senate seats from KP.

The joint opposition in Punjab has a total of 53 seats but it is unlikely that they’ll agree on one member so PML-N is expected to win all 12 seats: 7 general, 4 women and technocrats and 1 minority seat from Punjab.

The Senate elections is a time of breaking and making alliances. Each party is trying to appease old foes and make new friends. Senate elections will play a major role in the next government formed after the general elections of 2018. PML-N is going through a tough time with graft cases under process against their chief Nawaz Sharif in the accountability court.

The 28th July 2017 SC verdict and the graft and contempt cases against their leaders in the courts are certain to make a dent in their election campaign. The Senate elections are the best chance for PML-N to secure a strong position in the center even if they lose the general elections.


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