Pakistan to hold Senate elections today; 135 candidates in the reckoning for 52 seats

Islamabad: Pakistan's political parties are set to elect the members of the Senate — the Upper House of Parliament — on Saturday, amid allegations that money was being used to buy votes.

The Senate has 104 members elected for six years, but half of them retire every three years at completion of term and new senators are elected indirectly by provincial and national assemblies through proportional representation.

According to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), polling will be held at the four provincial and the national assembly buildings. It will start at 9 am and will continue till 4 pm.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The 52 senators retiring this month were elected in 2012. The other 52 were elected in 2015 and will serve until 2021. The ECP has taken several decisions to ensure vote privacy during the elections. It said officers will ensure that no voter exposes his vote's privacy and neither be allowed to take issued ballot paper outside the polling station.

In case of non-compliance, the controlling officer will cancel the ballot paper of such persons. It was also decided that all controlling officers will have powers of full magistrate and they can suspend the electoral process by bringing such elements to ECP's notice in case of irregularity.

The officials said that 46 senators will be elected by the four provincial assemblies, two by the National Assembly and four by the lawmakers from tribal areas.

A total of 135 candidates are contesting, including 20 from Pakistan People's Party (PPP), 14 from Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), 13 from Pakistan Tehrke-e-Insaf (PTI) and four from Pak Sarzameen Party. There are 65 Independent candidates, while 23 from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). But they cannot use the PML-N name and platform due to a recent Supreme Court order which declared former prime minister Nawaz Sharif ineligible to head his own party and announced that all decisions taken by him as party president stood null and void.

However, the party candidates are supported by PML-N and will formally join it after the elections. PML-N is likely to emerge the majority party in Senate after the elections. It will help it control legislation, as the PPP was previously in majority in Senate and the ruling party needed its support for lawmaking.

Reports and allegations of massive use of money to buy votes have been doing rounds ahead of the elections. Senators are elected by provincial and federal lawmakers and due to proportional representation, even a single vote can make a huge difference.

In Balochistan, a candidate needs just nine votes to become senator, while in the biggest province of Punjab, 47 votes are needed to elect a senator.

The trickiest situation is in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where 10 members of the National Assembly would elect four senators. A candidates having support of just three lawmakers can land in the Upper House of Parliament.

Almost all political parties have expressed dismay at the elections laws of Senate and promised to improve them.

"There is broad consensus that system of election for Senate is flawed and we need to improve it," Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said ahead of polls.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan said his party would work to introduce direct elections for senators to root out corruption and use of money.


Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 08:21 AM

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