Posted on: October 14, 2015 Posted by: Asna Nusrat Comments: 0

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The following report was prepared by the members of the Youth Standing Committee on Political and Electoral Reforms, during the 7th Youth Parliament, chaired by Momina Mindeel.

Introduction:

The task assigned by PILDAT to the Youth Standing Committee on “Political & Electoral System” of the 7th Youth Parliament Pakistan, requires it to decide on which electoral system is better for Pakistan; FPTP or PR? Currently, First Past the Post System is in place, in the country. After an in-depth study of both the systems that is; First Past the Post System (FPTP) and Proportional Representation System, this committee has concluded that given the current ethno-political societal make up of Pakistan, Proportional Representation System is better suited for Pakistan and should therefore, be implemented in order to ensure better working of the electoral system. Contrary to what the popular belief is, PR system will not exactly be a 180-degree change in the system. Keeping in view the statistics from the 2013 elections, it is evident that 87.3% of the votes cast were for the parties. Independent candidates secured only 12.7% of the total votes. The main objection that may arise against choosing the PR system for Pakistan comprise of the fact that our literacy rate is relatively lower as compared to the countries where the PR system has proved to be successful. The critics of this system base this objection on the fact that a major chunk of our voters come from the rural areas (hence lower literacy rate will affect the implementation of the PR System) and vote for their particular candidates, regardless of what party they belong to. However, given the statistics, it can be said that the lower literacy rate will not pose as much of a problem as 87.3% of the population already had party sense or affiliation.

What is FPTP system?

As mentioned earlier, FPTP is currently in place in Pakistan. FPTP (First Past the Post) voting system is or winner-takes-all, election is one that is won by the candidate receiving more votes than any others. It is a common, but not universal, feature of electoral systems with single member legislative districts, and generally results over time in a two-party competition. It is one of the plurality voting systems.

What is PR system?

Proportional Representation characterizes electoral systems by which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. For instance, if out of 100 seats, a party has won 30% of the votes, it will then attain roughly 30 seats out of the total of the 100. The concept of “power in numbers” is invincible in every form within society. Proportional representation (PR), when executed suitably, is completely based on the “power in numbers” idea. It proves to the population that every vote counts. This constitutes the basic idea of the PR system.

Seat Allocation: FPTP vs. PR

Political Party Seats won in FPTP Seats Calculated in PR
PML-N 130 87
PTI 26 45
PPPP 37 41
MQM 19 14

This data is of general seats which are 272 and reserved seats shall be allocated accordingly. Above analysis shows that PR is representing the parties according to their vote bank and none of the votes are being wasted that was a major flaw in the FPTP system.

Ethno-political set up of Pakistan, viability of the PR electoral system and unsuitability of the FPTP:

FPTP System works better in the societies that are homogeneous hence; one party government doesn’t pose problems. However, Pakistan is a heterogeneous society as explained below. Moreover, FPTP systems which tends to bring the people of the same community to the parliament therefore tends to flourish the influence of local feudal lords and in effect weakens integration and solidarity.

1. Population make-up:

The male/female ratio is at about 52/48%. At present, its projected population is 188 million. The rough estimates vary, but the consensus is that the Punjabis are the largest ethnic group. Pashtuns (Pakhtuns) make up the second largest group and Sindhi are the third-largest ethnic group. Saraikis make up 10.53% of the total population. The remaining large groups include the Muhajirs and the Baloch people, which make up 7.57% and 3.57% of the total population, respectively. Hindkowans and various peoples of the Gilgit–Baltistan, constitute roughly 4.66% of the total population. Moreover, the life styles, thinking and perception of the residents of the rural and urban areas also vary in a very significant manner. Religious and sectarian make up of Pakistan The state religion in Pakistan is Islam, which is practiced by about 95-98% of the people of the nation. The remaining 2-5% practice Christianity, Hinduism and other religions. Moreover, Muslims are further divided into sects. The majority practices Sunni Islam. The rest of them are shias or follow other sects. Religious and sectarian clashes are also strife.

2. Political make up of Pakistan:

A total of about 307 political parties are registered with the ECP. However, the most prominent ones in the parliament include PML-N, PPPP, PTI, MQM, JUI, JI, ANP etc. the parties in the parliament also have a much diversified leanings from leftist parties to rightist ones.

Viability of PR system in an intricately diversified Pakistan:

Though PR system does not guarantee to wipe out all the difference, it does boast to create a coherence and uniformity in the decision making. When a candidate is elected under PR system, his thinking horizon raises towards the development of all the country instead of a thinking limited to his own constituency (a case in FPTP). Moreover, the grudges based on myopic provincial interests can also be dealt with. One of the pertinent role that PR plays is that it gives significance to every single vote. In a country where gender and religious discrimination have found solid footings, PR can afford an efficacious solution. Therefore, women, minorities and other unprivileged groups are dealt on equal footings and can demand a due share in the nomination by the party.

Rationale behind adopting the PR system:

Vote turn-out is likely to increase to a significant amount. The reason for this is that with plurality, one can only count on the larger parties to win; therefore, instead of “throwing away” a vote for a smaller, less popular party, the voter would either vote for the larger party or not vote at all. “Because seats can be gained [in PR] with only a fraction of the total vote, voters have fewer incentives to abandon their most preferred candidates. Hence, the minorities will now be benefited, contrary to the popular belief. Moreover, the political parties will now concentrate more on public and neglected areas in general instead of focusing on their particular constituencies or getting the electable join their party. PR system supports multi-member districts which again are suitable for Pakistan. Since, they are already in place in the country; it goes on to reiterate the fact that this will not be a 180-degree shift in the system. Moreover, another concern that is likely to be raised is that the smaller provinces will get even less representation. However, we would like to clarify that the seat allocation formula will remain the same, as in the FPTP.

Pre-Election Procedure (Recommendations to improve the PR system):

6 to 8 months before the end of the constitutional tenure of the incumbent government, registered Political Parties from the Election Commission will announce the opening of the nomination forms for the tickets for the national and provincial assemblies. Election Commission shall constitute a formula that shall be implemented on all the parties for evaluation of the candidates on the basis of few factors that may include party affiliation, public popularity etc. Parties will announce the merit list of the finalized nominated candidates after the scrutiny of their nominations forms and will be open to the public for public opinion. After getting public responses, the parties would send the final list to the election commission no later than 4 to 6 months before the tenure of the government. To ensure transparency and merit, Election Commission shall formulate a set pattern for the nomination of candidates among parties. Election Commission will scrutinize and issue the final list of the contesting candidates of all the assemblies not later than 3 months before the end of tenure of the government. Elections would be conducted by the caretaker government according to the prevailing practice. Election Commission will allot the seats to the parties according to proportion of the total number of votes secured by the parties.

Policy Recommendations (To remove the flaws of the PR system, in order to make it more suitable)

1 Article 140-A should be amended in order to make it mandatory for the provincial governments to hold local government elections within 120 days after the dissolution of previous local government. In case, any provincial government fails to act on it, Chief Minister of that particular interim government will be held answerable.

2 The Parliament should pass a bill asking the media to do responsible awareness programs regarding the system so as to encourage the eligible voters to exercise their right to vote.

3 A timely population census must be conducted to conduct free and fair elections and to stop Gerrymandering by the parties in power. The population consensus should be held after every five years; each government having to conduct it once during its tenure. In Pakistan, it has almost been 18 years since the population consensus took place.

4 The qualification in the Constitution that the CEC and the Members of the ECP can only be selected from persons with a judicial background, should be removed.

5 Secondly, the members of the ECP are currently recommended by the Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition. The leaders of the smaller parties should have a say too.

6 The Election Commission of Pakistan must ensure Proper training of the Polling Staff to conduct fair elections, as it is going to be a new system and the people as well as the polling staff need to know how it works in reality.

7 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) of e-balloting type should be introduced as pilot projects in Metropolitan cities, thus gradually approaching towards their nation-wide use with the tackling of problems in each phase.

Rationale behind the Recommendations:

Following factors have been considered while formulating the recommendations, in order to address the probable loopholes:

1 It will keep the provincial governments from delaying Local Government elections as recently witnessed in all provinces. Moreover, since now the PR system has been put in place and the minority parties have been represented in the assembly, it will further strengthen the PR System as it will train the local people regarding the election procedure, use of ballet paper etc. in general and for the next elections in particular. Moreover, local body system will be strengthened.

2 As we all know the impact media can have on the people of the country can be colossal, media needs to be made aware of its responsibilities so it does not lean towards one particular party but participate in the awareness program responsibly, as it is a new system and the general population needs to be made aware of it.

3 The following table will explain the rationale behind holding timely population consensus and how it will strengthen the PR system: Currently, the distribution of the seats in the National Assembly among provinces being followed,is on the basis of the estimated population but census in Pakistan has not been conducted for the past 18 years. The seat distribution should be made on the basis of the registered voters as ECP always has an updated record. Moreover, electoral process is concerned with registered voters not with population. Short study of comparison of the seat distribution among provinces is given below.

Comparison of seat distribution in both scenarios in NA.

Province Total Seats in Current Scenario According to the proposed Scenario i.e. Registered Voters
Percentage Seats
Punjab 148 55 153
Sindh 61 21.6 58
KPK 35 15.29 42
Balochistan 14 3.8 10

So from the above analysis, it can be concluded that much difference won’t occur but only better representation of the voters is going to happen in comparison to FPTP.

4 The duties of Chief Election Commissioner and members of ECP are purely administrative jobs. Removing such a qualification from Article 218 of the Constitution will immediately open a much larger pool of eminent and qualified persons, who may perform these roles in a proficient way.

5 Unlike FPTP, now a number of parties will get representation in the assembly so it is important that all of them have a say in the decision of the ECP.

6 It will improve efficiency of the electoral system by boosting up the confidence and trust of voters on the polling staff.

7 The introduction of EVMs in the electoral system will enhance accuracy and efficiency of the voting process. Since, it is not just two or three parties that are the major stake holders in the government; we need to have a better system to record the votes.

Dissemination Plan for the PR Electoral system

Involvement of the stake holders

In order to disseminate this plan, all the political parties will be taken in to confidence via dialogue.

Publication /websites

Right to information to assess the information about this system should be granted to all

Coverage by national and local Newspaper

A dedicated campaign by the national and local newspaper and media channels will be used to highlight the importance of the system.

Media education

Media may be used to aware and educate the public to accept this electoral system.

Information to NADRA & PTA

NADRA and the PTA may be informed about this system as they may be able to work accordingly

Participation of Civil society

Civil Society will also be used to disseminate the policy. The organizations like Awami Bethak and similar programs will be taken into confidence, in order to spread the message.

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