ISLAMABAD: Comprehensive reforms are needed for transparent and credible elections.
This was the crux of a report launched by Democracy Reporting International at a seminar on Tuesday.
The recommendations are an assessment of the local government elections held in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan.
“The series of local elections presented an opportunity for developing and testing practices for better elections in the future,” DRI Team Leader Hassan Nasir Mirbahar said.
He said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) took some important steps for improving management of elections. These included training of election staff, monitoring of electoral process, replacing returning officers over performance issues, and setting guidelines for more consistent scrutiny of nomination papers, he noted.
DRI Election Analyst Hannah Roberts said that lack of transparency was a problem since key information about different aspects of electoral process was not available. She noted that more public information was needed for example on delimitation, election schedule, candidate and voter statistics, and results data.
“The ECP did not publish results data, opting only to issue notifications on winning candidates. However, the ECP has the mandate to undertake administrative measures to deliver transparent elections which includes proactively publishing key elections data,” she said.
“When the environment is already abuzz with allegations of rigging, electoral transparency is particularly important for building credibility of the electoral processes,” Roberts noted.
In order to improve future elections, DRI’s report recommends development of electoral legislation to include mandatory protections and provisions for all aspects of the electoral process.
It also suggests the ECP to continue with its positive steps and issue regulations about various aspects of the process and institutionalise monitoring and checking mechanisms.
Transparency be improved by legal requirements for full results data and publicly available information on other aspects of the electoral process, it further proposes.
It also recommends that observers and media be given full access to all stages and equality of vote be respected in delimitation of constituencies. It urges to ensure that dispute resolution is made comprehensive by tribunals, covering more aspects of the election and ensuring timely disposal of petitions.
It also advises to amend the electoral systems for reserved seats for women and minorities to give them more meaningful representation.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2016.