LG elections process winds down in provinces

Election authorities consider LG polls more complicated exercise than general elections for NA, provincial assemblies


Our Correspondent December 23, 2016
PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Following the election of the heads of local government (LGs) in Punjab, the lengthy process of polls where 115,200 local councils went for elections across four provinces has come to an end.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday organised election of mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen of local governments in Punjab.

The lengthy process of elections in Punjab started last year with polls on direct seats held in three phases. In the final step, the newly elected heads of the LGs would take oath on December 31 after which local governments would become functional in the province.

Given the sheer number of the constituencies involved, the election authorities consider the LG polls a more complicated exercise than holding general elections for National Assembly and provincial assemblies.

For the first time in the country’s history, 42 cantonment boards went for polls in April 2015 with elections on direct seats. Elections to indirect seats of cantonments were held in May, 2015. The LG elections for the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) were held in November, 2015 against 731 seats of Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad.

The ECP in May 2015 organised the LG elections in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) at 42,858 constituencies. After oath of Nazims and Naib Nazims, local government institutions of the K-P started functioning from September, 2015.

Direct elections in the Punjab and Sindh provinces were held in three phases from October 2015 to December 2015 against 15,081 seats of Sindh and 31,692 seats of Punjab.

Polls for indirect seats of Sindh were held from May 2016 to June 2016. After election of chairmen, vice chairmen, mayors and deputy mayors the process of the LG polls in Sindh was completed in Aug 2016.

The ECP conducted elections at 20,075 indirect seats of Punjab in November 2016. This was now followed by elections of mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen on Thursday.

Balochistan was the first for go for the LG polls for 13,180 seats from December 2013.

Some political analysts believe that since the new LG system in Sindh and Punjab is based on powers resting with provincial government’s bureaucracy, it might lead to bickering between the provincial governments and the LGs.

With the exception of the K-P, the LG acts passed by the provincial assemblies of the provinces are driven by consideration to maintain status quo as they give provincial governments the final say over matters of the LGs. Controversies have already started in Karachi where the MQM’s mayor is elected.

Amended in 2010 through 18th amendment, the Article 140 (A) of the Constitution reads; “Each province shall by law establish the LG system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibilities to the elected representatives of the LGs”.

Many political analysts are of the view that with this explicitly clear article of the Constitution outlining role of the LGs, it is likely that local governments and the provincial government would remain in legal battles to clarify their roles in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan has said the ECP appreciates the assistance, cooperation and support by all the stakeholders and the state institutions’ in successful conduct of the LG polls.

“The ECP’s field staff at provincial, divisional and district levels also deserves appreciation for their untiring efforts in successful conduct of elections,” he said in a statement.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2016.

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