‘Open ballot’ violates Article 226 of Constitution: ECP

Commission formally conveys its reservations over electoral reforms bill to govt


Our Correspondent June 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has formally expressed its reservations over the bill seeking amendments to the polls process.

The commission has expressed its reservations over several clauses, including constituencies and electoral rolls.

The PTI government has recently passed the electoral reforms bill in the National Assembly.

In a letter to the parliamentary affairs secretary on June 17, the commission has requested that the matter be brought to the notice of Prime Minister Imran Khan before introducing the bill in the Senate.

It opposed the inclusion of the word “open ballot” that replaced “secret ballot”.

The ECP said that the inclusion of the word “open ballot” was in violation of Article 226 of the Constitution.

“The Supreme Court has given a clear opinion in this regard in the case related to the presidential reference,” the letter read.

The commission said electronic voting machines (EVMs) required a thorough debate in parliament. It added that there were many issues with the EVMs that remain unaddressed and therefore the ECP could not guarantee that their use would help in holding free and fair elections.

It also raised objections to the right of vote for overseas Pakistanis.

The ECP expressed concerns on the amendments that would take powers away from the commission and hand them over to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

Earlier this month, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs had green-lighted the government’s electoral reforms bill with a majority vote.

The five amendments to the Election Act that have been approved include holding Senate elections through open ballot, granting right to vote as well as conditionally contest polls in the country to overseas Pakistanis and issuance of lists of candidates for reserved seats for women and members of religious minorities within three days.

Declaring a National Assembly, Senate or local government seat vacant if the successful candidate does not take oath within 60 days of the polls and demarcation on the basis of voters instead if population were also given the nod.

It was earlier reported a day earlier that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif would write a letter to the ECP seeking a briefing on the government’s attempts “to encroach upon the commission’s legal domain under the disguise of electoral reforms bill” and its legal implications.

Read more: Amendments to election bill unconstitutional: ECP

Sources in the PML-N told The Express Tribune that in his letter, the PML-N stalwart would call on the ECP to invite all registered political parties to a briefing on the bill.

They added that a strategy had already been devised to intercept the bill in the Senate; however, it was important for all the political parties to know about the implications of this bill.

The bill transgresses into the ECP's domain, the source claimed.

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