ISLAMABAD: For the forthcoming elections, over 80 million eligible voters in the country will be given a novel choice- for the first time, they will be able to reject all candidates of their constituency by stamping ‘none of the above’ column (NOTA) in ballot papers.
The change is likely to be included in the ballot papers for the next general elections.
Under the new scheme, at the very end of the ballot paper containing names as well as election symbols of the contesting candidates, there will be a NOTA column.
If one feels that none of the candidates are aptly qualified to represent the constituency at the national forum, all that needs to be done is check the NOTA box.
If the majority of the total electorates opt for NOTA, the standing candidates would be automatically rejected and a run-off will be announced, until a clear winner emerges from the contest.
The implications are quite interesting, to say the least.
For example, if in a constituency of 60,000 voters, a candidate acquires 20,000 votes, he would have had fair chance of winning the contest earlier.
However, if 20,001 candidates check the NOTA box now, it would imply that the election results stand void, even if the other candidates have not been able to register significant gains at all.
According to officials of the ECP, acting chief election commissioner Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan has constituted a steering committee to put forward concrete proposals that can be implemented in the next general elections.
Headed by the acting secretary, the committee includes provincial election commissioners as well as various officials of the ECP.
Columns like ‘NOTA’ already exist in some countries and the committee plans to analyse all the existing models before it presents its final proposals.
“The committee is also working on the feasibility of increasing the number of polling stations, so that no polling station is more than two kilometres away from a constituency’s voters,” said an ECP official, while talking to The Express Tribune.
In order to discourage political parties which bar women from casting votes in a particular area, the ECP is considering proposals to withdraw such a party’s candidate from the contest.
The ECP had already sent proposals to the ministry of law and justice, asking it to enact a law which makes it mandatory that the total number of votes cast from any area should comprise at least 10 per cent of women’s ballots.
However, legislation regarding that proposal still needs to be undertaken.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.