The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday issued the schedule to elect 52 new senators on March 3. These senators will replace the lawmakers retiring on March 11 after completing their six-year term.
Each provincial assembly will elect seven senators on general seats, two women and two technocrats each through the single transferable vote system. Additionally, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan assemblies will elect one minority member each for the upper house of parliament. This will give K-P and Balochistan the edge of electing 12 senators against 11 each from Punjab and Sindh.
Twelve National Assembly members from Fata constitute the electoral college to elect four new senators on Fata’s quota while the National Assembly as a whole will vote for one general and one female seat falling vacant from the federal capital.
According to the schedule, the intending candidates will file their nomination papers on February 12 and 13. The returning officers will scrutinise these papers on February 16 and 17. A final list of contestants will be published on February 25 and voting will be held on March 3.
The provincial assembly buildings will be declared polling stations for the election of senators on provincial quotas. The National Assembly will elect two senators from Islamabad and Fata MNAs will be voting for candidates from tribal regions in the main parliament building.
As the Senate is a permanent house, members are elected for a term of six years through elections held every three years. The addition of four minority members – one each from provinces – came about after the 18th constitutional amendment increased the Senate’s strength to 104.
The four minority members were elected in 2012. Two of them will be retiring in March. Their names were decided through a ballot held last year. The remaining retiring 50 senators were elected in 2009.
PPP loses out
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which currently has 40 members in the Senate, will lose 21 senators. The party will have to rely largely on Sindh to replace its retiring senators. Since the PPP performed poorly during the 2013 general elections in the other provinces, it is likely to lose out in the upcoming polls.
Of the 16 senators from the PML-N, half will be retiring this year. The PML-N is likely to gain some more seats other than its replacements from Punjab. It is likely to get the two seats from Islamabad and a couple of more from K-P and Balochistan.
The ANP has a total of 12 members, of which 6 will be retiring. Three of the seven senators from the MQM, and three of six JUI-F senators will also be retiring. The PML-Q, which has a total of five senators, will lose one senator and it is unlikely that it could be able to get votes for its candidate if it fields for the vacating seat.
Besides nationalist parties of Balochistan increasing their strength, PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami are also likely to represent in the Senate in the March polls.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2015.