EC Same day polling for national and provincial assemblies not possible: ECP Secretary

ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan’s ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan on Monday ruled out the possibility of polling for national and provincial assemblies on the same day, saying that the national and provincial assemblies had taken oath on different dates, thus the elections could not be held on the same day.

Talking to reporters, the ECP Secretary said that the constitutional tenure of the national assembly had to complete on March 16, 2013, whereas the constitutional tenure of the Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies had to complete on April 4, 6, 8 and March 27, 2013 respectively.

To a query, he said without dissolving all the assemblies on the same day, polling for national and provincial assemblies could not be held on the same day. To another query, he said polling for national and provincial assemblies on the same day will lead to mix-up and confusion among voters, resulting in wastage of many ballots.

According to election experts, voters are not educated enough to correctly cast their votes in simultaneous polling for the national and provincial legislatures, thus if polling was held on the same day many illiterate electorates would waste their votes.

They said in the simultaneous polling every voter is issued two ballots, which are considerably long due to the number of contesting candidates, whose names figure on them. Similarly, two ballot boxes are placed in every polling station for the national and provincial assemblies.

However, political parties favouring the same day polling argue that the results of the one electoral exercise, say for the National Assembly, can’t impact the outcome of the second for the provincial assemblies.

But, the election experts believe that if the polling is held on different days for the two sets of legislatures, the results of the National Assembly, which will be held first, will have influence over the opinion of voters casting their ballots for the provincial assemblies.

Therefore, some political parties may face disadvantage in the second polling. If separate polling is held, the party winning the first round will have an excellent edge to fare better in the second exercise as voters generally tend to tilt towards it.

According to a former senior official of ECP, the electoral exercise becomes exceedingly marathon if the same day polling is held. In the case of separate polling, the workload is scattered on two days, which facilitates the process as a whole, and relieves the ECP of massive pressure.

He said since the constitutional tenure of the national and provincial assemblies had to complete on different dates, thus the elections should also be held on different dates instead of simultaneously.

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