Free and fair elections and public trust in the electoral system and government are critical to any democracy. Almost every election held in Pakistan has been viewed as manipulated by the Pakistani establishment.
As M. Ziauddin, former Executive Editor of The Express Tribune, recently wrote, Pakistan needs a thorough national debate on this issue in addition to ensuring the impartiality of state and government institutions in the electoral process.
Ziauddin cites a study conducted by the Pakistan based Free and Fair Elections Network (FAFEN), that “the governments so formed have been democratically weak as they have never represented more than 17% of the registered and 46% of the polled votes. The current government represents 31% of the polled, 16% of the registered, and 8% of the total population. According to historical analysis of election results by FAFEN, 53% of all votes polled in GE 2002 did not translate into any representation, 50% in GE 2008, 52% in GE 2013, and 57% in GE 2018. As a result, the political parties get seats in the assemblies disproportionate to their share of votes. For example, MMA bagged 2,604,086 votes in GE 2018 with 12 seats in the National Assembly, while TLP was polled 2,194,978 votes but with no seats. The vote per seat ratio of other political parties in GE 2018 also presents a compelling case for a more extensive debate on the change of the election system.”
Key issues Ziauddin raises are delimitation and voter registration. The first pertains to the principle of equally-sized constituencies must strictly be protected in any future reforms. Further, unless the voter registry is complete, there cannot be an election that may be considered entirely fair. “An effort towards reforming the election system will be incomplete if it did not address its inability to yield a representation of all economic classes, ethnicities, religious minorities, and sexes in the elected houses. Tangible measures are required enabling it to transform the political, ethnic, and religious diversity in Pakistan into a strength rather than a source of division and fragmentation.”