Election process is conducted by the Election Commission of Pakistan through a set of laws and rules. The laws are made by the parliament keeping in view the provisions of constitution. In 2017 the parliament passed a new election law that is called The Elections Act 2017. This new law consolidates 8 old laws that were previously used to govern different sections of electoral process. Below are the key highlights of the new election law.
Key Highlights of the Elections Act, 2017
The Election Commission of Pakistan
The ECP has been strengthened in the following ways:
- The ECP has been empowered to issue specific directives for the performance of its duties. These will be enforced throughout Pakistan and have the same effect as a High Court (Chapter II, Section 4).
- The ECP will have full administrative powers to control the transfer of election officials during elections and take disciplinary action against them for misconduct (Chapter II, Section 5 (4)).
- The Commissioner will have full financial powers, including power to create posts within approved budgetary allocations (Chapter II, Section 11 (2)). All ECP expenditure will be charged to the Federal Consolidated Fund within the meaning of Article 81 of the Constitution (Chapter II, Section 11).
- As per the previous law, the Election Commission Order, 2002, Section 9E, Presidental approval is required to make Rules. The ECP has now been empowered to make rules without Presidential or Government approval. Rules will be subject to prior publication, seeking suggestions etc. within 15 days of such publication (Chapter XV, Section 239).
- The ECP shall prepare a comprehensive action plan four months before the elections, specifying all legal and administrative measures that have been taken or are required to be taken (Chapter III, Section 14). There was no such provision in the previous law.
- The ECP has been authorized to address complaints/grievances during various stages of the election process (other than challenges to the election itself under Article 225). Its decisions will be appealable in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (Chapter II, Section 15).
- The ECP shall establish a transparent Results Management System for expeditious counting, compilation and dissemination of election results (Chapter II, Section 13).
- The ECP has been empowered to delegate its functions to its members and officials (Chapter II, Section 6).
- The ECP shall conduct training programmes for election officials and take measures to promote public awareness regarding laws and best practices (Chapter II, Section 6).
- The ECP shall upload on its website a list of constituencies, election results and decisions on complaints etc.
- Some degree of accountability of the ECP has also been built into the Elections Act, 2017. It is now required to submit an annual report within 90 days after the end of every calendar year that will be laid in each house of the Parliament and each provincial assembly (Chapter II, Section 16). A post-election review of the implementation of the action plan shall be included in the next annual report (Chapter II, Section 14 (2) and (3)). There was no such provision in the previous law.
- The ECP shall delimit constituencies after every census (Chapter III, Section 17 (2)).
- Variation of population amongst constituencies in the same Assembly from the same province or territory has been restricted to ten percent (Chapter III, Section 20 (3)). There was no such provision in the previous law.
- NADRA shall transmit relevant data of every CNIC issued by it to the ECP so that every citizen who obtains a CNIC from NADRA can automatically be enrolled as a voter at their permanent or temporary address on the basis of their option in the application for CNIC issuance (Chapter IV, Section 25).
- On the application of a candidate or their election agent, the District Election Commissioner or any officer authorized in this regard by the ECP shall provide to a candidate or an election agent a hard and searchable soft copy on a universal serial bus (USB) in portable document format (PDF) or any other tamper-proof format of the final electoral roll with photographs of the voters and shall ensure that the copy is the same as that provided to the Returning Officer and Presiding Officers (Chapter V, Section 79 (3)). This is a new and more pro-candidates provision.
Conduct of Election
- All election officials are required to take an oath before the commencement of their election duty that they shall act strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Elections Act, 2017 and the rules and directions of the ECP (Chapter V, Section 56).
- As far as possible, the distance between a polling station and voters assigned to it will not exceed one kilometre (Chapter V, Section 59 (2)). There was no such provision in the previous law.
- Nomination forms have been consolidated and the same form has now been prescribed for candidates for all seats.
- The deposit with nomination papers for the National Assembly, provincial assemblies (Chapter V, Section 61(1)) and Senate (Chapter VII, Section 111(1a)) have been changed as follows:
Deposit with nomination papers
|(New as per the Elections Act, 2017)|
- While scrutinizing nomination papers, Returning Officers shall not ask questions that have no nexus to the information supplied or received or objections raised by any person, or tangible material on record (Chapter V, Section 62 (7) (8)).
- In case of any default on the payment of taxes, loans, utility expenses or other Government duties, candidates may clear the default at the time of the scrutiny of their nomination papers, except in cases of wilful concealment (Chapter V, Section 62(10)).
- A person with any physical disability who is unable to travel and holds a CNIC with a logo dipicting physical disability issued by NADRA, may be able to cast their votes now by postal ballot (Chapter V, Section 93 (c)). There was no such provision for disabled persons in the previous law.
- Deletions in the declaration and oath by the person nominated in the nomination form: The following declarations which were a part of the nomination forms in the previous law have now been omitted:
- Declaration on outstanding loans from any bank, financial institution, cooperative society or corporate body in the candidate’s name or in the name of his/her spouse or any dependants
- Declaration on default in payment of government dues or utility charges
- List containing names of spouse(s) and dependants
- Declaration about companies owned by the candidate or his/her spouse and dependants
- Declaration of pending cases of criminal offences
- Declaration of educational qualification
- Declaration of present occupation
- National tax number
- Declaration of income tax paid during the last three years (along with total income and source of income)
- Declaration of travel abroad during the last three years
- Declaration of agricultural income tax paid (along with landholding and agricultural income)
- Declaration of important contributions made by the candidate for the benefit of the candidate’s constituency if elected previously
- Declaration of sums paid to any political party that awarded a ticket to the candidate
- Declaration to abide by the ECP’s code of conduct
- Declaration of net assets of the current financial year and previous year and the difference in net assets (only current financial year’s value of assets and liabilities has to be provided)
- Declaration of foreign passport details from statement of assets
- Declaration of personal expenditure detail from statement of liabilities
- Statement on oath that the candidate is a citizen of Pakistan and does not carry any other nationality
- The ECP may conduct pilot projects for the utilization of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and biometric voters’ identification systems in bye-elections in addition to the existing manual procedures for voter verification, casting and counting of votes to assess their technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility (Chapter V, Section 103).
- The ECP may also undertake pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis (Chapter V, Section 94).
- All election-related documents, including statements of count and ballot paper accounts, except the ballot papers, shall be public documents and may be inspected or copies thereof obtained (Chapter V, Section 100).
- the ECP shall retain election-related documents in tamper-evident sealed bags in storage space under its control at appropriate places (Chapter V, Section 99). This is a new provision.
- If the victory margin between the returned candidate and runner-up candidate is less than five percent of the total votes polled or 10,000 votes, whichever is less, the Returning Officer shall recount all the votes on the request of a contesting candidate before the commencement of results consolidation (Chapter V, Section 95 (5)). This is a modified provision of the previous law (The Representation of the People Act, 1976).
- In case of equality of votes between two candidates, both will be declared returned candidates and each shall become a member for half of the term of the Assembly. The candidate who will be member for the first half of the term will be determined by drawing lots. In case of equality of votes between three or more candidates, there shall be a re-election in the constituency (Chapter V, Section 97). As per the previous law (the Representation of the People Act, 1976), in case of equality of votes, drawing of lots was to take place to decide which candidate would be elected as a member of the Assembly.
- The ECP shall prepare a gender-disaggregated statement of voters showing the total number of votes cast by women and men voters at the polling station. (Chapter V, Section 91)
- If a candidate, not being the returned candidate, obtains less than one-fourth of the total votes polled in the constituency, the sum deposited by them or on their behalf shall stand forfeited in favour of the Government (Chapter V, Section 61(4). The threshold was previosuly one-eighth.
Code of Conduct
The ECP may, in consultation with political parties, frame a code of conduct for political parties, contesting candidates, election agents and polling agents. The Commission may also frame a code of conduct for security personnel, media and election observers (Chapter XV, Section 233). Although the ECP did issue a code of conduct in the past, there was no legal provision for it in the previous laws.
- District monitoring teams of the ECP shall monitor election expenses. The ECP may impose fines in case of violations of the Act or rules (Chapter XV, Section 234).
- The return of election expenses shall be scrutinized by the ECP (Chapter VIII, Section 136). In case of failure to file a return, the ECP may directly prosecute defaulting candidates for the offence (Chapter X, Section 174 and 183).
- A candidate may file an election petition directly with the Election Tribunal (Chapter IX, Section 142 (1).
- To check mushroom growth of political parties, conditions for the enlistment of new political parties with the ECP will include, in addition to the existing requirements, a minimum two thousand members and a PKR 200,000 enlistment fee. (Chapter XI, Section 202
- Political parties shall submit to the ECP annual financial statements and lists of donors who have donated PKR 100,000 or more to the political party. (Chapter XI, Section 211)
- Symbols allocated to political parties and candidates should be visibly different from each other. (Chapter XII, Section 217 (5))
- If an enlisted political party fails to comply with the provisions of the Act, it will be disentitled for symbol allocation for the election. (Chapter XII, Section 215 (4))
- The office-bearers of a political party at the federal, provincial and local level shall be elected periodically provided that
|PKR 1.5 million||PKR 4 million|
|PKR 1 million||
PKR 2 million
|Senate||PKR 1 million||
PKR 1.5 million
a period, not exceeding five years, shall intervene between any two elections. (Chapter XI, Section 208 (1) The previous law (Political Parties Order, 2002) allowed a period of up to four years between any two intra-party elections.
Special Measures for Women
The following are some of the special measures included in the Elections Act, 2017 to encourage women’s participation in the electoral process, including the registration of women voters and actual voting on polling day:
- The ECP shall conduct awareness/media campaigns for the registration of women voters and their participation in the elections (Chapter II, Section 12 c).
- If the variation in the number of women and men voters in a constituency is more than ten percent, special measures will be taken by the ECP to reduce such variation (Chapter IV, Section 47 (2)).
- The ECP shall annually publish disaggregated data of registered women and men voters in each National Assembly and provincial assembly constituency highlighting the difference in the numbers (Chapter IV, Section 47 (1)).
- If the turnout of women voters is less than ten percent of the total votes polled in the constituency, the ECP may presume that women have been restrained through an agreement from casting their votes and may declare polling at one or more polling stations, or election in the whole constituency, void (Chapter II, Section 9
- Political parties shall encourage women membership (Chapter XI, Section 203 (4)) and award at least five percent party tickets to women candidates on general seats (Chapter XI, Section 206).
For more details, visit the following links:
This content has been taken from ‘Overview of the Elections Act, 2017’, developed by Tabeer in collaboration with PILDAT.
This section provides separate laws related to the elections, election procedures and conduct, electoral rolls, political parties and their formation, and citizens’ rights of representation.
- Elections Act, 2017
- The Election Commission Order, 2002
- The Representation of the People Act, 1976
- The Representation of the People Rules, 1977
- The Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974
- Constitutional Provisions
- Procedure for Trial of Election Petitions
- The Allocation of Symbols Order
- The Conduct of General Elections Order
- The Electoral Rolls Act, 1974
- The National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies
- The Political Parties Order
- The Political Parties Rules
- The Presidential Election
- The Representation of the People Act