PRINCIPLE CONCEPT: Renewal of the electoral process
'Making Votes Count’
OBJECTIVE & PURPOSE:
Renovating the electoral system, removing flaws and leaving no room for rigging and fraud. Through this legislation the most competent and popular figures will be brought before the public.
Another objective of this legislation is to serve the public well and make sure that each qualified individual is guaranteed his/her constitutional right to vote. Also, to secure the voter’s satisfaction regarding the Election Board’s fair and competent handling of votes.
BENEFITS TO THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION:
The proposed legislation promises to deliver positive long term effects but even in the short run it will bring some radical changes to the existing electoral process. Since, the legislation proposes a system of ‘primaries’, it would play an effective role in shaping the final platforms of the popular candidates in the future elections. Primaries give a chance to weaker candidates to drop out before the final election but if that candidate drops out with a substantial number of votes, the stronger candidate would adopt certain aspects of his platform. In this way, the primaries would not just allow stronger candidates to reach the top but also bring other budding leaders in the public’s eye.
Another important aspect of this legislation is that it would make the government more responsive and efficient. Through this legislation the public would be given the opportunity to participate directly in the political process and limit the power of big corporations and ring leaders. The Direct primary reform would be a preliminary election giving all party members a chance to participate in a nomination, inadvertently limiting the influence of political bigwigs in selecting candidates.
BENEFITS TO THE COMMON MAN:
The Primary election process would allow the public to get to know the candidate. Since, primary election campaigns bring figures nominated by the party members to the forefront, it is an important way that public can learn about them before they cast their vote. The primaries provide a huge platform nationwide for free and open exchange of all ideas and opinions.
Most importantly, the primary elections will provide an opportunity through which Pakistani public can take part in the process of choosing their own future leaders. Extensive media coverage, political debates and the overall interest generated by the primary elections would entice many citizens to register, go to the polls and make their vote count.
DETAILS OF THE LEGISLATION:
The proposed legislation puts forward the idea of a complete renovation of the electoral process. This will require some primary changes in the current electing system like introducing the Primary Election System (e.g. U.S) and an electoral process similar to one in Scandinavian countries.
The chief objective of this system is the ‘pre-registration of every voter (in any constituency ) through a political party. This will highlight the voter’s inclination towards any specific political party even if they don’t vote for that particular party.
Primary elections are open to all registered voters. Similar to general elections, voting is done through a secret ballot. Voters can choose from among all registered candidates and write-ins are counted. There are two types of primaries, closed and open. In a closed primary, voters may vote only in the primary of the political party in which they are registered. In an open primary, the registered voters are allowed to vote in the primary of any party but they can only vote in one primary.
Furthermore, prior registration enables registered voters of each party to decide which candidate they want to run in the elections. For example, for the North Nazimabad constituency of Karachi, MQM has 500,000 registered voters; and MQM has three individuals who are in line to be given the party ticket to stand for elections for that seat. However, in this scenario, instead of the party choosing the representative, those 500,000 voters will have a mini internal election, in which the 3 candidates will run against each other; and the winner of that mini election will then participate in the main election from MQM’s platform.
This will bring a democratic culture within parties and result in voter engagement. The mini internal election will also serve as a precursor of the main elections; and give the voters a glimpse of their candidates; their strong and weak points; their goals and agendas; etc. This would be made possible through the ‘primaries’. The direct primary or preliminary internal election would pit candidates against each other, who would compete to win utmost voters’ confidence and secure the maximum number of votes, not just in the mini election or internal party primaries, but also in the main election against candidates of opposition parties.
AUTOMATED VOTING PROCESS:
in voting lists; there are no [area-based] duplication in names of voters; and rigging is minimal. A clear and concise process needs to be developed for the creation of either the software that ensures this; or an application that completes the task. Humans based systems are vulnerable and often targeted by miscreants for foul play.
In order to ensure rigging-free elections, there should be a mandatory audit of 40% of random voting centers or polling stations/booth.
A channel like ‘C-Span’ (in the US) must be formed that covers all political activities 24/7. It should be under a government department, in form of a public watch-dog or not-for-profit entity that does video coverage of all level of activities in the electoral process. There would be live debates between candidates posted online or broadcasted on television allowing everyone and anyone to assess the candidates, review their performances and make decisions to vote for or against them based on that evaluation.
Parameters based performance will be promoted. This entails that parameters will be developed for MNAs & MPAs (such as roads developed, hospitals refurbished, health units’ set-up, schools built or made functional, etc.) and their performance will be matched against those parameters. This will allow voters to review the performance of their representative in light of those parameters; and enable them to gauge whether their term has been beneficial for them, the community and the constituency.
Automated Removal Process would be developed for the elimination of incompetent players. At a pre-determined time interval, ideally on an annual basis, the voters will have the option of voting out their elected representative if they think s/he hasn’t delivered on their promises (in light of the parameters – which will serve as a gauge for performance.)
If a simple majority or 51% of the total voters who voted in any given constituency (not just for the winning candidate, but the total votes cast) vote for the removal of an elected representative, then his tenure will be terminated. A one-month time window will be automatically activated at the time of the 1st anniversary of the representative’s tenure; and if 51% of voters desire him to leave during that one-month period, then there will be termination of tenure; and new elections held for the selection of a new representative.
ELECTION COMMISSION REFORMS:
Instead of one Election Commissioner (EC), the commission should comprise of SEVEN individuals, preferably justices of the Supreme Court (or provincial high courts). However, the justices should be approved by the Chief Justice of Pakistan or the Supreme Court bench.