ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) on Sunday called upon parliament and political parties to strengthen the regulations on political finance to curtail the role of money in elections.

It noted that unchecked use of money in electoral exercises practically deprived the majority of the population of exercising their right to contest elections.

In a statement, it asked the parliamentary parties and those outside the Parliament to develop a consensus on critical electoral reforms, including those required to regulate the use of money in elections.

It noted that the Elections Act 2017 has weak provisions to regulate political finance “which encouraged excessive use of money in 2018 general elections and subsequent by-elections and local government elections”.

Says ‘minimalist campaigns’ will enable ordinary citizens to contest polls

“Meaningful reforms for regulating election expen­ses and political finance were imperative to boost public confidence in the democratic dispensation. Fafen considers the recent order by the Election Commission on the prohibited funding case as the awakening call for strengthening legal and regulatory checks on parties’ accounts and sources of funds, along with provisions to bind the commission to scrutinise the political parties’ audited statements annually. The timely scrutiny is a prerequisite for greater diligence among political parties about their accounts and sources of funds,” the group of NGOs working together to make electoral processes more transparent said.

Fafen also recommended strengthening the legal framework to regulate expenses incurred during an election by contesting candidates and political parties alike, and timely scrutiny of assets and liabilities submitted by the members of parliament and provincial assemblies. “Any false or materially incorrect submissions or withholding information should be criminalised with punitive implications, including disqualification,” it said.

It pointed out that the current provisions in the Elections Act 2017 do not clearly define the election expenses or provide any implication for a person making election expenses on a candidate’s behalf without the candidate’s permission. While the law specifies the maximum limit for election expenses by the contesting candidates, there is no such bar on political parties, making it difficult for the commission to check any extravagant spending on an election campaign, it added.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2022

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