ISLAMABAD: Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED), an umbrella organisation of civil society groups, on Monday urged the federal and provincial governments and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to strictly adhere to the constitutional requirements regarding provincial assembly elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

In a statement, it said that a delay in polls due to “political expediency” will undermine the constitutional order and will have grave consequences for the “fledgling democracy” in the country. The CED urged the political parties to take steps to reduce polarisation, sort out the controversy around the implications of the decision of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) regarding the census, jointly set date or dates for the polls within the constitutional framework, agree on a code of conduct for the electoral campaign, and ensure that will of the people will be respected in all circumstances.

The proposed dialogue among political stakeholders must pave the way for multi-party consensus on measures aimed at improving the law and order, enacting electoral reforms, building the trust of voters in the electoral process, and upholding the Constitution.

“The CED believes that the multiple crises affecting the country require mature politics and stakeholders’ dialogue, as the existing polarisation and unchecked politics of zero-sum type run the risk of bringing down the whole constitutional order,” the statement added.

Civil society group seeks consensus on electoral reforms, steps to reduce polarisation

It has further called upon the political leadership of the country to assess the risks of holding provincial assembly elections in the presence of a partisan government at the federal level, and together find a solution for the short term as well as the long-term basis through an agreed code of conduct or legal measures.

“The issues of such sensitive nature can’t be resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders unless all the relevant players sit together and develop consensus in the light of regional or international best practices and in the interest of promoting democratic values,” it stated.

Any unwarranted delay in the conduct of provincial assembly elections will set a bad precedent, which will not be in the interest of political stability and democratic consolidation, the statement warned.

“It is imperative that, despite challenges, our governments and institutions stick to the Constitution and fulfil their responsibility in accordance with the law. It is deeply worrying that our politics continues to remain hugely polarised, marred with allegations of victimisation and foul play, and focused on achieving partisan interests at all costs without much regard to consideration like political stability, constitutional order, institutional credibility and will of the people,” it stated.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2023

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