Moving forward

Published September 29, 2023

THE Election Commission has taken a first formal step towards the delayed general election by issuing its preliminary delimitation of constituencies based on the 2023 census.

For those not well-versed in the intricacies of the electoral process, this is ECP’s way of communicating to voters which seats in the national and provincial assemblies they will be casting their votes for in the upcoming elections.

From citizens’ perspective, how the delimitation has been conducted may not seem to be a big issue.

However, if looked at from the macro perspective, with an eye on the demographics, ethnicities, cultures and spoken languages that define each constituency, how the ECP has drawn its boundaries between constituencies can have a significant impact on poll results. A line here or a line there can split up a party’s vote bank and be the difference between winning and losing a seat.

It is for this reason that what comes next should be dealt with quickly and carefully if elections are not to be delayed further beyond the last week of January — the timeline provided by the ECP.

While it is still very early for there to be a clear picture of how fairly the delimitation exercise has been conducted by the ECP, we do know that there have been some significant changes, with seats taken away from some districts and added to others, and parts of different districts merged together to form new constituencies.

It should be expected that some important stakeholders will not be happy with these changes and will agitate against them. The ECP has invited the citizenry to share their objections regarding the new delimitations so that it can revise its decisions wherever justifiable.

However, there is a good chance that some cases may still end up in courts, which would throw the ECP-provided timeline for elections in disarray.

It is hoped that the ECP was wary of this possibility while conducting the exercise and followed the set rules diligently while demarcating constituency boundaries.

Considering that the ‘necessity’ of conducting a fresh delimitation has been the crux of its justification to violate the 90-day deadline for polls laid out in the Constitution, it is expected of the ECP that it completes the exercise in a manner that minimises the possibility of its delimitation decisions becoming a reason for further delay.

Where concerned citizens, CSOs and politicians still have valid objections to how their constituencies have been demarcated, they must act quickly, follow the prescribed process to register their complaints, and be prepared to comprehensively argue their positions whenever their objections are taken up by the ECP.

It is the responsibility of stakeholders on both sides to ensure that this process is completed fairly and without avoidable delays.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2023

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