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ECP proposes four-fold increase in election expenses

December 23, 2012

— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed a four-fold increase in election expenditure to Rs6 million for a National Assembly seat and Rs4m for that of a provincial assembly.

The current ceiling of Rs1.5m and Rs1m for a national and provincial assembly seat respectively was fixed over a decade ago.

The proposal is part of a comprehensive draft, a copy of which is available with Dawn. The draft is a combination of amendments proposed by the ECP’s legal framework committee and the National Assembly’s standing committee on law and justice and its sub-committee.

A joint meeting of the ECP and the Senate’s standing committee on election issues is to discuss the proposed law on Dec 31.

The draft law proposes that a party would not be eligible to receive an election symbol if it does not fulfil three conditions: if it had not secured at least one seat with its election symbol in any of the past three parliamentary polls, or had failed to obtain five per cent of total votes cast in the constituencies in which its candidates took part during the three previous elections or has not established a “functional central office”, with a central committee and district offices, in at least 10 administrative districts and offices in at least 50 tehsils and talukas.

The draft law seeks to widen the definition of corrupt practices as well to include capturing polling stations and tampering with ballot papers which previously was confined to bribery, impersonation and undue influence. The law proposes an imprisonment for a term extendable to three years and/or fine extendable to Rs100,000.

It also proposes a procedure to eliminate the possibility of ghost polling stations. Under the procedure, the commission would provide a draft list of poling stations for each constituency to the returning officer concerned, soon after the appointment of district returning officers and returning officers.

After physical verification of the polling stations, the returning officer would be empowered to make alterations in the list as he deem necessary and publish the same for public inspection inviting objections from the electors to be filed with the district returning officer.

The final list of polling stations, specifying the electoral area of voters entitled to vote in each polling station, is required to be published in the official gazette at least 15 days prior to the polling day.

To discourage non-serious candidates, the security deposit is proposed to be increased from Rs4,000 to Rs50,000 for the National Assembly and from Rs2,000 to Rs25,000 for a provincial assembly. The deposit shall not be refunded to a candidate who has received less than one fourth of the total number of votes cast.

The ECP has also sought the powers to suspend or withdraw any officer performing any duty in connection with the elections, or any other public functionary, member of the police force or any other law enforcement agency who obstructs or prevents the conduct of fair and impartial polls, or found to be involved in any act calculated to influence an election result.

The draft law proposes to empower the ECP to initiate and finalise disciplinary action and impose any penalty against any official for any act of misconduct provided in the efficiency and discipline rules.

Under the proposed law, the secretaries of the union councils would be required to submit lists of births and deaths to the registration officer concerned to help keep the electoral rolls updated and delete names of deceased voters.