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Electoral reforms

With the controversy regarding Senate elections firmly behind and the threat of the opposition’s protests subsided, the government seems in the mood for much-needed electoral reforms. These reforms are crucial so that future elections are without the unusual allegations which we usually witness and are held in a smooth and transparent manner.

There has also been consensus on forming a bipartisan parliamentary committee to bring constitutional and electoral reforms. The government has also invited the opposition for dialogue which is vital for political stability and a functional parliament. The government is certainly dismayed with the ECP over its handling of the Senate elections and is warming up to new elections laws and an election commission. If the opposition accepts the offer and gives its recommendation on judicial and administrative reforms, it would certainly be a step in the right direction to bring legislation after mutual consultation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the only way to hold transparent elections in Pakistan is through the electronic voting system. He wants a US-style voting system and wants to introduce electoral reforms to counter voter fraud and ensure a transparent election process. Every election in Pakistan is mired in controversies as the losing side alleges foul play and rigging. The decisions are often challenged in election tribunals and courts which is a long, arduous process. The ECP had conducted trials of the electronic voting machines but have never been implemented. Pakistan lags behind many countries, including India, in conducting elections using electronic voting systems. It is imperative that reforms are brought earlier in the upcoming local government elections or by-polls to check their feasibility before they are fully implemented in the next general elections.

The benefits of electronic voting certainly outweigh the risks. Donald Trump made baseless rigging allegations after losing US elections but couldn’t prove them. India can elect controversial figures like Modi but no one raises doubts over the system. In Pakistan, we have failed to ensure transparency by using outdated paper ballots which violates a citizen’s right to choose in a democratic system.

The government and opposition should not waste time arguing about electoral reforms but rather bring a new set of proposals and reach a consensus. It is vital there is no clash between institutions like we witnessed between the government and the ECP after it called for the Chief Election Commissioner’s resignation. Both sides need to move beyond the situation as they certainly owe it to the nation.