American upper house, the Senate is powerful because the senators there are elected on the basis of adult franchise giving them the power of representing people. On the other hand, the reason for the weakness of Pakistani senate is that it gets elected through an extremely dubious method of acquiring representation. The accepted democratic representation is one man, one vote for one candidate in the general elections but it is not valid for the senate of Pakistan. On the contrary, voting for Pakistan’s upper house of parliament is extremely complicated but the most important factor is that the country accepts and endures this convoluted system.
In an extremely complicated exercise Pakistani senate elections are held on the basis of a Single Transferable Vote System (STV), a proportional representational system devised in the 19th century and is practiced in Australia, Germany and Republic of Ireland amongst few other states. This system became the standard format adopted in Pakistan after 1973 and its procedural requirements encoded in the constitution. These regulations stipulate that a candidate must be 30 years of age who is elected for a term of six years, even though elections are held after every three years to replace half the house. This ensures some continuity in the upper house when new parliaments are made after national elections.
The current strength of the senate is 104 and its electoral college is the national assembly of the country and all provincial assemblies. On the day of the vote, members of the national and provincial assembly will be given four slips of paper and they will name their candidates on the basis of priority. The calculation to determine the exact quota of the vote each candidate should receive is worked out by dividing the total value of votes. For example, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that has 124 electors and each vote is assigned the value of 100.
The result is 1, 2400 that is further divided by the number of vacant seats that are 8. The total comes to 1,550 and then 1 is added and the result is 1,551. The next step is to remove the last two digits leaving 15 in which another one is added that will make it 16 votes that would be ultimately required to elect each candidate in KP. In the same way, 171 votes in National Assembly will be required for a Senator to be elected from Islamabad, 46 for Punjab, 21 for Sindh and 8 for Balochistan.
The elections for the senate are scheduled to be held on 3 March 2021 and all major parties have announced their candidates. It has come as no surprise that many candidates were already known to make it for the elections including Hafeez Sheikh because he needs to be elected in order to run the ministry with full powers and also preside over the National Finance Commission. Dr Sania Nishtar’s nomination was also to be expected as she is supposedly doing some good work for Ehsaas programme.
The PMLN has fielded senior people like Pervaiz Rashid and Mushahidullah Khan as has the PPP that has chosen to give tickets to key members like Sherry Rehman and Farhatullah Babar. Prominent among those from the PTI who have not got a Senate ticket are parliamentary affairs’ adviser Babar Awan, commerce adviser Razzaq Dawood and accountability czar Shahzad Akbar. Given the respective party strengths within the Senate Electoral College and if people vote along party lines, the PTI is expected to emerge as the largest party in the house, followed by PPP and then the PMLN.
The reports of deep rifts brewing within the ruling PTI with reference to nominating candidates for senate have emerged particularly about Faisal Vawda, Saifullah Abro from Sindh and Abdul Qadir from Balochistan. The party’s decision has generated criticism from its key leaders from three zones of rural Sindh who wrote a letter to Governor Sindh Imran Ismail to show their anger and demand the party’s high command to take back tickets from Vawda and Abro. The party leadership was also compelled to withdraw the nomination of Abdul Qadir.
Keeping in view the blames flying about horse-trading the Supreme Court is hearing a case on whether the mode of voting in these elections is mandated by the Election Act 2017 or by the Constitution. The decision will determine how the election is held. The opposition believes many PTI legislators will not vote for party candidates in a secret battle and there could be some surprises in store. This may explain why former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been fielded as a joint candidate of the PDM. He is a strong candidate and his victory or defeat would have significant symbolic and substantive political value. TW