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Electoral reforms

"People know well that every system in this country is only for widening the gap between rich and poor and supports the elite. If not all, at least we need to change the present ‘dirty’ electoral system of ‘dirty’ politics which always helps to deceive the people"

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Siraj-ul-Haq has demanded in one of his press conferences that for saving the national politics from further ‘devastation’, new general elections should be announced immediately. For cleaning the ‘dirt’ from the politics and bringing in honest and brilliant people representing professors, lawyers, traders, labor, and vendors, the electoral reforms should be introduced for the proportional representation system. He also demanded to constitute a judicial commission to probe the ‘foreign interference’ in Pakistan’s internal affairs and bring the facts to light. He said that common people have ‘totally’ lost their faith in all national institutions and present political system has nothing but a ‘game’ for the players of family interests. They are openly plundering the country and courts are ‘unable’ to give any decision against them.

The crux of the facts is that we are ruled by an elite of some families. Only landlords in the rural areas and capitalists in the cities can dare to take part in the elections. We never have fair elections, muscles and money make the mare go. In most cases, only fifty percent of votes are cast. They are divided among many candidates and often a candidate with eighteen percent or so cast votes is elected and the voice of five other candidates with a total of eighty-two percent cast (divided) votes remains outside of the parliament. The nation witnessed the worst type of ‘horse-trading’ of the elected ones, whenever a number game is played for toppling a government or making a government. In the present system, governments with a thin majority are always continuously blackmailed by some legislative members.

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Parties never get the seats according to the number of votes cast in their favor. That is why the parties with honest and well-educated but financially weak candidates always lost seats in second/third positions. Their overall vote in the province or National Assembly is more than any other party but the number of elected members is less. In this case, our democracy doesn’t represent the rule of the majority of people. Counting the elected members for making a government has made politics a business, where people with black money come forward for the investment with the hope to multiply their wealth. Political parties don’t get assembly seats proportionate to their votes. For example, Pakistan People’s Party got 39% votes in the 1970 elections but it became the ruling party with a two-thirds majority. Similarly, in the 2013 elections, the turnout of the cast votes was very low and the Muslim League got only one-third of the cast votes but won two-thirds of the seats.

Whereas, in a real democracy, a party must win the favor of at least 51 percent of the registered voters. The proportional representation electoral system is used in one hundred and fifteen countries of the world. In this system, parties get legislative seats in proportion to votes cast in their favor. Votes are cast to the manifesto and allotted symbols of the political parties. The candidates of the political parties are sent to the parliament according to the proportionate number from the priority lists provided to the election commission from the party leadership. This can make leaders of the party very powerful and they can sell the seats as they do even in the present system also. Nevertheless, solution to this problem could be sought in primary elections of the parties for deciding about the candidates, political parties’ internal elections under the supervision of the Election Commission, and permission to the independent candidates to contest the elections.

One very important drawback of the present election system is that a common man cannot think of becoming a candidate. It is a game of crores of rupees. If a community belonging to the lower classes wants to bring a candidate of very high caliber from among them, it is not possible for it to get a true representation of them in the parliament because of the heavy expenses of the elections. A proportional representation system is also a solution to this problem. When candidates spend much more money on their election campaigns than permitted, Election Commission fails to check them. In proportional representation system, the focus remains on the nation or province level. The political parties’ programs and pledges regarding all walks of life are introduced and propagated by the parties. This system promotes nationalism in place of regional and racial biases. Eilaf Club, Lahore, Pakistan Visionary Forum, Citizen Council of Pakistan, Pakistan Jago Tehreeq, and many other think tanks and social clubs have proposed proportional representation electoral system for Pakistan.

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After discussing possible problems of this system, they have suggested the solutions also. Besides this, there are many scholars and activists who are in favor of the presidential system. Those who hate the presidential system and don’t consider it a true democracy, actually keep the martial law and its fake face of democracy in mind. There are some scholars who propose direct elections of the prime minister for saving him from ‘blackmailing’ of the lawmakers. Many thinkers are in favor of direct elections of the senators. One can conclude safely that the overwhelming majority of Pakistani people hate the present systems because they hate some of the politicians and the corrupt administration. By this time of history, they have known well that every system in this country is only for widening the gap between rich and poor and supports the elite. If not all, at least we need to change the present ‘dirty’ electoral system of ‘dirty’ politics which always helps to deceive the people.

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