Delay in By-Elections Violates Constitution

ISLAMABAD, May 5, 2008: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) notes with concern the second postponement of by-elections by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) through a non-transparent and non-consultative process.

The decision to put off the by-elections in eight National and 30 Provincial Assembly seats to August 18, 2008, is against Article 224-4 of the Constitution, which requires that the ECP hold a by-election within 60 days of a seat falling vacant.

The Article 224-4 reads: When, except by dissolution of the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly, a [general] seat in any such Assembly has become vacant not later than one hundred and twenty days before the term of that Assembly is due to expire, an election to fill the seat shall be held within sixty days from the occurrence of the vacancy.

The decision to delay the by-elections will disrupt the completion of the National Assembly for six months after the 2008 General Elections. The people of 38 national and provincial constituencies will continue to be without elected representatives in the legislatures, depriving them of their democratic right to representation.

The second-time delay in the by-election is particularly troubling at a time when major political parties represented in the National Assembly are promising to bring about a constitutional reforms package.

FAFEN urges the ECP to make public the reasons and process undertaken in deciding to further postpone the by-elections. The arguments so far put forward are insufficient to justify the unconstitutional delay. An adverse law and order situation prevailed at the time of the 2008 General Elections, but they were conducted nevertheless. The budget sessions in the National and Provincial Assemblies also should not be a cause for any extra-constitutional delay.

About FAFEN: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is a coalition of 40 leading Pakistani civil society organizations. It was established in 2006 to observe election processes, educate voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reform.