FAFEN urges issuance of new schedule for LG elections

Islamabad, February 12, 2014: Showing concern over the delay and abrupt postponement of the much-awaited local government elections, Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately issue a new schedule for holding polls in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Islamabad Capital Territory after consultations with relevant authorities.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, FAFEN says the holding of local government elections is not only a constitutional requirement and obligation for the ECP but the establishment of local governments is mandatory for strengthening democratic system in the country. FAFEN believes that it is high time to initiate the process of delimitation according to court rulings so that the local government elections could be held in time.

Calling upon the ECP to take practical and realistic decisions regarding holding of LG elections, FAFEN proposes the holding of local government elections in phases so that the election administration could be managed amicably. Similarly, the ECP should facilitate the contesting candidates by simplifying the electoral process and take practical steps for restoring people’s confidence in the electoral system for encouraging their participation.

As far as the postponement of local government elections on court orders in Punjab and Sindh on the basis of conflicting delimitations is concerned, FAFEN regrets that it is a result of hasty decisions which proved to be a waste of resources for the contesting candidates. Approximately 80,000 candidates submitted nomination papers along with fee, however; the whole process was abruptly nullified few days before the polling. The contesting candidates, who utilized considerable energies after the announcement of election schedule by the ECP, also remained engaged in panel formations and election campaigns for almost two months and suffered substantial financial losses, but the ECP did not taken any remedial measures to compensate them.

The local government election candidates not only strongly condemned the decision of delaying elections but also staged protests across the country and demanded the payment of compensation. Though the ECP announced that the candidates who have submitted nomination papers earlier will not have to pay fee again, however, it seems impracticable as a proper process is yet to be defined by the ECP.

Cognizant of the competing concerns of holding local government elections at the earliest and the need for a practical structural and legal framework, FAFEN calls upon the relevant provincial governments and the ECP to announce a viable election schedule. FAFEN also urges the provinces and the ECP to ensure accurate and contiguous delimitation.