Faster electoral reforms needed for 2018: Speakers

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ECP asked to undertake administrative reforms

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad—‘The electoral reforms legal package is very important and needs to be made public right away’ said KP’s prominent politician Bushra Gohar of Awam National Party (ANP) while speaking at a roundtable discussion on electoral reforms organised by Democracy Reporting International (DRI).
The participating political parties’ representatives and civil society called for expediting the electoral reforms process as next general elections are less than two years away. DRI’s Country Representative Hassan Nasir Mirbahar said the ECP should put the legal reforms into practice.
The speakers in general pointed out that by-elections were an opportunity for testing ways to improve elections. Participants urged political parties to question their representatives in the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER) about the progress of the reforms and called for a timeline for the finalisation of the reform package this year. Also for public consultations prior to enactment.
“Legal reforms are about changing the rules of the game, therefore, meaningful involvement of and consultation with all stakeholders including political parties, the ECP, national experts, civil society and marginalised groups is important.” said Hannah Roberts, Former Deputy Chief Observer of the EU’s Election Observation Mission in 2013, while outlining the principles for a good reforms process.
Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister/ Minister of State for Law and Justice, briefed participants on the progress of the PCER stating that the Committee had reached consensus on many key reform issues and all electoral laws are consolidated into a manual of electoral laws and rules. He added that the PCER intends to make the draft law available for public consultations. S.A Iqbal Qadri, member of the PCER, briefed participants on some of the issues covered by the Committee.
Civil society representatives stressed that, in the absence of legal reforms, the ECP still has powers to undertake administrative reforms to improve electoral processes. DRI highlighted that the ECP has increasingly introduced positive practices to try and strengthen the electoral process during recent local government elections and by-elections. Such ECP initiatives included improving staff training, using some of its own staff as Returning Officers, providing gender disaggregated data on voter turnout in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nullifying results where women were barred from voting and pilot-testing the Geographic Information System for polling stations and an android-based results managements system. The participants stressed the importance of the ECP continuing to undertake such administrative reforms to further improve the electoral practices.

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