A whole lot of them
As CEC Ebrahim put it on Tuesday, the first phase of electioneering has started with the publication of the voters lists. The claim that the lists are error free will be tested when they become accessible to the voters. For this they should be made available at the ECP website and, for a nominal fee, accessible in the form of CDs, as suggested by PILDAT. As fresh CNICs would continue to be made during the remainder of the government’s tenure, the EC should institute a system whereby future voter registration is automatically carried out at the time of issuance of CNICs.
For the elections to be fair and free, the EC has to ensure effective curbs on the use of money and muscle power, which play a negative role in every elections, thus barring the entry of the middle class candidates in the legislatures. A realistic ceiling needs to be imposed on the maximum election expenses. Proper checks have to be maintained to ensure that the limits are not transgressed. An agreed code of conduct for political parties should be worked out to curb unfair practices. What is equally important is an effective machinery to enforce the measures. It has to be ensured that the President, Governors and key bureaucrats associated with the present governments at the center and provinces do not misuse their powers to influence the outcome of the elections. In certain constituencies women continue to be debarred from voting. The EC has to ensure that this does not happen. The fact that male voters have a numerical predominance in certain areas indicates that women are discouraged from getting CNICs. Thus already a fairly significant portion of the women remains disenfranchised. The CEC needs to take measures to remedy this.
Disputes about elections also arise due to the centralised counting of votes. To stop any possible malpractices and allay apprehension, there has to be a live posting of polling stations-wise (progressive) voting results on the ECP website. What is highly important is a public awareness campaign before the elections to raise the voter turnout which compared to other Asian countries is much lower in Pakistan. Lawmakers reaching assemblies on the basis of the support of a mini minority lack prestige. One of the reasons for low voting is the relatively small number of polling stations requiring voters to travel long distances. The problem is particularly acute in Balochistan. For this there should be more polling stations while the EC should also arrange transport for voters as it did in the recent Multan by-elections.