LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), through the recently passed Election Act 2017, has increased the ceiling of campaign expenditures allowed to the contesting candidates to run their election campaigns substantially, Pakistan Today has observed.
According to details, the ceiling for campaign expenditures for the contesting candidates for all the seats, including the National Assembly (NA), Senate and all the provincial assemblies, was increased on the demand of political parties.
A candidate contesting for a NA seat could now spend up to Rs 4 million for electioneering. Earlier this amount was set at Rs 1.5 million. Moreover, the candidates running for provincial assemblies’ seat would have the permission to spend Rs 2 million as campaign expenditure. Earlier, candidates fighting for a provincial assembly seat could only spend an amount of Rs 1 million for electioneering.
Similarly, the ceiling of campaign expenditure for Senate elections have been increased from Rs 1 million to Rs 1.5 million, per the Election Act 2017. The campaign expenditures for the Senate elections were not increased at par with the expenditure limit set for contestants of provincial and national assemblies, because the candidates running for NA and provincial assemblies have to spend money on advertisements, keeping in view the nature of their elections.
Furthermore, the security fee for filing the nomination papers had also been increased for Senate, NA and provincial assemblies’ seats. The security fee to file the nomination papers for NA seat had been increased from Rs 4,000 to Rs 30,000.
Similarly, a candidate contesting on a provincial assembly seat would have to submit Rs 20,000 as security fee prior to filing his/her nomination papers. Earlier, the security fee to contest on a provincial assembly was set at just Rs 2,000. For Senate elections, the security fee for filing nomination papers would be Rs 20,000, per the Election Act 2017.
Talking to this scribe, ECP Director General (DG) (Elections) Yousuf Khan Khattak said that certain amendments were made in the country’s election laws to keep the election system at par with the international standards and best practices. “The fee to file the nomination papers was increased manifold in order to discourage the non-serious candidates from applying. Now, only serious candidates would take part in the election process after the amendments introduced to this decades-old law,” he said.
The director general further added that a large number of non-serious candidates used to take part in the elections earlier and it caused problems during the electoral process as well. He was of the view that the ECP had to print a very large sized ballot paper since the number of contesting candidates had also increased.
According to Khattak, the voters had to face some problems in locating the election symbol of their favourite candidate due to the presence of a large number of election symbols printed on the ballot paper, adding that this exercise consumed a lot of time on the day of the elections.
Revealing the reason behind increasing the ceiling of election expenditure, Khattak said that it was a long due demand of the political parties as the previous law was decades old and needed amendments.
It is worth mentioning here that as many as 44 candidates took part in the recently held NA-120 Lahore by-election and most of the contestants were fresh faces in the political arena, who were taking part in the by-poll just for the sake of fun, thus making a mockery of the ECP.