ISLAMABAD, May 19, 2016: Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) welcomes the unanimous passage of the Constitutional (Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2016 from the National Assembly that introduces 11 amendments to the election-related Articles of the Constitution. Though delayed, the changes introduced in the Constitution are a step in the right direction.
The Amendment seeks to change the eligibility criteria for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Members of the Election Commission, provide for the continuity of the Commission, introduces time limit to fill vacancy in the Office of Commissioner or member, alters the conditions for appointment of Acting Chief Election Commissioner and empowers the Election Commission to prepare electoral rolls and delimit constituencies for local governments.
FAFEN had been advocating for these changes for long and considers them a leap forward towards an autonomous and independent Election Commission separated from the influence of the Constitutional bodies especially, the judiciary.
Enabling the consideration of civil servants and technocrats for the CEC and Members of the Commission expands the pool of potential appointees with wide-ranging expertise and administrative experience. Moreover, the continuity in the membership of the Commission and timely appointment in case of vacancy would also go a long way to ensure the institutional autonomy. The amendments in the Article 219 and 222 settle the issue of electoral rolls and delimitation of constituencies for local government elections once and for all by vesting these powers in the Election Commission.
However, FAFEN recommends defining the term of local governments through the Constitutional Amendment. At present, the Constitution does not specify the term of the local governments and the period after which the elections for third tier should be held. Both these terms need to be given in the Constitution through an amendment in the clause 2 of the Article 140A.
Furthermore, as a critical devolution measure, the provincial legislatures shall be given the right to select their representatives for a constitutional and federal institution such as the Election Commission. The Members of the Commission in the provinces shall be appointed by their respective provincial assemblies’ committees comprising one member from each party. This measure would require further amendment in clauses 2A and 2B of Article 213 of the Constitution.
This will result in higher political ownership and backing of Election Commission that heavily relies on confidence of key stakeholders. Given the seriousness of all the political parties in electoral reforms process, FAFEN considers it as the right time to address maximum of the electoral lacunae.