Presidential election: Opposition parties poised to put up close fight

Presidential election: Opposition parties poised to put up close fight

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties have landed in a good numerical position to put up a close fight in the presidential election if they remain united and field a joint nominee.

Tentative calculations apparently give a slight edge to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a large number of its allies in the Electoral College that chooses the president, who is just a figurehead now, having no worthwhile powers courtesy the 18th Amendment. However, it will be a close interesting fight. If any of the coalition partners of the next ruling alliance slipped away, it may lose the contest.

Bilawal can’t take part in this election for being underage as a presidential contestant has to be not less than 45 years. But he can be a candidate in the prime ministerial race. However, reputed senior leader of his party Raza Rabbani may cause an upset in this scramble if he is sponsored by the opposition parties and Asif Zardari also consents to his nomination as he can attract votes from the other side as well.

The Electoral College – the National Assembly, Senate and four provincial assemblies – consists of 706 votes and any presidential competitor securing 353 ballots or 51pc will be elected for a five-year term.

The rough estimates made by The News show that the future ruling alliance is in a position to bag 365 votes plus while the opposition parties may secure approximately 334 ballots.

The biggest boost that the would-be federal government and its partners get is from the Balochistan Assembly in which every lawmaker has one vote as against the other provincial legislatures. If the Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) goes with the opposition, the government’s opponents can get nearly 10 votes from Balochistan.

The opposition parties’ major contribution comes from the Senate where it has almost two-thirds majority, around 68 votes, compared to the government’s 36 votes. They also have a clear lead in Sindh where they may get 38 votes, which will increase if the MQM-P stands with them.

In Punjab, 30 seats may be obtained by the opposition candidate and thirty-five by the other side’s nominee. The next governing alliance is estimated to secure 45 votes of the Electoral College from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) while the rest will be taken by the opposition.

Both may clinch almost an equal number of votes from the National Assembly in view of the prevailing numerical scenario. The Lower House of Parliament contributes 342 votes, the Senate 104 votes, and every provincial assembly 65 votes to the electing forum in the presidential election.

Every member of the parliament and Balochistan has one vote. Among the provincial legislatures, the Balochistan Assembly has the smallest number of lawmakers, 65. Under the Second Schedule of the Constitution, every other provincial body has the same number of votes as the Balochistan Assembly has. Thus, 342 votes of the National Assembly, 104 votes of the Senate and 260 votes of the four provincial assemblies with each one of them having 65 votes bring the total to 706 votes.

President Mamnoon Hussain completes his term on September 8. Under Article 41 of the Constitution, election to this office shall be held not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of the position holder.

This timeline can’t be strictly met in the instant case as the new National Assembly is yet to take oath, and it will certainly come into being after August 8. The constitutional provision takes care of this flaw saying that if the election cannot be held within such period because the National Assembly is dissolved, it shall be held within thirty days of the general election to the Lower House.

If the date of July 25 when general elections were held is taken into consideration, the presidential election is required to be held by August 25. However, if such period is counted from the issuance of official notification of the elected members, it will be advanced by around three weeks.

If a vacancy occurs in the office of President, it will be filled not later than thirty days from its occurrence. The validity of the presidential election shall not be called into question by or before any court or other authority.

The Second Schedule says the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall hold and conduct election to the office of President, and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) shall be its Returning Officer (RO). The ECP shall appoint Presiding Officers (POs) to preside at the meetings of the members of parliament and provincial assemblies.

The presidential election will be by secret ballot by means of ballot papers containing the names of all the candidates in alphabetical order. A person voting shall vote by placing a mark against the name of the person for whom he wishes to vote. While calculating votes, a fraction shall be rounded off to the nearest whole. Where at any poll any two or more candidates obtain an equal number of votes, the selection of the candidate to be elected shall be by drawing of lots.