Depoliticising the election process for democratic transparency
According to the amended Local Government Elections Ordinance, which
was passed unanimously in Parliament along with the Local Authorities
(Special Provisions) Bill recently, a National Delimitation Committee
consisting of five persons has been appointed by the Minister of Local
Government, to delimit the electoral wards involved.
People waiting to cast
Pic: Lake House Media Library
The Minister derives that power from Section 3 A (1) of the Local
Authorities Elections (Amendment) 1 Act, No. 22 of 2012 which reads: The
Minister shall, upon the coming into operation of this section, by Order
published in the Gazette, establish a National Delimitation Committee
which shall consist of five persons to be appointed by the Minister.
Under Section 3C of the said Act, upon receipt of the report of a
National Delimitation Committee, the Minister shall by a Notification
published in the Gazette, publish the number of wards the boundaries,
names and the numbers assigned to each ward so created on the
recommendation made by the National Delimitation Committee in respect of
each respective local authority. These provisions leave the power to
appoint the Delimitation Committee and to implement its recommendations
entirely in the Minister’s hand. Any delay in finalising the process,
naturally leaves room for his political opponents to blame the minister
for manipulating the election process to the advantage of his party. The
United Opposition is capitalizing on the delay to hold local authorities
elections by alleging that the Government is deliberately postponing
elections for fear of losing them, taking cover under the delimitation
In India, delimitation is a function of an independent commission.
Section 3 of the India Delimitation Act 2002 states:“As soon as may be
after the commencement of this Act, the Central Government shall
constitute a Commission to be called the Delimitation Commission which
shall consist of three members as follows: -(a) one member, who shall be
a person who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court, to be
appointed by the Central Government who shall be the Chairperson of the
Commission; (b) the Chief Election Commissioner or an Election
Commissioner nominated by the Chief Election Commissioner. Ex-officio.”
The Constitution of Pakistan charges the Election Commission with
delimitation of constituencies.
Article 104B. (1) of the 1978 Constitution grants to our Election
Commission the power to ‘exercise, perform and discharge all such
powers, duties and functions conferred or imposed on or assigned to –
(a) the Commission ; or (b) the Commissioner-General of Elections, by
the Constitution’ and the election of members of Local Authorities. But
our Commission has no power of delimitation. It has to await the
finalization of the report of the National Delimitation Committee
appointed by the minister.
If delimitation was entrusted to our Election Commission or to
another independent Commission as in Pakistan and India, the Government
would not be facing charges of fixing elections, although it may be
genuinely held up by real problems faced by the Delimitation Committee.
It is a pity that our Government has been blind to democratic practices
followed by our two big brothers in this regard.
In a letter published in an English daily recently, the Minister of
Local Government has observed: “Local governance must not be a state
administrative mechanism but a populist government where it confirms the
democratic rights of the public and implements the needs of the public.
Accordingly, the new election system which was unanimously resolved in
the parliament, confirming the current needs, will be the foundation to
make a populist local authority system.”
In the background of the ongoing dispute about postponing local
government elections, one wonders whether ‘the new election system.’
‘unanimously resolved in the Parliament,’ has created a bedrock of
democracy on which the ‘populism’ of local government could thrive.