ISLAMABAD: The Joint Session of Parliament has approved the Elections Act 2023 by majority vote. The caretaker government’s power has been enhanced and it can make bilateral and multilateral accords and validate the ongoing projects. However, the caretaker prime minister cannot sign any international agreement.
The joint meeting said that any person who is on the board of any organization will be eligible to contest the election.
There will be no disqualification for emoluments received on account of being an honorary member of a board.
Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar clarified that no new powers are being given to the caretaker government.
He said that amendments in the section 230 are aimed to ensure that the decisions already taken by the federal cabinet do not face any hiatus.
The bill envisages measures aimed at ensuring timely compilation and announcement of election results.
Under the bill, the President Officer shall immediately take a snapshot of the result of the count and as soon as connectivity is available and sent it electronically to the Election Commission and the Returning Officer before sending the original documents under Section 90.
The Returning Officer shall compile complete provisional results and shall communicate these results electronically to the commission.
In case the results are incomplete by 02.00 a.m. on the day immediately following the polling day, the Returning Officer shall communicate to the Commission provisional results as consolidated till that time along with reasons for the delay.
In writing, while listing the polling stations from which results are awaited and thereafter shall send the complete provisional results as soon as compiled but not later than 10:00 a.m.
The bill further provides that officials of law enforcement agencies shall be posted for security duties outside the polling stations but in an emergency may be called inside by the President Officer to restore order and peaceful polling.
Under the bill, the contesting candidates may use their existing bank accounts for election expenses.
The Law Minister said that under the bill, a period of six months has been given to decide election petitions.
The Joint Sitting has been adjourned to meet again on 7th of the next month at 11:30 a.m.
According to media reports the bill consists of 54 amendments, enhancing the electoral process, guaranteeing a just and transparent democratic procedure. Notably, one of the significant amendments involves strengthening the caretaker government by making alterations to Article 230. This revision grants the caretaker government the authority to engage in agreements with foreign nations and international organizations, enabling them to make important decisions that serve the nation’s economic well-being.
One significant amendment is the inclusion of sub-clause 2A in Article 230, which will grant the caretaker government additional powers to take necessary actions for the country’s economic well-being. This includes measures related to international organizations and agreements with foreign governments.
Additionally, several amendments have been proposed to streamline the electoral process and ensure efficient handling of results. According to these amendments, the Presiding Officer will be required to promptly send the election results to both the Election Commission and the Returning Officer. In case of no internet facility, the Presiding Officer will be obligated to deliver the actual results physically.
To expedite the results announcement, the Presiding Officer will be bound to provide the results by 2 pm on election night. In case of any delay, concrete reasons must be provided, and the Presiding Officer will have a deadline of 10 am the following day to submit the election results.
The Election Commission will also face new responsibilities, as they will be required to address complaints one day prior to the polling day. Furthermore, NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) will be mandated to provide updated ID card records to the Election Commission. Candidates, on the other hand, will be required to take an oath on the National Assembly or Senate seat within 60 days; failure to do so will result in the seat being considered vacant.
In terms of electoral boundaries and polling station arrangements, certain amendments have been proposed to ensure fairness and transparency. The polling station cannot be changed within 5 days of the polling day, and candidates are permitted to use their existing bank accounts for election expenses. Delimitation will be based on an equal number of registered voters, and this process must be completed four months prior to the election schedule announcement. The number of registered voters in all constituencies will be equal, with a permissible difference of not more than 5%. Complaints against constituencies can be filed within 30 days.
To enhance transparency during the electoral process, the Election Commission will publish details of polling staff on their website. Polling staff members will not be assigned duties in their respective tehsils during the elections. Additionally, the installation of cameras in polling stations will ensure the secrecy of votes.
Candidates will have the opportunity to challenge the establishment of a polling station with valid reasons. Moreover, within three days of the final election results, political parties must provide the final priority list of specific seats. The spending limit for a National Assembly seat will range between Rs. 40 lakh and Rs. [amount].
To ensure accountability, criminal action will be taken against the Presiding and Returning Officers in cases of negligence. The Code of Conduct violations will be addressed within 7 days instead of 15, and the final list of polling staff will be uploaded on the Election Commission’s website. In case of objections, candidates can challenge the appointment of polling staff in the constituency within 10 days.
Lastly, security personnel will be deployed outside the polling stations, and in emergencies, they will be allowed to enter the polling station with the permission of the presiding officer.