Election Watch Update - Feb 12

President Asif Ali Zardari told BBC Urdu that the caretaker government envisaged would not have controversial figures. The interim civil administration will have ‘defined roles’ according to the Constitution. The president said that his son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, would not be contesting the elections since he isn’t eligible [Bilawal does not meet the age requirement needed to contest elections and will only be eligible in the fall of 2013]. He said that Bilawal needs time to study Pakistan and understand its issues and people, and then it was the party’s decision on whether it wanted Bilawal to lead the PPP.

Legislators told the Senate’s Special Committee on Electoral Reforms that if the ECP’s ban on recruitment and diverting development funds continued, they would be disadvantaged in the elections as voters would opt for their opponents. The MQM has also criticized the ECP increasing the deposit amounts to run for National Assembly and provincial assembly seats. The committee’s report and the bill will be presented in the National Assembly and Senate on Monday.

PPP representatives have complained in meetings with President Zardari and Bilawal that some party leaders are trying to bring back members who left for other political parties. The Express Tribune reports that legislators elected on reserved seats (women & minorities) have not been invited to the ongoing series of meetings with legislators from different divisions in Punjab.

The ECP secretary will brief the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs about preparations for the elections. The committee will also look at a proposed bill to reserve seats for physically challenged people.

Dunya reports that 227 political parties have been registered in Pakistan. In 1988, there were 29 political parties and in 1990, there were 45. That said, only 11 political parties contested the 2008 elections. Dunya predicts a voter turnout of 70 to 80% given that electoral rolls will be error-free.

The Election Commission in Sindh has asked for five more days to finish verifying voters lists. It still needs to verify half a million voters. The process began on January 10.

Pakistan Awami Tehreek/Minhaj-ul-Quran leader Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s petition on the reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan was heard in the Supreme Court on Monday. The SC asked Qadri about his right to file the petition, as well as about his Canadian nationality. Proceedings continue today. Qadri told journalists afterwards that he had a right as a voter to file the petition.

The considerable number of aspirants for PML-N tickets from Attock district is likely to cause a challenge to the party, Dawn reports. Sardar Altaf Hussain Tunio, a Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader from Sindh's Kamber Shahdadkot district, joined the PPP.

PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi met with Pakistan Muslim League-Functional head Pir Pagara on Monday. The two leaders agreed on cooperating with each other in the future. A former MNA from Mirpurkhas, Khair Mohammad Bhurgri, has also joined the PML-F.

Commentary:

Umair Javed comments on the results of the International Republican Institute and Herald/Sustainable Development Policy Institute polls on political parties’ popularity. – Five Rupees