Maturing Pakistan's Democracy

Maturing Pakistan's Democracy
What is happening with the appointment of a caretaker Prime Minister is indicative of weaknesses in the overall governance system of this country. Anything which otherwise should be a normal constitutional obligation and only procedural in nature becomes a thrilling confab and yet again, uncertainty surrounds it to make it an issue and all political leaders, analysts and the entire media complex bid their focus on wasting energy on a non-issue, whereas other more serious issues of common interest just end up on the back burner once again. The IMF has given the government the first loan tranche, and as a result, rather than discussing how to move out of this financial hovel, political maneuvering has started yet again until we hit the next financial upheaval.

As documented, it has to be as simple as a mutual agreement between the current leader of the house and the leader of opposition to appoint any individual for the interim. Yet again, a mountain has been made out of a molehill.

We should do away with ‘caretaker’ setups for good, which are only installed in order to transition from one elected government to the next. The caretaker government, which can also be called interim government, is just a transition team to ensure and conduct smooth elections. It demonstrates a lack of trust between political stakeholders that they need a ‘mutually’ agreed setup for the transition.

At the end of the day, we have an electoral history which is full of a large number of accusations and claims of ‘elections being not free and fair’ and allegations of ‘rigging,’ so what is the point in having this setup when we cannot even trust the so called neutral government as well.

We should start trusting incumbent governments, and give more power and authority to the Pakistan Election Commission to conduct elections in a way that is acceptable to all parties. It should not be the job of any government to conduct or supervise elections. An appropriately powered Election Commission can do the job as well as any high-powered authority or agency in the country doing their duties, e.g. law enforcement, military, state owned institutions etc.

Countries most known for the strength of their democracy have high powered authorities to organize elections, from the campaign trail, to voting and vote counting and finally announcing election results which are primarily accepted by all parties.

There is a Federal Election Commission in the USA, Elections Canada in Canada and Election Commission of India to name a few. This is the time we moved in this direction, as we already have a Federal Election Commission and then Provincial Election Commissions. It is only fair to give them power and support to conduct free, fair and just elections.

The idiosyncrasies and intricacies of playing politics with everything is bound to backfire, and we will remain in this mess if we do not attempt to move above and give institutions their due right.

On the election reforms front, Pakistan uses a first-past-the-post voting system, where people vote for an individual as opposed to a proportional representation system, in which people vote for a party and not for an individual. FPTP does work for us, but there are always advantages and disadvantages of using any electoral system.

Some of the countries which use proportional representation include some European and Scandinavian states, including some states in other regions like South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

Proportional representation certainly is a somewhat better electoral system than first-past-the post, however it has its own limitations and drawbacks, on top being an easy way for extreme elements to find their way into the mainstream political fold as they can use their popularity to get their piece of the electoral pie in the governing setup.

The micro-level accountability of the members of Parliament would be another difficult task. And a weak connection between the elected representative and their constituents. The system we have right now which is first past the post system, where citizens of a constituency cast their votes for a candidate and the one getting majority votes wins the elections does enable success for those deploying their personal, family and tribal connections to play a part. This becomes unfair sometimes for the people who did not want to vote for any individual.

The conclusion is that there is no ideal or flawless system, but certainly Pakistan needs electoral reforms to move forward to build a more mature democracy.