The Politics of Electoral Reforms in Pakistan: Between Political Science and Political Discourse
Pakistan has a unique electoral landscape that comprises of a great range of social and linguistic groups, and together they interweave a complex heterogeneous society in terms of electoral participation. Electoral system is a critical institution for effective democratic organization. The choice of electoral system determines the main characteristics of a democratic system in There is exceedingly vast academic of electoral systems which provide indices and measures for calculating effective proportional representation for citizens in a democratic system. However, the literature in comparative politics does not have a single empirical study based on experiences from Pakistan. The existing literature on electoral studies in Pakistan focuses on the electorate behaviour, micro-macro linkages, and the main point of departure in understanding the electoral outcomes is focused around the relationship between social cleavages based on class and religion, and their assimilation into party system; and how this relationship sociological approach of investigation into the electoral outcomes rather limiting, unoriginal, and subjective. The recent trend in political debate regarding the electoral system reform understanding of the electoral system in the academic scholarship. The secondary stakeholders of this debate, that is, journalists, columnists, political analysts, international observer groups, and Pakistani voters, make for the prime interest group, whereas, the two primary stakeholders in this debate, that is, the political scientists and the legislators remain uninterested. Therefore, the understanding of electoral system among the secondary stakeholders remains rather limited. The electoral system is mainly understood as to be composed of electoral regulations, and the electoral reform is understood as improving these regulations. Therefore, the centre of attention for these reforms is the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The major reason for such a perception is based on the clichéd simplistic rationale that the twoparty contest is an effect of electoral fraud (rigging), electoral malpractice and political corruption, and on the assumption that these variables are the primary cause of dysfunctional parliamentary system and retrospective voting behaviour. In 2011, International Crisis Group (ICG) in a report entitled ‘Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System’ recommends an agenda for electoral reform that primarily consists of recommendations for Election Commission (EC) reform. In 2013, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in a policy brief also recommends similar reforms aimed at the ECP post election. Likewise, the European Union Election Observation Mission in 2013 made 50 recommendations to improve the election process, drawing attention to the 17 critical recommendations that were made to strengthening the electoral legislative framework so to ensure electoral processes are responsive and inclusive and are aligned with the expectations of all electoral stakeholders. In 2014, Free & Fair Election Network (FAFEN) recommends reforms that cover critical aspects of pre-election, election day and post-election processes in order to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. Almost all of the electoral system reform recommendations and political rhetoric focus on minor reforms such as electoral regulations and processes, and none on the major reform that is revising the single member district plurality system with a more compatible option for a multiparty system. Hitherto, the focus remains on two types of minor reforms: one in which proposals for minor reforms are introduced, but which fail to be adopted; two in which there are ideas
for changes that might have been made and adopted but were never proposed in on electoral system reform continues to be a part of political discourse in Pakistan and can be understood as the product of equilibrium adjustment. That is, opposition and small political parties account for changing political processes (minor reforms) by adjusting rules in an effort to challenge the status quo and the prior equilibrium of government power. In so doing, any party that engages in equilibrium adjustment does not advocate major reform, that is, revising single member district plurality system system in Pakistan, and understood as electoral formula in political science. In order to understand the debate on electoral reform, I propose that political scientists, legislators, journalists in broadcast and digital media in Pakistan current electoral formula in Pakistan. The main features of the FPTP system magnitude, seat allocation, and levels of proportionality. First, the ballot as ‘categorical’. In categorical ballot structure the choice is limited to one vote; in other words, support for the sole candidate of a party per constituency which results in channeling each parcel of electoral strength into the grasp of a single party. The second is the district magnitude. District magnitude is numbers of seats per constituency. In Pakistan, each constituency returns one member per district, and per district there are different numbers of constituencies. The magnitude variation is one of the most critical issues that Pakistan faces with the exercise of characteristic of the current electoral formula is the level of seat allocation. In single-member plurality system the level of seat allocation in one. In other words, each voter casts a vote in a constituency; seats in that constituency are awarded in accordance with the rules to parties (and candidates); and each party’s national total of seats is simple the sum of the seats it won in each of the constituencies. Based on the following formula of seat allocation, the two largest parties, the PPP-P and the PML-N, have always managed to translate a minority mandate (less than 30 per cent of total votes) into a majority mandate (share of seats) in the national assembly. Thus, the share formation of representative government in Pakistan under the current electoral formula. The fourth critical characteristic is levels of proportionality, that is, to distribute seats among parties in a way that every party receives exactly the same share of seats as it won the votes. In order words, it is the relationship between seat and votes share of parties. This can be measured in conjunction with seat allocation formula and district magnitude as the two variables of an electoral outcome. The smaller the district magnitude the greater is parliamentary disproportionality. These main features of electoral system in Pakistan are critical to electoral reform debate, the one I classify as ‘major reform’, in order to change the framework for electoral politics, and political science in Pakistan. This approach can provide an alternative framework to understand and study electoral outcomes in Pakistan which beyond clichéd simplistic interpretation that the two-party contest is a direct effect of electoral fraud (rigging), electoral malpractice and political corruption; and that retrospective electorate behaviour is attributable to social cleavages based on class and religion.