- Money and politics
The announcement of the Senate election schedule by the ECP brings an end to misperceptions, conjectures and conspiracy theories. It was being projected that the powers that be were planning to wreck the system by somehow or other stopping the Senate elections due in March. There were all types of wild conjectures from possible resignations by several National Assembly members, winding up of the assemblies in Balochistan and KP and all this culminating into the induction of a technocrat administration. Apprehensions continued to be voiced despite assurances by the prime minister that there was no place for a government of technocrats in the constitution. Even the commitment by the Supreme Court that it will not sanctify any anti-democracy measure failed to put an end to apprehensions. The ECP therefore needs to be commended for making a timely announcement of the election schedule.
The Senate polls come this time months ahead of the general elections. This has given rise to concerns about large scale horse trading during the March Senate elections. It is maintained that many sitting members of the assemblies would vote for the highest bidder instead of the party panel because they need money to finance their election campaigns. The hypothesis is based on the presumption of the legislators being generally corrupt, which some might not agree with. The test of the hypothesis will lie in the number of independent candidates elected as well as party candidates wining from assemblies where their parties do not have adequate representation. It is worrisome that despite the notorious horse trading that takes place in every election of the FATA Senators no measures were devised by the Electoral Reforms Committee to stop it.
Horse trading is dangerous for democracy. To start with it weakens the parties’ hold over their members. Those sacrificing party loyalty for money can be used by anti-democracy forces as pliable instruments in return for favours. There is therefore a need for legislation to reduce the role of money in elections, starting with strict limitations on the candidates’ expenditure on campaigns.