Polling for the high-stakes Senate elections on 37 seats in the National and provincial assemblies is currently underway. Polling started at 9 am and will continue till 5 pm.

Parliamentarians are casting votes in the highly contested elections on 37 vacant seats, with 11 senators already having been elected unopposed from Punjab. Voting is underway on 12 seats from Balochistan, 12 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 from Sindh, and 2 from Islamabad Capital Territory. A total of 48 senators will be elected this year.

Members of Provincial Assemblies (MPAs) will be casting votes for seats in the provincial assemblies, while Members of the National (MNAs) will be casting votes for seats in the National Assembly.

Polling will be done through secret ballots, after a highly contested debate between the government and opposition over transparency in the electoral process.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was vying for voting through a show of hands, and a presidential reference had been filed with the apex court for an opinion on the matter. The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday ordered that polling be conducted via secret ballots as ordained in the Constitution; however, the secrecy of the ballot is not absolute. The government and the opposition both claimed the SC ruling a victory.

The court’s short order also specified that transparency in the electoral process be maintained through the utilisation of technology by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP, however, said that due to time constraints, polling would take as per past practice.

The Senate

Polling for the Senate, the upper house of Parliament, takes place every three years in halves. Senators are elected for six-year terms; half are elected at one time, and the other half after three years.

Voting is done through the single transferrable vote (STV) system. Unlike the General elections, where the public directly votes through the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, Senate elections comprise indirect voting. MPAs vote on behalf of their respective provinces, with provincial assemblies acting as electoral colleges.

Until now, the Senate has comprised 104 lawmakers. 52 senators who were elected in 2015 are set to retire this year, while 52 senators elected in 2018 will retire in 2024.

Polling is being done on 48 seats this time, with the former Federally Administer Tribal Areas (FATA) having merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. After the remaining four senators from FATA retire in 2024, the Senate will continue to comprise 100 lawmakers.

Currently, the ruling coalition holds the majority in the Senate with 181 seats. These comprise 157 members from PTI; 7 from Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P); 5 each from PML-Quaid (PML-Q) and the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP); 3 from the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA); one each from Awami Muslim League (AML) and the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), and 3 independent lawmakers.

The opposition coalition currently occupies 160 seats. These include 83 members from PML-Nawaz, 55 from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), 15 from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), 5 from the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), one from the Awami National Party (ANP), and two independent lawmakers.

If the ruling coalition retains its majority in the 2021 Senate elections, the PTI government will have fewer hurdles to passing legislation. If the opposition wins the majority, then it can pass no-confidence motions in the assembly against the government.


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