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As Pakistan is set to hold its 12th general elections on February 8 (Thursday), one cannot help but feel that this year’s elections are remarkably different than the previous held in 2018. For once, there was no uncertainty whether the elections will be held in 2018 compared to all the chaos and uncertainty leading up to deciding a date for elections 2024.

Let us take a look at what is new and what has changed for these elections.

NA seats reduced

Previously, there were 342 seats of the lower house of parliament including seats reserved for women and non-Muslims.

However, for these elections, the strength of the National Assembly (NA) has decreased by six seats to 336 as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reduced the representation of newly-merged districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) from 12 to six in the fresh delimitation under the 2023 census.

Elections without Imran Khan

In the previous elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan was a favourite. And this was proven after he emerged as the winner and assumed office.

This year we do not see Imran contesting, or even campaigning in different cities as he is behind bars. The former prime minister is currently incarcerated in Adiala Jail after conviction in the cipher, Toshakhana and illegal nikah case.

Election Management System and Result Transmission System

In 2018, the ECP was under criticism after the failure of the result transmission system (RTS) that was developed to transmit and tabulate results.

Not wanting to be censured again, the ECP has come up with a new system-Election Management System (EMS).

This new system, the electoral body claims will even work offline as it is not internet-based but intra-net-based. This means that the system has a private network of the election commission that has been spread across the country, involving the services of PTCL and other firms.

Now we can only wait till February 8 to see whether we will have a ‘back to the past’ moment or the new EMS will really work.

Gender gap

The latest voting statistics reveal that the electoral gender gap has fallen to less than 10 million for the first time in a decade.

The number of voters in the country has increased to 128 million including 69.26 million men and 59.32 million women.

During the 2018 polls, there was gap of 12.49 million. In November 2021, the electoral gender gap stood at 11.81 million.

Contesting without official party symbol

Previously, all major parties and independent candidates contested the elections with their specific electoral symbol. However, the same cannot be said for elections 2024.

PTI – stripped off its electoral symbol ‘bat’ – will now contest with different symbols.

High percentage of independent candidates

In all the past elections, the number of independent candidates for the NA hovered around 53%. This year the percentage is 63.

Young voters

In the previous general elections, around 46 million young voters exercised their right to vote.

A total number of 12,638 candidates are in the run for assembly seats in the four provinces this year. For these candidates, the number of young voters (between ages 18 and 35) 57 million, which is over 47% of the electorate.

First time voters

Many young Pakistanis will vote for the first time in their lives on February 8.

As per Reuters, around 22 million youths (43.85 percent) aged between 18 and 23 will cast their vote for the first time tomorrow.

As per the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency “the average youth voter turnout of the past eight elections, from 1988 to 2018, has been abysmally low at 31 percent, which is 13 percentage points lower than the average overall voter turnout of 44 percent in these eight elections.”

The return of Nawaz Sharif

Three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted in 2017 and could not contest in 2018 due to his conviction in a number of corruption case.

However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo is back and will be contesting from Lahore’s NA-130.

Comments

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KU Feb 07, 2024 08:43pm
The visible difference is fear amongst PTI candidates and their families, especially in small districts and tehsils. The news of already won elections in these places don't reach us.
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