Politics, Asia - Pacific

Pakistan's top court upholds secret Senate vote

Supreme Court rejects government plea for open vote by 4-1 majority

Aamir Latif   | 01.03.2021
Pakistan's top court upholds secret Senate vote

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday declared that the upcoming upper house, Senate, polls will continue being held through secret ballot.

A five-judge bench rejected the government's plea for an open vote to contain bribery in Senate elections, which has long been a problem in the country, by a 4-1 majority.

The top court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take all measures, including the use of technology, to hold the forthcoming upper house polls in a "free and fair" manner.

Addressing a news conference in the capital Islamabad, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the government accepts the verdict and hoped the ECP would adhere to the Supreme Court's directions for free and fair elections.

The opposition parties, including the center-right Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the center-left Pakistan People's Party, which had opposed the government's move, welcomed the judgment, terming it "victory of the Constitution."

Under Pakistani law, all polls, except for the election of the prime minister and chief ministers of provinces, must be held through secret ballot.

Over 1,100 members of the lower house -- the National Assembly -- and the four provincial assemblies will elect 48 new members to the 104-seat Senate on March 3 for six-year terms.

All the provinces have an equal number of seats in the upper house, which is currently dominated by the opposition, hampering legislation on several issues since the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came to power in 2018.

Premier Imran Khan's PTI is expected to attain the majority after the coming elections.

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