LAHORE - The Punjab Law Department on Saturday notified an ordinance to amend the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 for holding the upcoming LG polls on party basis.

Earlier, the Punjab cabinet approved draft of an ordinance to hold the party-based local government elections in the province. The government issued the ordinance, following the Lahore High Court direction to hold the upcoming LG polls in the Punjab on party basis.

It may be recalled that taking lead from the 2006 multiparty-singed Charter of Democracy, the PML-N since the last government in Punjab had been voicing for holding the LB polls on the party basis. At one stage, it had even announced to make party-based polls a feature of the party manifesto for the next elections. It had also declared to hold the party-based LB polls within six months after coming into power as a result of next elections. But, after coming to power, it wanted the parliament to decide the issue. And the existing assembly approved holding of non-party LG elections despite a stern resistance by the Opposition.

Finding the non-party LB polls quite contrary to the spirit of Article 140-A of the Constitution, all three main political parties moved the court of law where their plea was accepted.  After the notification of the party-based local government elections, the whole scenario stands changed with political and religio-political parties taking the central stage unlike the past when individual-based electioneering had been in vogue.  Although the main parties would lead activity of the LG polls, the party-based elections have increased importance of potential individual candidates, religious parties and the smaller groups. The party-based polls would break myth of the political parties which deem themselves impregnable.

The most striking feature of the party-based LG elections would be application of the defection clause of Article 63 of the Constitution. In case of non-party elections, the absence of this provision was of immense advantage for every party in power. In the past, the parties in power had been taking benefit of mustering support of the elected representatives to its side through greed, threat and influence. This element has almost vanished though independently elected candidates would have the liberty to side with any party needing their weight for the election of Chairmen or mayors at the top level.

The law which is applicable to the general elections would also be applicable to the next LB polls. And, being at the lowest but a much larger and broader plain in the first round at the union council level, the party-based LG elections would be more hectic activity for the parties than the general elections.  Now the parties would need to account for the election spending and other allied matters relating to the pre and post-election scenario. A party which won a national or a provincial seat would now have to share UC seats with other parties in the same constituency. Hence a different scene would emerge on the national and local tiers. The parties which in the general elections forged alliances with main parties would like to field their candidates in the UCs where they would be having support and vote bank. Similarly, an individual having clout in a ward or a council would like to contest independently rather than joining any main party and, after winning the election, he will be on a strong footing to bargain the top slots.

The value of an independent candidate will increase if he is elected to the slot of chairman in the first round.

Despite all difficulties, the party-based LG polls are going to lay the foundation of a strong political system in the country and raise the power base of those parties which in general elections lag behind or fail to be counted. Hence the party-based polls are going to break cartel of the main parties and take others to the mainstream.