LAHORE - With Senate elections approaching fast, the inter-dependence of political parties, caused by a number of factors, rather technical reasons, might force them to get their candidates elected unopposed as suggested by the government.

The method of proportional representation of political parties in the Senate, difference in the number of seats in the Assemblies and the fear of purchase of votes by candidates are the factors which might compel the parties to come to an amicable settlement over the number of Senate seats each party could have on the basis of its representation. It may be recalled that in 2009 Senate elections, no polling took place in any Assembly, as all candidates were elected unopposed. 

Interestingly, in any Senate election, each party is left with some excess votes which are useless for it, but useful for other parties who need them to get their candidate elected.

In this way, each party is dependent on other parties to get maximum number of candidates elected by making use of its excess votes.  Take, for example, the case of Punjab Assembly whose 370 members are required to elect seven Senators on general seats. As per calculation, around 52.85 MPAs can elect one Senator.

The PPP has got 108 members in the House and going by this formula, it can elect only two Senators on general seats on its own. But it will be left with around four votes which are useless for it, but beneficial for PML-Q and for that matter also for the PML-N.

The PPP can exchange these votes with any of the parties in respect of reserved seats for women which it cannot win independently.

Similarly, the PML-N with its 174 members in Punjab Assembly can elect three Senators on the general seats using around 157 votes, while around 27 votes will remain unutilised if not given in exchange to some other party. In Punjab, 370 members are required to elect two women Senators on the two seats reserved for women, meaning thereby that 185 votes are required for one Women Senator. None of the parties in Punjab Assembly has this much number to get one Women Senator elected on the basis of its own numerical strength in the Assembly. Same would be the case on two seats reserved for technocrats. It would only be through mutual cooperation and seat adjustment that these seats would be won. If this happens, the PPP and PML-Q together can have five Senate seats out of the 11 vacant in Punjab, and the rest will go to the PML-N. 

It would be in the interest of PML-N and the PML-Q forward bloc if the parties evolve some mutually agreed formula to elect their candidates. But if they don’t, the PPP and the PML-Q (minus its Forward Bloc members) would be on the one side and the PML-N and their ‘PML-Q allies’ on the other. This would provide an opportunity to the PML-Q leadership to invoke the defection clause against its dissident legislators.

Same would be the situation in the National Assembly which would be electing two Senators in March this year from the Federal Capital.

The Provincial Assemblies of Sindh, KP and Balochistan would also be facing a similar situation.

Now, how this cooperation among the parties will work technically. All parties list their candidates according to their determination of priorities and form groups of their MPAs.

Each group is asked to vote for a particular candidate to ensure his/ her victory. In case of mutual agreement among the parties, a voter may vote for more than one candidate indicating the order of preference, called the first, second and third priority, as directed by the party leadership.

In other words, while the first priority votes are cast in favour of one candidate, the second and third priority votes are cast in favour of candidates belonging to other parties as agreed prior to the polling.

A specific number of second priority votes, which should be higher than the first priority votes, can also win a seat for a party.

To further explain this method of voting, each voter ranks the list of candidates in order of preference by placing a ‘1’ beside their most preferred candidate, a ‘2’ beside their second most preferred, and so on.

The ballot paper submitted by the voter ,therefore, contains a list of candidates.

This is a very tedious practice and parties are less likely to adopt this procedure.

But they have the option to go for unopposed elections by agreeing on the number of seats each would be getting if they go through the above exercise.