Pakistan Election Body Gears Up To Hold President’s Poll By March 9, Asif Zardari Leading Contender

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Islamabad: Weeks after conducting general elections, Pakistan is now gearing up to elect a new president by March 9.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is set to hold an election for the President’s office by March 9, two days before the retirement of half of the senators after completing their six-year term, PTI quoted a Dawn report as saying.

“The president will be elected by the present senators after setting up of all the four provincial assemblies,” a senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) office-bearer said. The official added that the election could take place on March 9 or 10.

The six-party alliance, set to form a coalition government under the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shehbaz Sharif, has already announced Asif Ali Zardari as its consensus candidate for the country’s top constitutional office.

Zardari previously served as the president from September 2008 to 2013 after the resignation of the military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

As per Pakistan’s Constitution Article 41(4), “election to the office of president shall be held not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of the president in office: Provided that, if the election cannot be held within the period aforesaid because the National Assembly is dissolved, it shall be held within thirty days of the general election to the Assembly”.

Since the general elections were held on February 8, the presidential election is required to be conducted by March 9, just two days before the retirement of half of the 100-member Senate.

According to sources, the Senate elections were scheduled to be held in the first week of March, but because of the delay in the general elections of the National and provincial assemblies, the Senate elections will now be held either in the last week of March or the first week of April.

It means the Pakistani upper house will remain dysfunctional and incomplete for some period.

According to a PPP leader, it is because of the upcoming presidential election and to ensure Zardari’s win that the party has stopped its two senators, Nisar Khuhro and Jam Mahtab Dahar, from taking the oath as MPAs in the Sindh Assembly.

According to the formula applied for the president’s election, the vote of a senator is counted as a single vote, whereas in the Sindh Assembly, one vote will be equal to nearly four votes.

In this way, Zardari will get benefit in the presidential elections.

Incumbent President Dr Arif Alvi is already on an extended tenure after completing his five-year term on September 9 last year.

Article 44(1) of the Constitution says that the president will hold office for a term of five years from the day he assumes charge, but he continues to hold the office until a successor is chosen.

Dr Alvi is Pakistan’s fourth democratically elected president to complete the five-year term. The three presidents before Dr Alvi who completed their full terms were Chaudhary Fazal Elahi (fifth president, from 1973 to 1978), Asif Ali Zardari (11th, from 2008 to 2013), and Mamnoon Hussain (12th, from 2013 to 2018).

Therefore, Dr Alvi is the third consecutive president to have a full term and the first one to have an extended term due to an incomplete electoral college, which comprises the National Assembly, Senate and the four provincial assemblies.

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