The Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Tuesday that general elections may not be possible until May 2023, as it described the timing of the processes. — including the census and delimitation, which must be done before the country can go to vote.
In a press release issued by the body’s Media Coordination and Outreach Wing, the Commission stated that it had received a letter from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on 18 April indicating that the 7th population and the housing census would start on August 1st.
It was stated that ECP would receive the results of the new census on December 31.
In such a scenario, the ECP’s delimitation of constituencies based on the 2017 Census would become “irrelevant” and the electoral watchdog would be constitutionally bound to start the process again on January 1, 2023, which would take at least four months.
“Likewise, the electoral lists must also be revised,” adds the press release.
The electoral watchdog, established under article 218 of the Constitution, is responsible for the delimitation of national and provincial constituencies. The ECP, under the Election Act, 2017, is legally required to start the delimitation process after each census and at least four months before polling day.
Earlier this month, the commission ordered the delimitation of the National and provincial assembly constituencies on a warlike footing, without waiting for the digital census to begin.
It, subsequently, announced the time frame for delimitation, freezing the boundaries of administrative units across the country.
The timetable was drawn up a few days after the ECP declared that it could not hold a general election until October, citing legal issues, including the lack of delimitation, an essential condition for the polls, inviting the scathing criticism of the then ruling party PTI.
The commission had previously blamed the PTI government for not cooperating and for delaying the finalization and publication of new census results, which in turn resulted in a delay in delimitation.