Time to vote

Distinctive feature of Feb 8 2024 elections is sizable number of Independent candidates, contesting for PTI.

The nation is going to the polls today in a highly divisive political scenario. Instability coupled with insecurity have come to mar the process – 26 people were killed in back-to-back blasts in Balochistan on the ever of the vote – but the resilience put up by the electorate is worth appreciating. A distinctive feature of Feb 8 2024 elections is the sizable number of Independent candidates, most of whom are contesting for the PTI. The denial of the electoral symbol of ‘cricket bat’ to the PTI had muted the party’s election campaign. This to a great extent disenfranchised the voters – something that is widely seen as detrimental for participatory democracy. Nonetheless, the good point is that the ballot is being held and elaborative arrangements have been made by the electoral watchdog; and despite the odds of inclement weather and law and order trials, the task of delivering ballot papers, setting up of polling booths and coordinating with local administrations has come full circle.

Around 128 million voters will be exercising their right of adult franchise in more than 860 national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies. The onus is on the polling agents of respective political parties to secure the sanctity of the ballot, and enable the electorate to express their free will without any let and hindrance. The responsibility also rests with the Returning Officers as well as the state machinery to ensure that the process is uninterrupted and to the satisfaction of all and sundry. Holding a free and fair ballot will be a great service to the country, and come to strengthen a pluralistic political culture paving the way for socio-economic security of 245 million people of the world’s fifth largest democracy.

All the major contesting parties and Independents must adhere to the code of conduct and, at least, this time around come to accept the outcome of verdict. Only then can the gloom cast over the future of representative rule can be overcome. All that will matter today is the turnout factor to turn the tables around.

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