‘Delimitation’ – also known as ‘Boundary Delimitation’ is the key feature of electoral system. Also, it is one those challenges that the electoral system of any country has to face before general elections. Delimitation of constituencies defines how representative and how fair elections will be. Delimitation should be occasionally performed by an Election Commission otherwise by an independent boundary commission. It is important to understand that general public and political parties pay a part in the process of delimitation.
For the next general elections, the delimitation process will formally begin shortly. Before this, first you need to know what exactly ‘delimitation process’ is?
What is the process of ‘delimitation’ and how does it work?
- Commission may hold enquiries and interview witnesses while addressing representations.
- Commission after making the required amendments and alterations in the preliminary proposals – within 30 days in the last day for representations shall public in the final de
- Commission can make changes in the final delimitation before notification of Election Program.
- Capacity of the delimitation authority
- Delimitation authority must have deeper understanding of the law and rules dealing with delimitation.
- Officers involved in delimitation should be trained in regard to international standards and principles.
- Lack of proper resources could be another challenge – includes population information, detailed maps etc.
- Administrative boundaries generally dictate delimitation of constituencies.
- Most often districts are created due to political considerations – more jobs, allocation of funds, and better influence on the constituencies.
- In delimitation of constituencies, district boundaries are given regard and only in exceptional situations a constituency goes beyond district boundaries – exceptions are created to balance out population against quota
Data for Delimitation
- Reliability and usability of data
- Current delimitation will be on provisional data
- Real issues will emerge when preliminary delimitation is made public
- Not having accurate geographical and infrastructural information might be a challenge – relying revenue maps.
Why to have neutral delimitation body?
There should be a neutral delimitation body for the whole process:
- A neutral delimitation body is better than politicians doing delimitation.
- Neutrality in delimitation has to be beyond political consideration
- Elections commission of Pakistan is a neutral body so it is rightly to expect that the delimitation will be fair
- Handouts should be provided which contain this information
- Law should define clear criteria for constituency of delimitation
- There should be ‘No’ Gerrymandering – in simple words gerrymandering means to manipulate the boundaries of an electoral constituency just to favor one party or class
For seats distribution, ECP uses a ‘Fraction Formula’ – about which majority of people don’t have any knowledge.
According to this formula, the total population of Pakistan divided by 61 and the result will be used to find out the seats in each district. This is a way to finalize ‘free and fair’ delimitation process.
In recognition of the importance of delimitation, IBA CeJ conducted a workshop about the delimitation process and how to report on the procedure once the government publishes the new constituencies’ boundaries?
Most of the mid to senior level journalists attended the workshop to enhance their knowledge about the process of delimitation. According to them, “Delimitation is important because it covers the boundary setting process associated with voting areas. The workshop will help us in reporting and covering the delimitation for the upcoming general elections”.
During delimitation process, there should be balanced distribution of seats and population should be considered. Administrative and historical boundaries should also be considered and transparency should be ensured. Single member constituency should also be redefined.
We expect free and fair general elections 2018 – scheduled to be held in June this year in Pakistan.
Story first published: 27th February 2018