The salient features of ECP code of conduct for Punjab assembly elections

 The ECP code of conduct refrains candidates and political parties to criticise army and judiciary during election campaign

The Election Commission of Pakistan has issued the code of conduct for the May 14 Punjab polls. The ECP has issued the code of conduct under Article 218(3) of the Constitution, along with Section 233 of the Elections Act, 2017, for political parties, contesting candidates and election agents (parts I and II) for the general election to the Punjab Assembly and subsequent general elections and by-elections.

Political parties should refrain from speaking against the judiciary and Pakistan Army during electioneering.

1-    Each party must ensure that at least five per cent of their candidates are women, as required by Section 206 of the Elections Act, 2017.

2-    Each candidate must submit a fortnightly statement of election expenses incurred on the campaign, after the final list of contesting candidates is published.

3-    Members of parliament, legislators in the provincial assemblies and local government officials are allowed to participate in election campaigns.

4-     The code also emphasises the importance of observing the sanctity of religious scriptures during the poll campaign.

5-     Article 218(3) empowers the ECP to prevent corrupt practices, such as bribery, personification, undue influence, capturing of polling stations or polling booths, tampering with papers, making or publishing false statements of declaration, and exceeding the election expenses limit.

6-    Political parties should strive to provide equal opportunities for their qualified male and female members to participate in electoral processes.

7-   No candidate or party will be able to campaign at the public’s expense. Candidates will not be able to use posters larger than 18×23 inches and portraits larger than 2×3 feet.

Moreover, the pamphlet size has been fixed at 9×6 inches, and the banner size at 3×9 feet. It is also mandatory to print the name and address of the printer of pamphlets and banners.

The code has also made it mandatory for candidates to avoid the use of verses and hadiths on banners and posters.

Wall chalking, panaflex, and billboards will be completely banned, and photos of government officials cannot be used in the election campaign.

There will also be a ban on hoisting party flags at public places and government buildings, and meetings and processions can only be organised at the designated places of the local administration.

The candidates will be bound to fix the route of the rally with the local administration, and there will be a prohibition on burning effigies and flags of opposition leaders and parties.

There will be a ban on divisive and hate speech as well.

The candidates and polling agents are bound to cooperate with the election staff, and the polling agent must have the authority letter and original identity card with them.

According to the code, the candidates and political parties could not provide transport facilities to voters, and election camps in urban areas will be 400 meters away from the polling station. In rural areas, electoral camps can be set up at a limit of 100 metres.

No one except the candidate and the polling agent will be allowed to enter the polling station.

It is mandatory for the polling agent to be a voter of the constituency and they will not be able to influence voters.

After the ballot box is sealed, the polling agents can also put their seal on the box. Moreover, the objection fee for the voter will be Rs 100.

The code warrants that there will be no action against the ideology of Pakistan and nothing should be said about the country’s independence and integrity. Similarly, nothing should be said against other institutions, including the judiciary and armed forces. Violators will be prosecuted under the Election Act 2017.

The code calls for cooperation with law enforcement agencies and seeks clarification on the accounts of election expenses. All transactions will be under the GST registered form.

                                           Khalid Bhatti   ( election cell) 

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