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Will voters have option in ballot papers to reject all candidates?

KARACHI: Growing discontent among public over the same old faces running for general elections scheduled on July 25 is fueling a desire to include a “none of the above” box as a voting option on ballot papers.

None of the above”, or NOTA for short, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdiction or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system.

It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting “No” on ballot questions.

In the 2013 polls, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) unilaterally decided to include NOTA on ballot papers to allow voters to reject all election candidates, but it failed to elicit approval from the government.

At that time, the Commission had also sent a motion to the President to pass an ordinance in this regard, but no avail.

The electoral body later shelved the idea after opposition from the government and political parties.

A non-profit organization had also gone to the Supreme Court back in 2013 for seeking its directives for the ECP in this regard. The court ruled in favour of the litigant, saying selecting a “none of the above” option in elections should apply.

The apex court further directed the ECP to offer such an option in electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Of late, a constitutional petition was also filed for inclusion of none of the above column on ballot papers. The Sindh High Court (SHC) has served notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) , other respondents to submit their response to it.

NOTA is not a new phenomenon as it exists in the countries like Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Spain, Colombia and Russia.

Last year, the government introduced the much-talked about electoral reforms in the country, but they had no mention of none of the above box to allow voters to reject all candidates in a constituency.

This feature, if introduced, will ensure more participation of the people in the electoral process. It is rooted in disappointment at the current political culture, unpopular policies of political parties and politicos failing to come up to expectations of the public at large.

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