Senate chairman election: the numbers game

All eyes are on the Senate today as the upper house gears up for the crucial election for the offices of chairman and deputy chairman.

Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (PPP) and Maulana Abdul Gha­foor Haideri (JUI-F) have been fielded by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) as its joint candidates for the posts of chairman and deputy chairman, respectively.

On the other hand, the government had alre­a­dy announced that outgoing Senate Chairman Muha­mmad Sadiq Sanjrani will be its candidate for the office for another term. On Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan Senator Mirza Moha­m­mad Afridi — a billionaire from erstwhile Fata — for the post of the deputy chairman.

The race for the two top offices of the upper house promises to be as nail-biting as the March 3 Senate polls.

After the Senate elections on March 3, the House strength has been reduced to 100 senators and now it consists of 99 senators, as Ishaq Dar is in self-exile and has not taken oath as a senator.

The senators of the ruling coalition include 27 members of the PTI, 12 of Balochistan Awami Party, three of MQM, three independents and one each of PML-Q and the PML-F (which is a constituent of the Grand Democratic Alliance).

The opposition senators include 21 of PPP, 17 of PML-N, excluding Ishaq Dar who has not taken oath of the office, five of JUI-F, two each of ANP, BNP-Mengal, PkMAP and National Party and one of Jamaat-i-Islami. The opposition collectively has 52 members in the House excluding Mr Dar, against 47 senators belonging to the ruling coalition. As the Jamaat-i-Islami has decided to abstain from voting, the difference between the vote bank of the government and the opposition has narrowed down to four.

However, the numbers do not always guarantee a win or lose.

A timely and fitting example of this are the recent Senate elections, when the ruling coalition’s candidate — Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh — despite having a clear majority suffered defeat at the hands of opposition’s Gilani in a major upset.

Rejected votes played a significant role in the upset with Gilani securing 169 votes as against 164 bagged by Shaikh, as the number of rejected votes exceeded the margin of victory.

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