Pakistan elections to cost over $3 billion

February 16th, 2008 - 3:29 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, Feb 16(IANS) The Feb 18 elections to elect a new National Assembly and provincial legislatures in Pakistan would cost a record $3 billion, according to a survey. Projections by the survey, carried by a team of journalists, say the whopping election expense includes expenditures incurred by the federal and provincial governments, Election Commission, donors, political parties and candidates.

In the absence of any comparable consolidated figures of election-related spending during the 2002 elections, it was not possible to work out the exact increase in the aggregate expenditure, Dawn newspaper said Saturday.

“However, most analysts believe, and candidates admit in private conversation, that the expenditure this year is three times more than the last election,” the newspaper said.

“The increase is mainly due to a sharp rise in security costs this time, in view of a volatile political environment and threats of terrorist attacks.”

The cost has also gone up because the exercise is being conducted on modern lines in order to ensure transparency, the newspaper added.

The double-digit inflation, private security arrangements and a new head of expenses related to the electronic media have all done their bit to a big hike in the budget.

The commercials made by the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) for television channels sparked off a competition between political parties for airtime.

The electronic media’s effectiveness in reaching out to a largely illiterate populace compelled parties to turn to TV channels. The survey showed all political parties and candidates had, for obvious reasons, understated the expenses made by them. However, cautious estimates made on the basis of available data threw up a staggering figure of Rs.20 million as the average expenditure for a provincial assembly seat and Rs.50 million for a National Assembly seat.

In contrast, the Election Commission has stipulated a ceiling of Rs.1.5 million for a National Assembly candidate and one million rupees for a provincial assembly contestant.

“All attempts to trace the sources of financing or the modus operandi of different parties to manage their election budgets were in vain. The candidates seem to be spending without any need or desire to keep proper accounts. There is no way to audit an expenditure that has never been accounted for,” the newspaper said.

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