ISLAMABAD, May 9, 2013 – The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is set to deploy 40,500 trained, non-partisan and legally accredited citizens to observe General Election 2013 on May 11, one of the largest organized citizen election observation undertaken anywhere in the world, announced FAFEN in a press statement on Thursday.
FAFEN acknowledges the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allowing optimal access to citizens to observe all Election Day processes including voting, counting and consolidation of the results, a step that will enhance public confidence in Pakistan’s historic first elections to transition between two civilian governments.
However, FAFEN fears that the positive steps by the ECP have already been compromised by the precarious security situation arising from systematic acts of terrorism targeting candidates, voters and election officials across Pakistan. As many as 428 people have lost their lives in 165 incidents of political and electoral violence during the campaign period between March 16 and May 7, 2013, according to FAFEN violence monitoring.
The sense of insecurity amid threats from non-state actors of attacks on polling stations has raised fears of a low turnout of voters, despite other positive factors pointing to the highest potential voter turnout in Pakistan’s electoral history.
While it may be too little too late, FAFEN urges senior leadership of the caretaker governments, security forces and ECP to make strong public statements on Friday through mass media to reassure voters, polling officials and other election stakeholders. The voter turnout for General Elections 2013 depends in large part on security during the morning hours of Election Day.
FAFEN said messages on Friday from the highest levels of key state institutions would build public confidence and demonstrate that leaders understand citizens’ concerns and have made all possible arrangements to keep citizens safe in every constituency and every polling station on Election Day.
FAFEN recommended two other ECP announcements on Friday. ECP should notify candidates and the public that it will not certify election results from any constituency where women’s voter turnout is 0% in any female or combined polling station. Only by this method will political contestants for constituency seats help ensure that women are able to vote in every locality, as required by national and international law. ECP also has responsibility to ensure that all female booths and stations are fully functional and secure throughout Election Day.
To mitigate any political frustration about election results, FAFEN recommended that ECP should instruct constituency Returning Officers (ROs) to give each candidate on election night a signed copy of the preliminary results (ECP Form XVI), and should publicize a simple method for filing concrete evidence about election-related complaints. ECP also must develop a transparent approach to tracking and resolving such complaints.
FAFEN also urged that during the remaining hours prior to the elections, ECP and its monitoring teams must ensure that no campaign advertisements are allowed to run on television or radio, just as other campaigning is barred by the ECP Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates. ECP must enforce these provisions of the Code among both election contestants and media channels that run any campaign ads.
Moreover, according to FAFEN, the election administration should be prepared to act upon the information that is expected to be shared by ECP’s monitoring teams, media and FAFEN observers during Election Day. FAFEN observers will report promptly on incidents pertaining to violence, capturing of polling stations, restrictions on voters and other issues that would need corrective action by election administration and executive authorities.
|The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), established in 2006, is a coalition of 42 leading civil society organizations working to strengthen all forms of democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. Governed by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA), FAFEN also implements robust programs in-between elections related to monitoring parliamentary affairs, connecting constituents to their elected representatives, monitoring the performance of public and elected institutions and advocating electoral and democratic reforms.
FAFEN Election Observation Program
FAFEN is implementing a long-term election observation program nationwide, including both pre and post-electoral processes. FAFEN has deployed almost 400 District and Constituency Long-Term Observers (DLTOs and CLTOs) across the country to monitor all phases of elections. In addition, FAFEN is deploying 40,500 trained, non-partisan citizens to monitor polling stations across the country on Election Day.
All FAFEN observers use standardized checklists to report electronically or in hardcopy to the FAFEN Election Observation Secretariat in Islamabad. FAFEN compiles data and information from around the country to issue reports for the consideration of voters and election stakeholders. FAFEN’s 10-month observation process, which began on February 1, 2013, helps keep all election stakeholders informed on issues relevant to fairness and transparency at every stage of the election process.
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