ISLAMABAD, May 7, 2021: Despite hot weather and COVID-19 associated challenges, the PP-84 Khushab-III by-election on Wednesday, May 5 witnessed improved election management and an encouraging turnout (52.99 percent) with low incidence of procedural violations.
As many as 155,089 registered voters – 86,178 (55.56 percent) men and 68,911 (50.09 percent) women – exercised their right to vote during by-election. The election turnout, though encouraging for a by-election, was lower than 61.7 percent turnout recorded during General Election (GE) 2018.
FAFEN’s trained citizen observers reported a total of 83 violations of electoral laws, rules, and/or various codes of conduct issued by ECP for the conduct of elections, averaging less than one violation (0.9) per observed polling station. FAFEN deployed 28 non-partisan and duly accredited observers—13 male and 15 females—to observe the polling process at 88 polling stations (eight male, nine female, and 71 combined).
The compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for COVID-19 prevention showed a varied trend across the constituency with only 49 percent of the observed polling stations strictly enforcing the SOPs. Majority of the observed violations were of ban on campaigning and canvassing in surroundings of the polling stations. FAFEN observers found candidates or contesting parties’ camps set up in vicinity of 55 polling stations.
As far as polling station arrangements are concerned, 15 polling stations—four female and 11 combined—housed more than one booth in a single room making the space congested. The seating arrangements for the candidates’ polling agents at four polling stations was disabling them to observe the polling process ﬁrsthand and raise any objections.
Though the overall voter turnout in the constituency was satisfactory, one polling station was observed with no votes cast at all during ﬁrst two hours of the polling. Reportedly, the voters boycotted the poll in protest against unavailability of electricity in the polling area.
The observers found election materials in adequate quantities at all of the observed polling stations. All due arrangements were made at the polling stations to protect the secrecy of voters except at one polling station where secrecy screens were placed improperly that allowed people inside polling booth to watch voters marking their choice on ballot paper.
Observers representing the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) asked voters how satisﬁed they were with the voting process. Voters outside 82 polling stations—eight male, nine female, and 65 combined—expressed their satisfaction. In contrast, voters outside the remaining polling stations said they were partially satisﬁed.
As many as four political parties had ﬁelded their candidates for PP-84 by-election, while seven candidates contested independently. The winning candidate secured 47 percent (73,081) of the polled votes (155,089), while the runner-up obtained 40.5 percent (62,903) of the polled votes. A comparison of Forms 47 – provisional consolidated statement of results of the count – of GE-2018 and by-election 2021 shows an increase in percentage vote share of PML-N from 40.2 percent in GE-2018 to 47 percent in By-election 2021 and of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from 36.2 percent in GE-2018 to 40.5 percent in by-election 2021. On the other hand, the vote share of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) decreased from 7.5 percent in GE-2018 to 3.73 percent in by-election 2021 and of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) from 0.82 percent in GE-2018 to 0.15 in by-election 2021.
The by-elections were necessitated due to the death of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Muhammad Waris Shad who had won this constituency during the General Elections 2018 by securing 66,459 votes. His son Muhammad Moazzam Sher of PML-N won Wednesday’s by-election by securing 47 percent (73,081) of the total polled votes.
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