ISLAMABAD, May 21, 2021: PS-70 Badin-I by-election held on May 20, 2021 witnessed signiﬁcant decline (18.57 percent) in voter turnout since 2018 general elections (GE) and low incidence of electoral violations, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its report on Friday.
As many as 58,545 registered voters – 33,751 (36.8 percent) men and 24,794 (32.9 percent) women – exercised their right to vote during by-election. The by-election recorded a turnout of 35.10 percent of registered voters- dropping from 53.67% percent recorded for the constituency during GE-2018 as hot weather and COVID-19 spread remained a challenge for voters to come out and cast their ballot. The low incidence of procedural violations was observed due to improved election management averaging almost one irregularity per polling station like by-election held on May 5, 2021 in PP-84 (Khushab-III, Punjab). Five political parties ﬁelded their candidates in by-election, while one candidate contested independently. The winning candidate scored 79.29 percent of the polled votes while the runner-up candidate obtained 10.64 percent of the polled votes.
FAFEN’s trained citizen observers reported a total of 110 violations of electoral laws, rules, and/or various codes of conduct issued by ECP for the conduct of elections, averaging around one per observed polling station. FAFEN deployed 29 non-partisan and duly accredited observers—24 male and ﬁve females—to observe the polling process at 105 polling stations (26 male, 18 female, and 61 combined).
The compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for COVID-19 prevention showed a varied trend across the constituency with only 48 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 35 percent polling stations.
As far as polling station arrangements are concerned, 36 polling stations—10 male, ﬁve female and 21 combined—housed more than one booth in a single room making the polling space congested. A total of 77 out of 123 polling stations were allocated more than 1,200 voters. However, the seating arrangements for the candidates’ polling agents at all polling stations was seen to be proper and enabling for them to observe the polling process ﬁrsthand and raise objections, if any.
The observers found election materials in adequate quantities at 101 of the observed polling stations but scarcity of election material was reported at four polling stations. All due arrangements were made at the polling stations to protect the secrecy of voters except at four polling stations 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 97 polling stations—25 male, 15 female, and 57 combined—expressed their complete satisfaction with the voting process. In contrast, voters outside the remaining polling stations said they were partially satisﬁed. None of the interviewed voters express complete dissatisfaction with the process.
As many as ﬁve political parties had ﬁelded their candidates for PS-70 by-election, while one candidate contested independently. A comparison of main contesting parties (PPPP and JUIP) through 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 PPPP from 58.37 percent in GE-2018 to 79.28 percent in by-election 2021 and of JUIP from 3.6 percent to 10.64 percent.
The by-elections were necessitated due to the death of Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarian’s MPA Bashir Ahmed Halepoto on March 23 who had won this constituency during the General Elections 2018 by securing 44,385 votes. His nephew Dada Muhammed Halepoto of PPPP won Thursday’s by-election by securing 79.29 percent (46,420) of the total polled votes.
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