ISLAMABAD, October 16, 2014: Amid ongoing political strife in the country that has triggered significant political activism among the people; by-election held in NA-149 (Multan-II) on Thursday was marked by widespread violation of the ECP’s Code of Conduct.
By-election was held following the resignation of PTI MNA Javed Hashmi from the National Assembly. However, Hashmi re-contested for the seat as an independent candidate. This report has been prepared from direct observation of the polling processes by FAFEN observers till midday as well as media monitoring until 1700 hours.
The ECP set up a total of 286 polling stations (144 male and 142 female) for 346,048 registered voters. FAFEN deployed 69 trained, non-partisan election observers in the constituency to monitor all aspects of the election. As many as 18 observers had observed either one or both of the 2008 and 2013 general elections. The observers collected information from 152 polling stations – 69 male and 83 female.
The election was marred by extreme disregard for election laws and Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates as FAFEN observers reported several incidents where campaign materials and party camps were seen near the polling stations. The ECP’s Code of Conduct explicitly forbids establishment of party camps within 400 yards and display of campaign material within 100 yards of the polling stations. However, FAFEN observers saw party camps within the stated radius at 67 polling stations and campaign materials outside 69 polling stations. Furthermore, armed personnel were seen at three party camps.
The observers interviewed the polling staff at certain polling stations and were told that the election staff had not been given adequate training prior to the by-election. In addition, three male and two female polling stations were not established according to the polling scheme, in violation of Section 8(2) of Representation of People Act (ROPA) 1976 which directs election officials to finalize the polling scheme 15 days prior to election-day.
Furthermore, security personnel did not check the voters’ Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) at the entrance of 74 polling stations, while the observers saw polling staff and unidentified personnel marking ballot papers on behalf of voters at two of the observed polling stations.
The media coverage for the by-election was unprecedented in the wake of the current political situation resulting from the sit-ins and public gatherings held by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek across the country.
The media continued transmission of the election proceedings which remained mostly focused on campaigning and activities outside polling stations. In contrast, FAFEN’s observation was more concentrated on voting processes inside the polling stations. The media highlighted various incidents of campaigning and sloganeering outside polling stations and reported certain cases where voters were provided with transportation by contesting candidates, in clear violation of the ECP’s Code of Conduct.
In addition, media reports highlighted the failure of ECP in using magnetic ink, in addition to suspension of voting at several polling stations due to unrest created by supporters of candidates. In particular, one female PML-N supporter clashed with the police in Shamsabad, causing the polling process to be suspended during the final hour. There were certain incidents where voters complained about their names missing from the electoral rolls, even though they had voted at the same polling stations during the 2013 General Elections.
Most importantly, media reports showed that the counting process was concluded and the unofficial election results were announced before the official closing time at four polling stations, in clear disregard for Section 26 of ROPA that prescribe at least eight hours during which the polls shall be held.
Having observed the aforementioned irregularities, FAFEN recommends:
- The ECP should ensure that the security personnel perform their designated duties of maintaining law and order outside the polling stations.
- Only people carrying CNICs should be permitted inside polling stations.
- Adequate training of all polling staff must be ensured for elections.
- Polling officials should ensure all campaign materials and party camps are removed from near the polling stations.
- The ECP should ensure compliance with the polling scheme to ensure greater participation and increased confidence in the electoral process.
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