FAFEN has had long-term observers in almost 264 out of 272 National Assembly electoral constituencies in the country

ISLAMABAD, Feb 13: Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), a coalition of 40 Pakistani civil society groups formed in 2006, is the first effort in Pakistan to organize systematic, nationwide long term election observation following best international practice and standards. FAFEN’s approach is data-driven and based on long-term observation at the local level.

FAFEN has had long-term observers in almost 264 out of 272 National Assembly electoral constituencies in the country is working in constituencies for the General Election 2008. The only exceptions are 8 unsafe areas of FATA. FAFEN observers send weekly reports to the FAFEN Secretariat in Islamabad. The reports are consolidated into “FAFEN Election Updates,” which are posted at www.fafen.org and also sent to various stakeholders, including international and national media people, political parties, bar councils, Election Commission of Pakistan and national and international observers.

FAFEN will deploy about 20,000 short-term election observers on Election Day, or approximately 75 observers in each of about 260 National Assembly constituencies (at least 3 constituency elections will be delayed because of Bhutto’s death and the death of another candidate). Stationary observers will be posted in a statistical random selection of 8,000 polling stations around the country. Mobile observers will visit briefly as many as 40,000 (out of a total of 65,000) polling stations. Observers will wear FAFEN caps or ‘chadars.’ One observer in each pair will monitor a men’s polling booth; the other will monitor a women’s polling booth. Their observations of each stage of the Election Day will be documented in a set of multi-colored checklists, which will be sent back to the FAFEN secretariat at the end of the day.

Besides this, FAFEN’s innovative voter education campaign – focusing on general, women’s, and youth voter education – has reached as many as 2,500 union councils in the country. FAFEN voter education personnel are emphasizing the new aspects of the electoral process (such as transparent ballot boxes), broader civic education themes, and the Election Commission Code of Conduct.

FAFEN NGOs are organizing the first-ever nationwide “Meet the Candidates” public forums for National Assembly candidates. All candidates for a National Assembly seat are invited to sit at one table and speak to and answer questions from ordinary voters in their constituency.