FAFEN Releases 2nd Pre-Election Update

The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has deployed coordinators in more than 250 constituencies across the country to observe all aspects of the election process. These observers send weekly reports to the FAFEN Secretariat based in Islamabad, which uses this information to raise pertinent issues with various stakeholders with a view to improving the quality of electoral processes.

The following provisional report covers the period between November 17 and November 23, 2007, and is based on information received from 47 constituencies in 29 districts including Chakwal, Khushab, Sahiwal, Rahim Yar khan, Multan, Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Mianwali, Peshawar, Bannu, Haripur, Batagram, Swabi, Dadu, Khairpur, Sukkur,, Karachi West, Karachi South, Karachi East, Karachi Central, Malir, Ghotki, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan and Thatta.

While these regular reports will be covering various aspects of the election processes, this report emphasizes issues relevant to the administration of the election.

  1. Transparency of Election Process

FAFEN observers have met with Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) officials including Assistant Election Commissioners (AECs), District Returning Officers (DROs), and Returning Officers (ROs) in many districts and constituencies around the country. However, relevant election officials in some constituencies of Chakwal, Khushab, Lodhran, Jhelum, Multan, Charsadda, Peshawer, Karachi West, Karachi East, Karachi South and Tando Mohammad Khan have been unwilling to meet FAFEN observers or give any information with regard to the election process. FAFEN observers also have been informed by representatives of political parties and contesting candidates that ECP officials in these districts are not responding to their election-related queries.

ECP officials in only a few districts – Lodhran, Jhelum, Mianwali, Peshawer, Haripur, Karachi Central, Malir, Tando Allah Yar, and Tando Mohammad Khan – have held one or more meetings with stakeholders, such as civil society or media, to inform them about the election process.

  1. Impartiality of Election Officials

Political party representatives in 18 constituencies in Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Jhelum, Peshawer, Bannu, Nowshera, Dadu, Sukkur, Karachi West, South, East and Central, Ghotki, Nawabshah and Thatta complained to FAFEN observers that district election officials were partial towards one party or another during the scrutiny of the 2007 FER. Reports from 17 constituencies suggest that political parties and candidates view election officials as not performing their duties entirely according to the law.

The impartiality of polling staff appointed for the Election Day is also being questioned by political parties and contesting candidates in 20 constituencies of Chakwal, Multan, Charsadda, Kohat, Peshawer, Bannu, Dadu, Karachi West, East, Central and Malir, Ghotki and Nawabshah.

  1. Electoral Rolls

The ECP dispatched the 2007 Final Electoral Rolls (FER) to the offices of its district AECs in the last week of October 2007. The ECP also specified the procedure for eligible voters, who were missing from the 2007 FER, to continue adding their names to these lists. Under the Electoral Rolls Act, the registration of voters may continue until the announcement of the election schedule.

FAFEN observers report that AECs generally were helpful to people who came to check their names on these lists or sought to register as voters. However, offices of AECs in Chakwal, Bannu and Karachi East did not receive the list until the week ending November 23, 2007, giving no opportunity for additional eligible voters in these districts to register to vote. Similarly, AECs in Bannu, Dadu and Karachi West said that they did not receive any instructions from the ECP on processing the applications for voter registration.

Eligible voters interviewed by FAFEN observers in 13 constituencies in the districts of Charsadda, Peshawar, Swabi, Dadu, Karachi East and Central, Malir, Ghotki, Tando Muhammad Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, and Nawabshah were not aware that the 2007 FER was on public display at AECs offices. AECs in most of these districts reportedly did not make any public announcement about the display of the FER.

Public access to the offices of AECs was also a major issue for potential voters. These offices are at a distance of more than a few hours drive from marginal areas in each district, making them generally inaccessible. The AEC offices in Chakwal, Bannu, Multan, Nowshera, Dadu and Malir are located in places that are not visible or easily accessible even to people in the vicinity.

Recommendations

FAFEN recommends that:

  1. The ECP national office should send instructions to all PECs, AECs and district election officials that they should cooperate fully with all election stakeholders such as political parties, media, and election observers. In particular, AECs should be instructed to host a weekly meeting of election stakeholders to provide them with basic information about the status of electoral preparations, such as the distribution of key election materials.
  2. ECP should share the following information with stakeholders at national, provincial, and district levels:
  3. Copies of the 2007 FER in paper and electronic form
  4. Copies of the 2007 Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Contesting Candidates
  5. Information about how to submit complaints or concerns about violations of the Code or any other electoral matter

Information about how the Code will be enforced by election officials About FAFEN

The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), a coalition of 30 civil society organizations formed in 2006, has monitored election preparations since early 2007, including the public display of the 2007 draft voters’ list. Beginning in October 2007, specially-trained pre¬≠election observers have been reporting to the FAFEN Data Center in Islamabad from districts in all provinces about electoral and political developments.

More than 250 of these election monitors are now stationed in each National Assembly constituency in the country to observe the final stages of the election process. FAFEN monitors are reporting weekly on the nomination of candidates, campaigning, appointment and training of polling officials, selection of polling stations, distribution of election materials such as voters’ lists and ballot boxes, and enforcement of the Election Law and Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Contesting Candidates.

FAFEN coordinators also are recruiting an average of 60 volunteers in every National Assembly constituency to observe the full process on Election Day from the opening of polling stations through voting, counting of ballots, and the consolidation and announcement of election results.

FAFEN voter education teams are providing information about the election process to registered voters in every province. They are making special efforts to reach out to women and youth, who remain under-represented on the new voters’ list, but are vitally important to the elections and Pakistan’s future.

FAFEN has commented publicly on many aspects of the electoral process during 2007, including publishing an unprecedented audit of the draft voters’ list and offering a set of recommendations for legitimate elections after the imposition of emergency.

About FAFEN: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is a coalition of thirty leading Pakistani civil society organizations. It was established in 2006 to observe the election process, educate voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reform.