Fraudulent Voting, Interfering Police Mark PP-82 By-Election

PP-82 By-Election was characterized by fraudulent voting and had partisan election officials overseeing the electoral process. FAFEN has more.


ISLAMABAD, March 10, 2010: By-election for the eighty-second constituency of the Punjab Assembly [Jhang-X] was characterized by fraudulent voting at many polling stations, partisan election officials siding with one candidate or the other, police interfering with the electoral process and local influential and/or federal and provincial ministers campaigning and canvassing for certain candidates, reports the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its Preliminary Report of PP-82 By-Election Observation.

The seat had fallen vacant after the resignation tendered by Mian Azam Chela, MPA Punjab Assembly. Mian Azam was earlier elected as an MPA in the 2008 general elections on a PML-Q ticket. As many as 153792 voters are registered in PP-82, with 84774 being males and 69018 females. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set-up 127 polling stations – 9 male, 9 female and 109 combined polling stations.

FAFEN deployed 16 trained observers on Election Day to monitor more than 90 per cent of the polling stations set up in the constituency. Observers spent between 45 and 60 minutes in each polling station to document their observations and findings on a standardized checklist that is based on the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1976, Conduct of Elections Rules 1977 and instructional handbooks provided to election officials by the ECP.

This preliminary report is based on information from 72 polling stations – five Male, six Female and 61 Combined Polling Stations. Some of FAFEN’s key findings include:

PP-82 By-Election: Voter Turnout

According to FAFEN observers reporting from 12 randomly sampled polling stations, the turnout remained 29.65 per cent. FAFEN will release gender disaggregated turnout as part of its detailed report.

Fraudulent Voting

At six polling stations, additional counterfoils had been filled on the ballot books whereas five polling stations had ballot papers issued without filling the counterfoils, indicating the possibility of fraudulent votes being stuffed in ballot boxes. Similarly, FAFEN observers reported from seven polling stations that the numbers of Computerized National Identity Cards of voters as written on the counterfoils of the ballot books did not match the corresponding entries on the electoral rolls, again raising the possibility that fraudulent voting might have taken place. At 13 polling stations, dubious thumb impressions marked on counterfoils of ballot books at the same angle with phasing out ink print were observed. In the case of genuine voters, each thumb impression is marked in fresh, dark ink and may be at varying angles.

PP-82 By-Election: Unauthorized Persons Inside Polling Stations

FAFEN observers reported presence of unauthorized people from more than 60 polling stations.  At 72 polling stations, police and other security officials were present inside polling stations and polling booths. Many presiding officers said that security officers were present inside the premises of polling stations without their permission. Under electoral rules, even at sensitive polling stations, police is only authorized to maintain order outside polling stations in order to ensure smooth polling. They can only enter polling stations or booths when requested by the presiding officer. At one polling station, the police officials were observed to have been persuading people to vote for a particular candidate.

Presence of armed civilians was also reported from three polling stations, of which at one, they were also pressurizing the election officials to support a particular candidate. At 22 polling stations, FAFEN observers said that they had seen individuals belonging to a certain political party wearing campaign badges/symbols of contesting candidates. At 26 polling stations, people who had already voted were present.

FAFEN observers also reported presence of local influential people, government officials, federal and provincial ministers and officials at least 20 polling stations. Some of these unauthorized persons were either canvassing for a particular candidate or influencing the electoral officials to act in a certain way. However, candidates with their armed bodyguards were observed to have visited 12 polling stations. Under election laws, only candidates are authorized to visit polling stations, they cannot bring in their bodyguards unless specifically permitted by the returning officer.

Campaigning and Canvassing around Polling Stations

FAFEN observers reported from 72 polling stations that the workers of contesting candidates were campaigning and canvassing in violation of election laws that bar the same within 400 yards of polling stations. At 10 polling stations, FAFEN observers reported the presence of armed civilians at party camps. Such display of arms inhibits voters from turning out to vote as well as compel them to vote under pressure.

PP-182 By-Election: Partisan Election Officials & Breach of Right to Secret Voting

FAFEN observers reported from 23 polling stations that unauthorized persons and election officials were stamping ballots on behalf of voters. At some polling stations, secrecy screens were affixed in a manner that election officials could view voters stamping their ballots.

Many of the procedural irregularities especially the presence of unauthorized personnel inside polling stations, including security officials, may just be due to lack of training of election staff, who are generally not clear of their authority under the election laws.

FAFEN Recommendations

Having observed the aforementioned irregularities during the by-election, FAFEN recommends:

  1. The ECP should ensure that security officials perform only their designated duty of maintaining law and order outside of polling stations and do not attempt to manage election officials.
  2. The ECP should reprimand all election officialswho failed to enforce the election rules and laws.
  3. The ECP and all provincial, district, and local election officials should administer each by-election with the same vigilanceand attention to enforcing the law and procedures as during any general election. The result of any by-election not administered vigilantly should be voided.
  4. To eliminate unauthorized people from being in polling stations:
  • Presiding Officers should be encouraged and provided adequate protections to use their magisterial powers.
  • All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
  • Polling officials should ensure that only one polling agent representing each political party – and carrying proper identification from their party – is permitted in each polling booth.
  • Only people carrying proper identifications should be permitted inside polling stations and allowed to vote.
  • Adequate security checks should be performed in order to prevent unauthorized and armed persons in and around polling stations.
  • All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
  1. Adequate training of all polling officials must be ensured for all by-elections.
  2. Polling officials should ensure that all campaign materials and camps are removed from around the polling stations.