Incidence of violations in PS-81 by-election goes up

ISLAMABAD, April 21, 2017: The by-election for the Sindh Assembly seat in Sanghar district (PS-81) witnessed high incidence of violation of laws, rules and code of conduct, observes Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

FAFEN observers reported a total of 163 violations from 64 polling stations, averaging, 2.5 violations per polling station. This is higher incidence in relation to the last by-election on a Punjab Assembly constituency (PP-23 Chakwal) held on April 18, 2017 where this ratio stood at 1.07 violations per polling stations.

Unchecked illegal campaigning, restrictions on accredited FAFEN observers and lack of female polling staff to facilitate women voters were some of the major irregularities observed on polling day in the constituency where voters went to re-elect their representative for the third time since 2013.

Heavy presence of Rangers inside and outside polling stations was a hallmark of by-election that saw sporadic incidents of violence claiming, according to media reports, at least life of one political worker. Security personnel appeared to be lacking necessary training and instructions on how to implement election law as they arbitrarily interfered with the accredited observers and did not let them complete their observation in many polling stations. Security personnel barred FAFEN observers from entering the premises at two polling stations. At another two polling stations, FAFEN observers were not allowed by the security personnel to observe the counting processes. When the security officials deployed at polling stations were asked if they had received any training prior to election, 34 percent officials told they had not received any training. This again highlights the need to sensitize the security personnel about electoral norms and laws before deploying them on polling day.

Although campaigning and canvassing on election day was fairly controlled, election administration could not control on the provision of transport to voters by the candidates and political parties at 72% observed polling stations. Other weak area of election management was availability of necessary election forms to the presiding officers. The number of Statement of Account (Form XIV) was less than the number of contesting candidates at eleven polling stations. Similarly, 15 polling stations received less Ballot Account Form (Form XV) than number of candidates. Five Presiding Officers reported that they did not get training from ECP. One third of observed polling stations reported lack of female staff to facilitate women voters.

PP-81 seat fell vacant due to the resignation of Pakistan Muslim League Functional’s (PML-F) Jam Madad Ali Khan. As many as 15 candidates – four representing political parties and 11 independents– contested the by-election.

FAFEN trained and deployed 15 non-partisan citizens to observe the polling processes at 75 polling stations. However, this preliminary report comprises of information acquired from 64 polling stations. Observers underwent a day-long comprehensive training to observe the opening, voting, closing ad counting processes at polling stations.

The constituency registered a nine percent increase in the number of registered voters since 2013. There was an overall increase of almost seven percent in the number of women voters and 11% in the number of male voters in constituency between 2013 and 2017.

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