Lack of Interest, Low Turnout Mark Charsadda By-Election

ISLAMABAD, January 16, 2013: Low voter turnout, even lower participation of women and political parties’ lack of interest marked the PK-22 Charsadda-VI by-election on Tuesday, reports Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its preliminary report.

Unauthorized persons were observed to be present in many polling stations. Party symbol/badge holders were present at nine polling stations while people who had cast their votes were seen inside eight. FAFEN observers also reported the presence of police personnel inside 53 polling stations. Incidents of violence were reported at two polling stations.

According to information gathered by FAFEN’s election observers, the indicative turnout at 13 polling stations at 1700 hours was observed to be 21.96%, showing a decrease of 10.6 percentage points compared to the 2008 general elections. Gender-wise, the male indicative voter turnout was 26% with that of female being only 10.1%.

The seat fell vacant due to the demise of Muhammad Ali Khan, a PPP-S leader who won the seat by securing 25% (6,523) of the total votes in the previous elections. A total of 104,730 voters – 63,290 male and 41,440 female – were registered for the by-election, 26% more than the previous polls.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) set up 85 polling stations – 49 male and 36 female. These polling stations had 127 male and 89 female booths. FAFEN observers monitored 43 men and 31 women polling stations.

According to FAFEN’s observation, canvassing and campaigning outside the polling stations continued in and around majority of the polling stations. Party camps were set up outside 42 polling stations, while armed civilians were present in at least nine party camps. The candidates/workers were observed to be persuading voters at 13 polling stations with political leaders/workers seen at five. There were armed civilians persuading voters inside three polling stations.

Seventeen trained and accredited observers (11 men and six women) monitored the voting and counting process. The observers spent between 45 and 60 minutes at each polling station to document their observations and findings on a standardized checklist based on the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1976, Conduct of Elections Rules 1977, and instructional handbooks provided by the ECP to polling officials.