Low Turnout, Campaign Violations Persist in Mansehra By-Election

Islamabad, February 27, 2019:  A decline in male voter turnout and violations of the Election Commission’s Code of Conduct for campaigning marked the PK-30 Mansehra-I by-election held on February 26, 2019, observes Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

The Election Day proceedings remained smooth across the constituency with 47 percent registered voters turning out to vote despite unfavorable weather conditions. However, the observers noted seven incidents of unauthorized persons influencing voters or polling staff on polling day. The by-poll followed month-long campaigning by two major political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N). Party workers were observed violating the ECP’s code of conduct for political parties and contesting candidates by using banned (panaflexes) and oversized campaign materials (banners, portraits, pamphlets and posters) at public places. PTI and PML-N were also observed using loudspeakers in their party meetings. The code of conduct prohibits the use of loud speakers for campaigning purposes and also bars elected representatives and public office-bearers from participating in campaign activities. However, FAFEN observed the participation of incumbent legislators of PTI and PML-N in the election campaigns of their respective party candidates.

In PK-30, the ECP had declared 85 polling stations as sensitive, and installed Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras inside polling booths. Comprehensive security arrangements were also made for the election with the deployment of Pakistan Army inside and outside the polling stations to handle any emergency. Moreover, the ECP extended magisterial powers to Pakistan Army.

PTI’s Syed Ahmed Hussain Shah won the by-election by securing 46,438 (51 percent of the polled votes), while PML-N’s Syed Mazhar Ali Qasim Shah secured 39,945 (44 percent) votes. According to the Provisional Consolidated Statement of the Result of the Count (Form-47), a total of 1,187 (one percent) votes were excluded from the count. Earlier, during General Elections (GE) 2018 , Mian Zia Ur Rehman of PML-N had won this constituency by securing 28,997 (30.0 percent) of the polled votes, while Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians’ (PPPP) Syed Ahmad Hussain Shah was the runner-up with 28,747 (29.8 percent) votes. The seat had fallen vacant due to the de-notification of Mian Zia Ur Rehman after a Supreme Court verdict against him in a fake degree case.

FAFEN deployed 47 – 33 male and 14 female – trained, non-partisan and duly accredited observers for the observation of the by-election. The findings of this observation were collected using a standardized and robust methodology based on the Elections Act, 2017, Election Rules 2018, respective codes of conduct and the ECP’s handbooks for election officials. For this report, FAFEN analyzed the checklists received from 55 of the total 186 (or 30 percent) polling stations set up for the by-election.

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