ISLAMABAD, January 19, 2021: Despite COVID-19 associated challenges, the PS-52 Umer Kot-II by-elections witnessed an encouraging male and female turnout with low incidence of procedural violations indicating improved election management by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This was first by-election held after the ECP’s decision to postpone polls due to the outbreak of COVID-19 last year. The by-elections were necessitated due to the death of Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) lawmaker Syed Ali Mardan Shah in January 2020.
On Election Day, FAFEN’s trained citizen observers reported a total of 76 procedural irregularities regarding the campaigning and canvassing, voting and counting processes, and security arrangements – averaging less than one violation per polling station. FAFEN deployed a total of 30 non-partisan and duly accredited observers – 25 men and five women – to observe the polling processes at 99 stations including 22 male, 26 female, and 51 combined.
The polling process was generally observed to be organized at the observed polling stations. Nearly 85 percent of the observed polling stations had polling booths in separate rooms; however, around 15 percent of the polling stations – 23 percent male, 27 percent female, and six percent combined – housed more than one booth in a single room. The polling agents of contesting candidates were present at 97 percent of the polling stations, and all of them were seated at a place where they could easily observe the process.
FAFEN observers also inquired voters about their level of satisfaction with the voting process. None of the voters expressed dissatisfaction with the voting process. Voters outside 87 percent polling stations – 86 percent male, 85 percent female, and 88 percent combined – expressed their full satisfaction with the process, while the voters outside the remaining polling stations were somewhat or partially satisfied.
The election materials were observed to be inadequate quantities at all of the observed polling stations except one combined polling station. The observers did not witness any incident of polling staff disallowing a voter from casting his or her ballot. With the exception of two incidents of unauthorized persons going behind the secrecy screens at two polling stations, there were no other incidents that compromised the secrecy of voters.
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