ISLAMABAD, July 30, 2021: By-election on Punjab Assembly seat in Sialkot (PP-38 Sialkot-IV) on Wednesday registered a relatively higher incidence of violations of electoral laws, rules and codes of conduct with FAFEN observers reporting an average of two violations per observed polling station, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its report on Thursday.
FAFEN observers had reported an average of one violation per observed polling station in the last by-election, which was held on a Sindh Assembly seat in Badin district (PS-70 Badin-I) on May 20, 2021.
Illegal campaigning and canvassing around majority of the observed polling stations for PP-38 by-election was observed. FAFEN observers found candidates or contesting parties’ camps set up in the vicinity of 88 percent observed polling stations. The compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for COVID-19 prevention showed a varied trend across the constituency with nearly 50 percent of the observed polling stations partially enforcing the SOPs.
Although lower in number if compared with the constituency turnout during general elections 2018, by-election on PP-38 Sialkot attracted a large number of voters despite rainy weather and ongoing fourth wave of COVID-19 pandemic with 55.3 percent voters- 56.6 percent men and 53.9 percent women- coming out to vote for Wednesday’s by-election. During general elections, the constituency had witnessed a cumulative turnout of 59 percent. However, PP-38 by-election turnout is greater than the recent by-elections for NA-249 Karachi West-II, PS-70 Badin and PP-84 Khushab-II, which registered a turnout of 22 percent, 35 percent and 53 percent, respectively.
FAFEN deployed a total of 33 non-partisan, trained and duly accredited observers- 25 men and eight women- to observe the polling processes at 126 polling stations – 30 male, 33 female, and 63 combined.
As for polling arrangements, election authorities had assigned more than 1,200 voters to a polling station, which is a legally recommended limit of voters on a polling station, at more than two thirds of the polling stations (114 or 69 percent). FAFEN observers reported more than one polling booth in the same room at 48 polling stations – 11 male, 18 female, and 19 combined – making the polling space congested for voters.
The seating arrangements for the candidates’ polling agents at 122 (97 percent) observed polling stations, however, were observed to be proper enabling them to observe the polling processes firsthand and raise objections or make challenges.
The observers found election materials in adequate quantities at all observed polling stations except one. Moreover, all due arrangements were made at the polling stations to protect the secrecy of voters except for five polling stations where secrecy screens were placed improperly compromising the secrecy of voters’ choice.
FAFEN observers interviewed at least three voters outside every observed polling station about their satisfaction with the polling processes and the overall environment of the by-election. Voters outside 104 (83 percent) polling stations expressed their satisfaction with the entire polling process. Voters outside 16 (13 percent) polling stations were partially satisfied. Only one interviewer expressed complete dissatisfaction with the polling process.
Three political parties i.e. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had fielded their candidates for PP-38 Sialkot-IV by-election while five candidates ran independently. A comparison of votes polled to two main contenders (PTI and PML-N) during GE-2018 and recent by-election shows a marked increase in PTI’s vote share, which rose from 32.8 percent in 2018 to 48.5 percent in 2021 while PML-N’s vote share slightly decreased from 46.6 percent to 43.6 percent. PTI candidate has returned from the constituency, as per provisional result, by securing 62,657 votes.
The by-election was necessitated due to the death of PMLN Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Chaudhry Khush Akhtar Subhani, who had won this constituency during the GE-2018 by securing 57,617 votes.
Detailed report can be accessed at: FAFEN’s PP-38 By-Election Observation Report
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