PS-114 by-election brings back Karachi voters

ISLAMABAD, July 9, 2017: Sporadic incidents of electoral irregularities in a politically tense but generally peaceful PS-114 (Karachi-XXVI) by-election indicated at improved enforcement of electoral regulations by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with the security assistance by Rangers, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report released here on Sunday.

An intense election campaign by candidates of all major political parties including Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) encouraged an improved turnout of voters in the Sindh metropolis, which is estimated to be between 35 and 40 percent. The turnout in local government elections and recent by-elections in Karachi had registered a sharp decline amid the politically disruptive split of the MQM. Karachi by-election in the recent past had shown marginal turnout of voters.

FAFEN observers recorded a total of 83 violations from 36 polling stations, averaging at 2.3 violations per polling station, which is slightly lower than the 2.5 ratio reported in the previous by-election for PS-81 in Sanghar. However, candidates and their agents expressed their concern at the quality of voting process, alleging widespread irregularities and rigging.

Suspicious voting patterns were observed at two polling booths in as many polling stations where voting rate was higher than 45 votes per hour. Polling staff at one polling booth cannot process more than 45 votes at one booth in an hour.

According to FAFEN observers, smooth opening processes were observed in most of the polling stations except for the PS-10 where presiding officer was not present at the time of the opening of polling station. At one polling station, unauthorized persons were found to be present at the start of poll. Election material was found to be in inadequate quantity at most polling stations. Copies of statement of the count (result form) and ballot paper account forms did not match the number of candidates at 13 and 24 polling stations, respectively.

No promotional material of any candidate or party was witnessed inside any of 36 polling stations observed by FAFEN. However, illegal campaigning and canvassing outside the polling stations was not curbed in full as party camps were observed to have been established within 400 yards of polling premises around 14 polling stations. Similarly, candidates were providing transport facility to voters at 18 polling stations. Voters were also seen carrying “voter chits” bearing party symbols at six polling stations, which are not permissible under the law and relevant court rulings.

The security personnel effectively managed law and order in and around polling stations, though more investments are needed to equip them with legal information regarding their roles and responsibilities. Security personnel at five polling stations told observers that they did not undergo any training. Rangers did not allow FAFEN observers to enter two polling stations, who were carrying the accreditation cards issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

ECP’s internal monitoring teams remained active with presiding officer at 15 observed polling stations confirming that ECP monitoring team had visited the polling station. At 22 polling stations, returning officer or other ECP officials had made a visit.

The seat fell vacant after the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the victory of PML-N’s Irfan Ullah Marwat in GE 2013 void. As many as 27 candidates contested the by-election. As many as 92 polling stations – 90 combined and one each for male and female – were set up in the constituency. FAFEN trained and deployed 15 non-partisan citizens including three women to observe the polling processes at 73 polling stations. However, this preliminary report comprises information acquired from 36 (39%) observed polling stations. Observers underwent a day-long training to observe the opening, voting, closing and counting processes at polling stations.

The constituency registered a four per cent increase in the number of registered voters since 2013. There was an overall increase of almost five per cent in the number of women voters and three per cent in the number of male voters in the constituency between 2013 and 2017.

To download the complete report, click here