Rawalpindi PP-7 by-polls: Instances of illegal campaigning increase

ISLAMABAD, September 26, 2016: Instances of illegal campaigning, canvassing, presence of unauthorized individuals inside polling premises and bar on observation were some of the major irregularities of Punjab constituency by-election held in PP-7 Rawalpindi-VII on Monday, observes Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

FAFEN observers were barred from observing the election processes at around five percent polling stations by security officials, which again highlights the need to sensitize the security personnel about electoral norms and laws before deploying them on polling day. When the security officials deployed at polling stations were asked if they had received any training, 27 percent replied in the negative.

Overall 126 violations of election laws, rules and code of conduct were reported during the by-election, averaging 1.5 violations per polling station. This is slightly higher than the average of one violation per polling station recorded in previous by-election held in NA-162 Sahiwal-III.

Pre-voting process mostly remained smooth and well-managed as polling agents at only one polling station reported to have raised objections. Security officials somewhat controlled the illegal campaigning and canvassing issues but failed to completely eradicate it as reports of party camps established within the 400-yards radius were received from around 18 percent polling stations while candidates were seen providing transport to the voters at 13 percent polling stations. Promotional material was reported to be displayed on walls of nearly five percent polling stations. Voters carried serial number slips containing electoral symbols at 46 percent polling stations.

At around six percent polling stations, unauthorized individuals were reported to be present inside the polling premises. Instances of breach of right to secrecy of voters was reported from eight percent polling stations.

The number of registered voters in by-election increased by almost 11 percent to 195,714 voters – 105,701 men and 90,013 women – as opposed to 176,793 registered voters – 95,912 men and 80,881 women – in GE-2013.

ECP set up 167 polling stations for the by-polls, 21 of which were declared as sensitive.

The by-election was necessitated due to the death of Muhammad Siddique Khan who was victorious in General Election 2013. Mr. Siddique of PTI had secured 48,440 votes followed closely by PML-N’s Ch. Nisar Ali who polled 47,666 votes.

Five candidates contested for the seat in PP-7, three of whom were on party tickets (PTI, PML-N and PPP) while two ran independently.

FAFEN trained and deployed a total of 27 observers – 17 men and 10 women – to observe 167 polling stations, however, this preliminary report is based on the information acquired telephonically from 85 polling stations on the Election Day. The observers were trained to observe the opening, closing and counting processes of the election.

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