Violence, Procedural Irregularities Observed in Low Turnout PP-275 By-Election

PP-275 By-Election had an overall low turnout and suspicious voting patterns at some polling stations. FAFEN releases preliminary report.


ISLAMABAD, November 28, 2011: Incidents of violence, low turnout, suspicious voting patterns at six booths of five polling stations and procedural irregularities marked the by-election for the PP-275 constituency, Bahawalpur-IX, according to a preliminary observation report issued by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

The seat was vacated due to death of Ch. Mumtaz Ahmed Jajja, who won the 2008 General Elections by securing 40736 votes when the voter turnout remained 49.09%. As many as 158,293 voters are registered in PP-275 Bahawalpur-IX – 87,022male and 71,271 female.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set-up 115 polling stations – 14 each for men and women and 87 combined. The 115 polling stations had 360 polling booths – 197 for men and 163 for women voters. The incidents of violence took place at or around polling stations no 92, 97, 101 and 104.

PP-275 By-Election: FAFEN Observers Monitor 80pc Polling Stations

FAFEN deployed 16 trained observers on Election Day to monitor almost 80 percent of the polling stations set up in the constituency. Observers spent between 45 and 60 minutes in each polling station to document their observations and findings on a standardized checklist based on the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1976, Conduct of Elections Rules 1977, and instructional handbooks the ECP has provided to election officials.

FAFEN observers reported at least four incidents of violent clashes between the supporters of candidates of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN). Armed civilians were found to be present at three party camps established outside the polling stations. Police despite its heavy presence in and outside polling stations did not establish security checkpoints at some polling stations.

At some combined polling stations, male staff was observed to be facilitating women voters. At polling stations No 96, 97 and 99 female staff was not present at polling booths established for women voters and male staff was facilitating the women voters.

At some polling stations, Presiding Officers did not allow FAFEN Observers to observe the voting processes at polling booths. FAFEN Observers were stopped from observing voting processes at polling stations no 12, 23 and 35 despite the fact that they were carrying accreditation cards issued by ECP.

This preliminary report is based on observation of 91 polling stations – eight male, seven female and 76 combined. Some of FAFEN’s key findings include

PP-275 By-Election: Suspicious Voting Patterns

There were six polling booths at five polling stations where FAFEN observers recorded suspicious voting patterns. If the polling is most efficient and each voter is taking approximately a minute and 30 seconds for processing (checking of name, checking of CNIC, issuance of ballot paper, going behind secrecy screen, stamping a ballot and returning of stamp to the assistant presiding officer), approximately 45 votes can be cast in an hour at a booth. However, the rate of voting was higher than possible at six booths of polling stations listed below. The following table gives booth-wise average of polled votes per hour. An average higher than 45 brings into question the speed with which the voters were being processed.

Sr. No. Polling Station PS Type Time of Observation Average Vote per Hour at Booth 1 Average Vote per Hour at Booth 2 Average Vote per Hour at Booth 3 Average Vote per Hour at Booth 4
1 PS-51 C 1200 30 46 11 38
2 PS-52 C 1300 48 34
3 PS-75 C 1300 47 23 46
4 PS-85 C 1200 54 38 30 33
5 PS-99 C 1300 24 45 12 20


Voter Turnout

According to FAFEN observers, reporting from 17 randomly sampled polling stations, the turnout remained 29.87 percent, which was lower than the turnout in the general election. The turnout at male polling stations was recorded at 46.7 percent. It was 35.9 percent at female polling stations and 26.56 percent at combined polling stations.

PP-275 By-Election & Fraudulent Voting

At one polling station, additional counterfoils had been filled on the ballot books, indicating the possibility of fraudulent votes being stuffed in ballot boxes. Similarly, FAFEN observers reported from three polling stations that the CNIC numbers of voters written on the counterfoils of the ballot books did not match the corresponding entries on the electoral rolls, again raising the possibility that fraudulent voting might have taken place. At one polling station, dubious thumb impressions marked on counterfoils of ballot books at the same angle with phasing out ink print were observed. In the case of genuine voters, each thumb impression is marked in fresh, dark ink and may be at varying angles.

Unauthorized Persons Inside Polling Stations

FAFEN observers reported presence of unauthorized people from majority of the observed polling station. At 87 polling stations, security officials were present inside polling stations. Under electoral rules, even at sensitive polling stations, police are only authorized to maintain order outside polling stations to ensure smooth polling. They can only enter polling stations or booths when requested by the presiding officer. At eight polling stations party workers with party badges were present inside polling stations. Similarly at three polling stations, the voters who had polled their votes were present inside the polling station.

Campaigning and Canvassing around Polling Stations

From 79 polling stations FAFEN observers reported that the workers of contesting candidates were campaigning and canvassing in violation of election laws that bar the same within 400 yards of polling stations. Armed civilians were also observed to have been present at party camps around three polling stations. Such display of arms inhibits voters from turning out to vote as well as compel them to vote under pressure.

Candidates had made elaborate arrangements for transportation of voters to polling stations. Provision of transportation to voters is also prohibited under election, which also increases the election expenses manifold.

Breach of Right to Secret Voting

The voters’ right of secrecy was compromised at few polling stations. At two polling stations, polling agents were observed to be stamping the ballot papers on behalf of voters. Irrelevant persons were seen to be stamping the ballot papers on behalf of voters at another two polling stations. At the similar number of polling stations, irrelevant persons were seen going behind the secrecy screen. Only voters are allowed to go behind secrecy screen to stamp the ballot paper.

Many of the procedural irregularities, especially the presence of unauthorized personnel inside polling stations, including security officials, may just be due to lack of training of election staff, who are generally not clear about their authority under the election laws.

PP-275 By-Election & Violence

FAFEN observers reported incidents of violence from four polling stations where the workers of contesting candidates clashed.

Interference with FAFEN Observers

FAFEN observers were stopped from observing the voting and counting processes at three polling stations by the presiding officers. The ECP allows its accredited observers to monitor all stages of the election, including the opening of polling stations, voting and the counting process.

FAFEN Recommendations

Having observed the aforementioned irregularities during the by-election, FAFEN recommends:

  1. The ECP should ensure that security officials perform only their designated duty of maintaining law and order outside of polling stations and do not attempt to manage election officials.
  2. The ECP should reprimand all election officials who failed to enforce the election rules and laws.
  3. The ECP and all provincial, district, and local election officials should administer each by-election with the same vigilance and attention to enforcing the law and procedures as during any general election. The result of any by-election not administered vigilantly should be voided.
  4. To eliminate unauthorized people from being in polling stations:
      1. Presiding Officers should be encouraged and provided adequate protections to use their magisterial powers.
      2. All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
      3. Polling officials should ensure that only one polling agent representing each political party – and carrying proper identification from their party – is permitted in each polling booth.
      4. Only people carrying proper identifications should be permitted inside polling stations and allowed to vote.
      5. Adequate security checks should be performed in order to prevent unauthorized and armed persons in and around polling stations.
      6. All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
  5. Adequate training of all polling officials must be ensured for all by-elections.
  6. Polling officials should ensure that all campaign materials and camps are removed from around the polling stations.
  7. More generally, given the consistent weaknesses in ECP by-election administration, by-elections should be minimized by restricting each candidate in general elections to contesting in only one constituency.