ISLAMABAD: A group of dozens of NGOs joining hands to make electoral processes transparent estimates that the women voter turnout in Thursday’s by-election in the National Assembly constituency NA-4 (Peshawar) remained below 14 per cent.
Fafen (Free and Fair Election Network) says in a preliminary report on the NA-4 by-election that the overall voter turnout is expected to remain around 30pc with women voters’ turnout is estimated at just 13.8pc against 41.3pc turnout of men.
Low women turnout, unchecked campaign and canvassing around polling stations and suspicious voting patterns at 10 polling booths remained key deficiencies of an otherwise well-managed and peaceful by-election in NA-4 (Peshawar-IV) constituency, Fafen said.
The preliminary report is based on the observation findings from 87 polling stations, though the network observed over 90pc polling stations by deploying 52 non-partisan and trained observers. Although election staff efficiently managed the opening, voting and identification processes, illegal campaigning and canvassing by political parties and candidates were observed around 52 (60pc) out of 87 polling stations by Fafen observers who also reported suspicious voting patterns at 10 polling booths where more than 45 votes per hour were recorded to be processed at the time of observation.
Not more than 45 voters per hour per polling booth could be facilitated by polling staff. Fafen observers were restricted from observing voting processes at 10pc of observed polling stations despite carrying and prominently displaying Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) accreditation, mostly by security staff.
When Fafen observers asked security personnel whether they got any training on election security, 27pc of them responded in the negative. This correlates to the arbitrary interpretation of the election law by security officials and warrants uniform training of security officials on managing election security. The ECP conducted a pilot-test of electronic voting machines (EVMs) at 35 polling stations. Fafen observed the EVM trial at 26 polling stations and noted that secrecy of voters while using the EVM was not ensured at 25 of these polling stations.
The staff of the company that provided these EVMs was observed operating the machines at 10 polling stations. On an average, four violations of electoral laws, rules and codes of conduct per polling station were reported from each polling station. This average is consistent with the average violations recorded in the last by-election in NA-120 (Lahore) held last month.
The highest number of reported violations (229) pertained to illegal campaigning and canvassing. Parties’ camps were witnessed outside 36 polling stations within the proscribed 400-metre boundary for campaigning and canvassing, while transport was being provided by the candidates and parties at around 52 polling stations.
Fafen observers reported voter slips with party symbols printed being produced before polling officers at 116 polling booths. The parties’ or candidates’ promotional material was seen inside 25 polling stations. The observers also reported 31 cases of presiding officers not carrying the required number of critical election materials like Statement of Account and Ballot Paper Account.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2017