ISLAMABAD: Despite the challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the turnout in the PS-52 Umerkot-II by-election appeared to be as high as 60pc with low incidence of procedural violations of the prescribed standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The encouraging trend indicates an improved management by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
This was first by-election held after the ECP’s decision to postpone all by-polls in the country due to the outbreak of Covid-19 last year.
The Umerkot by-election was prompted following the death of Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) MPA Syed Ali Mardan Shah in January last year.
Observers verify fair and disciplined process, better election management
FAFEN-trained observers reported a total of 76 procedural irregularities during the campaigning, canvassing, voting and counting processes as well as security arrangements — averaging less than one violation per polling station.
FAFEN had deployed a total of 30 non-partisan and duly accredited observers — 25 men and five women — to monitor the processes at 99 polling stations, 22 for male and 26 for female voters as well as 51 combined ones.
The polling at the observed stations was stated to be generally in an organised manner. Nearly 85pc of them had polling booths in separate rooms. However, the remaining 15pc — 23 male, 27 female, and six combined — had more than one booth in a single room.
Polling agents of contesting candidates were present at 97pc of the polling stations and all of them were seated at a place where they could easily observe the process.
FAFEN observers also inquired voters about their level of satisfaction with the voting process. None of the voters expressed dissatisfaction. Voters outside 87pc polling stations expressed their full satisfaction with the process, while those present outside the remaining ones were somewhat or partially satisfied.
The election materials were observed to be in inadequate quantities at all of the observed polling stations, except for one combined polling station. The observers did not witness any incident of polling staff disallowing a voter from casting his/her ballot. With the exception of two incidents of unauthorised persons going behind the secrecy screens at two polling stations, there were no other incidents that compromised voters’ secrecy.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2021