ISLAMABAD: The by-election on a Punjab Assembly seat in Sialkot (PP-38 Sialkot-IV) on Wednesday registered a relatively higher incidence of violations of electoral laws, rules and codes of conduct with an average of two violations per observed polling station, noted Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen).

Earlier on May 20, an average of one violation per observed polling station in the by-election on a Sindh Assembly seat in Badin district (PS-70 Badin-I) was reported, according to Fafen observers.

Fafen in its report issued here on Thur­s­day observed illegal campaigning and canvassing for the PP-38 by-election around majority of the inspected polling stations.

The observers found candidates or contesting parties’ camps set up in the vicinity of 88 per cent observed polling stations.

Observers see camps of contesting parties in the vicinity of 88pc inspected polling stations

The compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Covid-19 prevention showed a varied trend across the constituency, with nearly 50 per cent of the observed polling stations partially enforcing the SOPs.

While the PP-38 by-election attracted a large number of voters despite rainy weather and the ongoing fourth wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the turnout was less than that of the 2018 general elections in the constituency.

In all, 55.3 per cent voters — 56.6pc men and 53.9pc women — came out to exercise their right to vote in the July 28 by-poll. During the 2018 general elections, the constituency had recorded a cumulative turnout of 59pc.

Yet PP-38 by-election turnout remained greater than the recent by-elections for NA-249 Karachi West-II, PS-70 Badin and PP-84 Khushab-II, which registered a turnout of 22pc, 35pc and 53pc, respectively.

Fafen deployed 33 non-partisan, trained and duly accredited observers — 25 men and eight women — to observe the polling processes at 126 polling stations, including 30 for men, 33 for women and 63 for both genders.

As for polling arrangements, election authorities had assigned over 1,200 voters to a polling station, which is a legally recommended limit of voters on a polling station, at more than two-thirds of the polling stations (114 or 69 per cent).

Fafen observers also reported more than one polling booth in the same room at 48 polling stations — 11 male, 18 female, and 19 combined — making the polling space congested for voters.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2021

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