Election watchdog seeks ‘independent’ audit of results

Published February 19, 2024
Logo of the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen). — X
Logo of the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen). — X

ISLAMABAD: Amid a growing controversy over the variance between forms 45 and 47 and allegations of massive rigging, an election watchdog has called for an independent audit of election results.

The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has proposed a three-stage methodology for the audit of results of the recently held general elections.

In a statement, it urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to scrutinise the results of constituencies duly challenged by political parties and candidates at the appropriate legal fora, using data analytics and forensics to establish the legitimacy of the outcome of general elections.

“Such an audit must include representatives nominated by political parties concerned as well as independent observers to ensure the transparency and credibility of the process,” Fafen stressed.

Fafen says post-election situation warrants an urgent response to claims of illegalities by ECP

It said the post-election situation warrants an urgent and prompt response by the ECP to ascertain the veracity of the claims of illegalities and irregularities by political parties and candidates, and as a prerequisite to establish that the results truly reflect the will of the people.

Fafen’s election result audit methodology comprises three stages.

The first stage involves assessing the availability, authentication, completeness and correctness of the election documentation including the result forms, and the consistency of information in these forms.

The second stage involves ascertainment of material effect of unverified forms on election outcome and taking corrective action.

The third stage involves determination of the omission and commission and accountability of election officials. For the conduct of election, Fafen said, the ECP performs its duties through its staff as well as with the support of the human resources taken from the executive and judiciary.

For the polls, nearly 1.5 million election and polling officials were appointed.

These officials managed the election operations including the counting, tabulation, and consolidation of results, which has led to controversies and disputes.

The election process entails an exhaustive list of forms to be maintained to document every step of the process including the results.

This documentation establishes an entire trail of the results to refer to in case of any controversy. But, Fafen said, these forms are never referred to after their preparation, save in case of an election petition that also remain undecided in many cases for several years.

Since most challenges to election results revolve around Forms 45 and their consolidation, Fafen urged the ECP to clarify the legality of multiple copies of the forms generated on the polling day. It also called upon the ECP to encourage parties and candidates to promptly file their complaints of illegalities and violations of the Elections Act, 2017.

Pattan-Coailition38, another independent election observation and civil society group, said it fully supports the demand for thorough investigation into the conduct of election from delimitation of constituencies to the announcement of results as well as denying election symbol to PTI, selection and appointment of DROs and ROs, suspension of internet and cellular services on the polling day, preparation and tampering of Form 47s and unexplainable delays in the announcement of poll results etc.

“We strongly demand an audit of Form 47 in light of Forms 45 of each constituency under the supervision of session judges and in the presence of candidates/election agents, independent observers and media persons. In order to prevent further controversy, we suggest to make arrangements for providing live coverage to the whole process. This will also enhance people’s trust and confidence in democratic elections,” Pattan-C38 stated.

Moreover, it demanded immediate removal of the chief election commissioner, saying he failed at each phase of the election process.

The network said with current CEC at the helm, the proposed audit of Form 47 and Forms 45 cannot be held. It noted rigging at each step of the election could be part of a grand strategy. “Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the role of its authors, people who implemented it and the possible beneficiaries,” it stated. It also condemned the harassment and arrest of the whistle-blower.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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