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Pakistan among countries with lowest voter turnout

Published Apr 14, 2013 02:44am

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Election Commission of Pakistan.— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan ranks among the bottom four countries in terms of voter turnout, shows a document of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). According to the booklet jointly published by Nadra and the ECP on Saturday, Pakistan stands at 164th in terms of voter turnout among the 169 counties that have had democratic elections over the past 50 years.

The booklet compared the Pakistani data with some countries in Europe, the USA and Asia, like India where the average voter turnout was 59.4 per cent and Bangladesh where 58.2pc of the registered voters turned up at polling stations.

The document explains how Pakistan with its average turnout of 45.3pc was only better than the countries like Egypt (45.1pc) and Ivory Coast (37pc). With 21.3pc turnout, Mali was placed lowest on the list.

There were various reasons associated with a low voter turnout which could range from security concerns to sociological issues.

According to the ECP, voting in Pakistan has never been a compulsion, a fact that has been a major reason for the low turnout.

Australia is one of the first countries that have adopted compulsory voting, which is why the voter involvement ratio there has been as high as 94.5pc.

Emphasising the need for compulsory voting, Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik said people should be encouraged to exercise their right to vote.

Radio and TV channels should consume more time advising the masses on why it is imperative to spare 10 minutes and come out to vote, Mr Malik said. Most educated people had been reluctant to register or find out through the 8300 message service if they could vote, he said.

The ECP booklet also gave the example of Peru where voters are required to carry a stamped voting card as a proof for having cast their vote.

However, former minister for environment Hamidullah Jan Afridi said that introducing compulsory voting depended on time and circumstances.

“In my constituency in Khyber Agency (NA 46), over 90pc of the population has been displaced by violence and most people demand shelter for their families,” he said. In such circumstances telling them that by keeping away from voting they would be committing wrongdoing would not make sense, he added.

Siddiqul Farooq of the PML-N said voting process should be made as simple as possible. Pointing out that voting is not compulsory in the USA, Britain or even India, he said better results could be achieved by introducing some e-system that is safe and transparent.