FAFEN observed polling processes at a maximum of 38,274 polling stations and 31,337 polling booths spanning over 263 National Assembly constituencies as a part of its election day observations. The exercise yielded observations of a total 71,397 irregularities and violations in the day’s proceedings. These observations were recorded on standardized observation checklists designed to document polling irregularities as well as significant events and incidents affecting the process. Given below are the summarized findings of the citizens’ observations aggregated by subject matter.
Electioneering in Prohibited Areas
Prohibited by the ECP, the political parties and candidates were found in violation of the restrictions imposed on electioneering in and around the polling stations. Of the 38,274 polling stations observed, 11,093 had political parties/candidates in violation of the reserved space. Of these, 4,506 (12% of the observed 38,274) polling stations were reported to have political parties’/candidates’ camps within the restricted space of 400- yards around the polling stations, 5,345 (14%) had parties’/candidates’ campaign material within the restricted 100 -yards, while 1, 242 (3%) polling stations had campaign material inside the stations’ premises.
Irregularities in Pre-Voting Preparation and Processes
FAFEN observers reported 5,142 instances of shortcomings and irregularities in implementation of the prevoting preparations and processes. At 795 (2% of the 38,274) polling stations, polling official did not check the observers’ ECP accreditation while of the 18,130 polling stations whose opening was observed, polling officials at 532 (3%) polling stations did not collect the authority letters from all the polling agents. With regards to the preparation for voting, 1,253 (3% of the 38,274) polling stations did not have the polling station sign prominently displayed, while 282 (1% of the 31,337) polling booths were observed where the required three polling officials were not present. The polling materials were similarly observed missing or not meeting the required standards in a number of polling booths. For instance, the voters list was unavailable in 163 (1%) polling booths while 90 did not have the National Assembly ballots present prior to the start of polling. Furthermore, 183 (1%) polling booths did not have the required two ballot boxes while ballot boxes in 155 polling booths were not properly sealed and 94 polling booths had ballot boxes that did not have a visible ECP monogram on their respective seals. From the perspective of other pre-voting transparency measures, the polling officials in 716 (2%) of the observed polling booths did not show or read out the seal numbers to the polling agents and at 715 (2%) polling booths, the polling officials were observed to not have obtained the signatures on Ballot Attestation Form XI-A from all polling agents present in the polling booth.
Irregularities in Voter Identification Procedures
Voter identification is a critical part of a transparent voting exercise. Given its importance, the voter identification process has evolved into a systematic sub-set of processes. FAFEN’S observation of 31,337 polling booths recorded a total of 2,567 irregularities. Of these, 657 (2%) polling booths had instances of voters being allowed to vote with identification forms other than the CNIC. At 191 (1%) polling booths, the observers recorded cases of some voters with no official identification form being allowed to vote. The established procedure of calling out each prospective voter was not followed in 1,327 (4%) polling booths, while at 116 polling booths the polling officials were observed not crossing each identified and processed voter from the voter’s list. As a set and established procedure of applying indelible ink to check multiple voting by a voter, the observers reported 118 polling booths where the polling officers were not applying the ink on each voter’s thumb and another 158 where each voter’s thumb was not being checked for the indelible ink mark. It is pertinent to note that in 2,168 (7% of the observed 31,337) polling booths, the observers recorded instances of the polling agents of the parties challenging voters’ identity.
Irregularities in Ballot and Counterfoil Processing
Following the identification of voters, the next key set of procedures deals with the issuance and recording of the ballots. The observers recorded 3,054 instances where the procedures were not followed. At 126 polling booths, the polling officials failed to secure each voter’s thumb print on the National Assembly ballot counterfoil. In 78 polling booths, the polling officials were observed to be not recording each voter’s CNIC details on the ballot counterfoil and in 125 polling booths, the officials were observed to have failed to put the official stamp and signature on the National Assembly ballot counterfoil. In addition, the concerned Assistant Presiding Officer in 58 polling booths were not putting the official stamp and signature on the back of each NA Ballot issued to the voters while in 2,667 polling booths, the polling officials were not putting the wrongly marked or torn NA ballot in the special envelops as per the requirements and procedures.
Irregularities in Voter Facilitation and Secrecy
The polling officials are tasked with facilitating voters in following the voting process and helping ensure the voters’ right to privacy. Of the 31,337 polling booths observed, polling officials did not instruct voters at 968 (3%) polling booths on how to mark the ballot correctly while in 312 (1%) polling booths, the officials did not ask the voters to go behind the secrecy screens. Maintaining the voter’s right to secrecy is a critical feature of the voting system. However, of the 31,337 polling booth observed on election-day, 355 were reported to have instances of polling officials accompanying voters not requiring assistance. In 383 polling booths, the polling agents were seen accompanying the voters behind the secrecy screen. In 101 polling booths, instances of security officials accompanying voters behind secrecy screen was recorded while in 371 polling booths, unidentified personnel were seen visiting the privacy area with the voters. Furthermore, in 1,306 (4%) polling booths, the polling officials allowed people other than the designated assistant to escort the voters with special needs behind the secrecy screens.
Ballot Stuffing and Polling Station Capture
Of the 31,337 polling booths and 38,274 polling stations observed, 1,303 had instances of ballot stuffing or polling station capture by a particular party/candidate. Aggregated for polling stations, the number of polling stations captured reached a significant 458 (almost 1%) of the total polling stations observed. The incidents of ballot stuffing—recorded at the polling booth level—highlighted various forms of ballot stuffing in 845 (3%) polling booths. Of those, polling officials were observed marking NA ballots on behalf of voters in 122 polling booths. Polling agents and other unidentified persons were observed marking ballots on behalf of voters in 327 and 324 polling booths respectively. Furthermore, security officials were observed to have indulged in false voting in 72 polling booths.
Influencing Voters and Polling Officials
Of the 31,337 polling booths, the incidents of undue influence on voters and polling officials were recorded in 2,435 (8%). Of those, 273 polling booths reportedly had incidents of people pressurizing the polling officials to favor a certain candidate/party. In addition, there were 141 polling booths where the polling officials were observed asking voters to vote for a certain candidate/party and 42 polling booths where government officials were seen influencing voters to favor a particular party/candidate. Furthermore, the security officials were seen involved in the polling process, without the concerned presiding officer’s request, in 1,979 polling booths in contravention of their assigned roles to maintain law and order outside the booth.
Irregularities in Closing of Polling
The closing of the poll and preparation for the vote count was observed for 16,933 polling stations and 31,337 polling booths. A total of 12,789 anomalies were observed in the process. Of the 16,933 polling stations, 453 (3%) were closed before 5pm while in 3,927 (13%) of the 31,337 booths, voters already in the queue were not allowed to vote. In 7,338 (23%) other polling booths, not only voters in queue were allowed to vote but new voters were allowed to join the queue after 5pm. Prior to the counting process, polling official at 583 (2%) polling booths did not close and seal the ballot boxes after the last voter had cast his/her vote. Similarly, in 488 (3%) of the 16,933 polling stations observed, the premises was not closed before the start of the vote counting.
Irregularities in Vote Counting Processes
As one of the most critical aspects of the electoral process, the vote counting procedures were documented in extensive detail. The relevant processes were observed in 16,933 polling stations yielding 17,358 irregularities and violations. In 1,387 (8%) polling stations, the polling officials did not call out and show the ballot box seal numbers to the polling agents. In 611 (4%) polling stations, the polling officials did not collect all the National Assembly ballots in one central location. In 957 (6%) polling stations, the polling officers did not check the stamp and signature on the back of each National Assembly ballot. In the process of counting of the candidates votes, polling officials in 670 (4%) polling stations did not separate the votes for each individual candidate while in 1,092 (6%) polling stations, the votes for each candidate were not counted twice as per the requirement of the procedure. Furthermore, in 877 (5%) polling stations, the polling officials did not re-count all the National Assembly ballots for the second time as per the procedure. The treatment of ‘invalid’ votes is a key element in the vote counting process. The observers reported 2,012 (12%) polling stations where the polling officials did not put the ballots without a clear mark in the invalid pile. In addition, observers from 2,558 (15%) polling stations reported that the polling officials were counting National Assembly ballots that did not have a clear mark. Furthermore, in 1,560 (9%) polling stations, the polling officials did not discard votes without signature and sign of the Assistant Presiding Officer in the invalid pile. The number of polling stations where the polling agents or the candidates argued for declaring certain National Assembly ballots as invalid was recorded at 2,334 (14%). Conversely, polling officials at 3,606 (21%) polling stations declared some votes as invalid that did have clear stamp/mark. In addition, polling agents in 2,461 (15%) polling stations argued for declaring some invalid votes as valid and counted in favor of their candidates. Furthermore, the polling officials did not separate the invalid ballots into a pile in 668 (4%) of the polling stations and in 1,360 (8%) of the polling stations, polling officials did not count the challenged ballots for each candidate.
Irregularities in Result Documentation and Dissemination
A total of 7,331 irregularities were observed in the documentation and dissemination of the results at the polling station level in the observed 16,933 polling stations. In 262 (2%) of the polling stations, the polling officials did not fill the National Assembly ballots account form while in 824 (5%) polling stations, all the polling agents did not sign the National Assembly ballot account form. Similarly, polling officials in 152 (1%) polling stations did not fill the National Assembly statement of the Count form carefully and completely while in 898 (5%) polling stations, all the polling agents did not sign the National Assembly Statement of the Count. The packing of National Assembly election material in prescribed envelope prior to its transfer to the Returning Officer office witnessed several shortcomings and irregularities. Of the observed 16,933 polling stations, polling officials in 89 did not carefully pack the National Assembly material carefully into their separate envelopes and in 148 polling stations failed to put all the material into the special National Assembly tamper evident bag. Furthermore, not all polling agents in 909 (5% polling stations) and the presiding officers in 182 (1%) of the polling stations sign the National Assembly tamper evident bag. With regards to the dissemination of the polling station’s result, copy of the prescribed Form XIV was not provided to all the polling agents in 1,274 (8%) polling stations while in 2,593 (15%) polling stations, the result was not posted outside the polling station.
Incidents of Violence and Intimidation
Incidents of intimidation and violence were recorded in detail as a critical part of the election-day observation. A total of 4,241 instances of violence and intimidation were reported from across the country. Of the 31,337 polling booths observed, 1,321 (4%) reported the unauthorized presence of armed people inside the polling booth. Furthermore, there were 2,920 incidents of violence reported from 2,196 (6% of the observed 38,274) polling stations. Of these incidents, 109 were armed clashes between political parties, 531 were major quarrels and 2,280 were minor quarrels. The list of casualties reported includes 19 deaths and 628 injuries.
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