A strong democratic commitment was demonstrated in the 2013 elections, by the state authorities of Pakistan, civil society, political parties and voters. Despite escalating militant attacks, and procedural shortcomings, the electoral process progressed with high levels of competition, a marked increase in voter participation, and overall acceptance of the outcome. The electoral reform undertaken in the last few years, particularly in regards to the leadership of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the electoral roll, provided for a significantly improved process. However fundamental problems remain with the legal framework and the implementation of certain provisions, leaving future processes vulnerable to malpractice and Pakistan not fully meeting its obligations to provide citizens the right and opportunity to stand as candidates and to vote.
Pakistan ratified the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2010, making these the first national elections to be held under the legal obligations of the treaty. Pakistan’s legislative framework largely provides for ICCPR election-related rights. However some aspects of the current legislation, such as the subjective candidacy requirements, are not consistent with the ICCPR. Furthermore there are some omissions, specifically in regards to access to administrative remedy in case of dispute, and a lack of provisions for transparency.
The legal framework has been improved through various amendments to the Constitution. These established a parliamentary process for the appointment of the Caretaker Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, and the ECP leadership, as well as collective decision-making by the ECP Members and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). These improved mechanisms contributed to enhanced confidence in the institutions and reduced allegations of bias compared to 2008. However further legislative reform for elections was not significantly achieved.
The ECP has undertaken some consultation with political parties and civil society, which has contributed to increased confidence in and performance by the institution. However the ECP has not used its broad powers to establish a complete regulatory framework, leaving critical aspects of the election open to discretion. The ECP has also not taken full responsibility for all aspects of the election administration, instead deferring some key matters to temporarily appointed Returning Officers (ROs) without sufficient regulation or central oversight.
Requirements for transparency were not met. For example the legislation does not provide for observer access and for results information to be made publicly accessible. Furthermore the ECP did not always make information of public interest easily available and in a timely manner. For example notifications of ECP decisions, data on changes to the polling station scheme, and results records.
The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has been instrumental in the formation of a markedly improved Electoral Roll (ER), which provided a strong safeguard in the electoral process. However the universality of the franchise continues to be undermined by the under-registration of women compared to men. In addition equality of the vote is compromised by the large variation in constituency sizes.
The elections were undertaken in a difficult security environment that affected voters, political parties, candidates, the election administration, observers and the media. Despite militant threats, a high number of citizens contested, with a total of 16,692 candidacies accepted, of which 5,000 were for the 342 National Assembly (NA) seats (272 general seats, 60 reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims), and 11,692 for the 728 Provincial Assembly (PA) seats. There was an average of 17.2 candidates per NA constituency, a doubling from 8.3 in 2008. All those parties that boycotted the 2008 elections chose to participate in 2013, and only one party declared a boycott before election day.
The right to stand as a candidate was not evenly provided for. The process of candidate registration was made problematic and unnecessarily burdensome by the vague and moral candidacy requirements that were unevenly applied, hence there were cases of the same candidate being accepted in one constituency and rejected in another. In some cases there was an assumption of guilt and consequent rejection of candidacy for people who had been charged but not tried.
During the last four weeks of the campaign, there were a reported 130 security incidents resulting in more than 150 people killed. Most of the attacks were directed against candidates and supporters of parties identified as secular, in particular the Awami National Party (ANP) in Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK) and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in Sindh, two of the three political parties the Tehreek-e Taleban Pakistan (TTP) had threatened, the third being the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). However, the last two weeks of the campaign saw an increasing number of attacks against other parties and independent candidates in all four provinces and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The federal and provincial caretaker Governments took, in varying degrees, security measures and made protection arrangements for candidates.
The high number of attacks affected campaigning and unbalanced the playing field, in particular in KPK, Balochistan and Karachi. In contrast, in vast parts of the country the pre-electoral environment was generally vibrant with a lively campaign period, notably in all Punjab and central and interior Sindh. While some parties were able to undertake large-scale campaign events, overall the campaign was largely characterized by small-to-medium sized rallies, corner meetings and door-to-door activities. EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) Long-Term Observers (LTOs) reported isolated cases of violent clashes between party supporters.
No grave violations of the ECP’s Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates were directly observed by EU EOM LTOs. Further analysis is hampered by the lack of a systematic mechanism for addressing violations, and a lack of information from the ECP on breaches and responses to breaches of the Code of Conduct.
The media provided a range of viewpoints, as well as scrutiny of the election process. Although the media generally enjoys freedom of speech, journalists and editors were targeted by militant or other groups in Karachi, some other parts of Sindh, Balochistan and FATA, and the state authorities took insufficient measures to protect.
In the absence of a transparent and efficient enforcement mechanism for the otherwise sound Code of Conduct for the Media, state and privately owned broadcasters did not provide the main contestants with equitable coverage. For example the six TV channels monitored by the EU EOM broadcasted numerous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) publicity events granting the party a total of nearly 16 hours of live coverage, while MQM, Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) and PPP had a total of 9, 5 and 4 hours respectively.
Election day proceeded more smoothly than anticipated with a large-scale security effort in place, although still there were reportedly 62 violent incidents resulting in at least 64 election-related deaths and 225 people injured. Over 140 EU EOM observers scrutinized polling, counting and the compilation of results in 140 constituencies in 3 provinces. Security conditions precluded EU EOM observation in Balochistan and FATA. Most of the polling booths observed were rated as satisfactory or good. However 9% were rated as poor or inadequate. In some cases serious problems were seen, including in Karachi, where overall polling stations were more negatively rated.
Counting was more problematic, with 9 out of 64 stations rated as poor or inadequate. In 17 cases results forms were not correctly filled in, and in half of the observations the results forms were not displayed. Similar transparency problems were also found in consolidation at the constituency level, when only in 14 cases, out of 39 observed, did EU EOM observers see full results displayed with a polling station breakdown that allows for checking the veracity of the announced totals.
Post election day there were a number of allegations of “rigging”, and thus the electoral process was challenged, although the federal and provincial outcomes were clearly accepted, with strong margins of victory contributing to the recognition of overall mandates. The lack of availability of crucial data from the ECP on polling stations, numbers of registered voters, and individual polling station results, reduced confidence in the process and opportunity for complaints to be lodged and addressed in a speedy manner. Furthermore it prevents full analysis of results and rigging allegations, thereby precluding full identification of issues arising. EU EOM observers noted shortcomings in the completion of results forms and some polling stations with questionably high levels of invalid ballots.
It appears that ROs made some last minute changes to the polling station scheme and polling staff, and that the ECP has no central record of the changes or final lists of actual stations and staff used on election day. This is problematic in regards to ballot accountability, implementation of procedures as untrained staff were used, and the organisation of voters, agents and observers. Such unaccounted for changes can result in suspicions about possible motivations.
The ECP didn’t regulate for the resolution of complaints, and instead its various offices and ROs used ad hoc procedures, resulting in some re-polling and recounting being undertaken in a number of stations and constituencies. The lack of a central record-keeping system and routine publication of decisions, makes it difficult to assess the extent to which there was consistent opportunity for effective remedy.
The number of women elected to NA general seats dropped to only 6 (2%), although with the reserved seats there are a total of 66 (19.3%) women in the assembly. Despite a two-fold increase in the number of female candidates, the majority of parties awarded tickets to three or fewer women. In the media, women candidates were hardly visible. Despite a significant increase in the number of registered women, there were some 11 million fewer registered female than male voters. Women-only polling stations were more negatively assessed by EU EOM observers.
The Ahmadi community continues to be discriminated against as, unlike other minority groups, they are registered on a separate ER. Even though the Code of Conduct for the Media tasks broadcasters to air programmes targeting “groups traditionally excluded from the political process”, voter education spots promoting non-Muslim participation in the elections were not aired on state-owned broadcasters.
At the time of finalisation of this report, 19 June 2013, the election process remains incomplete. Some constituencies are still to hold polling, and some cases are outstanding at Election Tribunals and Superior Courts. Improvements to the overall election process could still be made through the publication of the polling station scheme used on election day and results data, as well as by consistent and efficient handling of petitions and investigation of alleged election offences.
This report was produced by the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) and presents the EU EOM’s findings on the
General Elections May 11 2013 in Pakistan. These views have not been adopted or in any way approved by the European
Commission and should not be relied upon as a statement of the Commission. The European Commission does not
guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this report, nor does it accept responsibility for any use made thereof.
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