Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has observed fresh and by-elections held on June 26, 2008, in five National Assembly (NA) and 23 Provincial Assembly (PA) constituencies. FAFEN deployed long-term Constituency Coordinators in these constituencies on June 1, 2008, to observe all aspects of the pre-election process including election administration, preparations and campaigning of political parties and candidates, use of state resources, violations of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Contesting Candidates, and intimidation and harassment of voters.
On Election Day, FAFEN deployed 464 observers, duly accredited by the ECP, to observe more than 2,500 polling stations in 28 constituencies. In each NA constituency, a statistically valid sample of 30 polling stations was selected where FAFEN observers witnessed all stages of polling – opening of polling stations, voting, and counting of ballots.
An additional, five mobile observes in every NA constituency each observed between eight and ten polling stations throughout the day. In every PA constituency, ten FAFEN observers each monitored eight or more polling stations throughout the day, for a total observation of at least 80 polling stations in each PA constituency.
All FAFEN long-term and Election Day observers received training about election laws, rules and codes in order to comprehend and report on any violations, using a set of standardized FAFEN checklists to record their observations.
While data from some constituencies is still arriving at the FAFEN Secretariat/Data Center in Islamabad, the following report is based on data received from more than 1,500 polling stations in five NA and 12 PA constituencies. The major findings of FAFEN’s observation of the fresh and by-elections are as follows:
Voters Influenced Inside Polling Stations
FAFEN observers have reported the presence of unauthorized people inside many polling stations trying to coerce or coax or intimidate voters to vote for one candidate or the other. These unauthorized people are generally federal or provincial ministers, supporters of political parties, or other local influential people, who are very difficult for Presiding Officers or police at polling stations to resist. Armed men were also reported to have been present inside a large number of polling stations. What is equally alarming are FAFEN reports that election officials in a significantly large
number of polling stations were seen either attempting to influence voters or stamping ballots.
Interference of Local Governments Minimized – But Federal and Provincial
Interference Increased Unlike the general elections on February 18, 2008, FAFEN observers have reported that local government representatives and officials had little role in the by-elections. However, they reported that federal and provincial ministers were quite active on and before the Election Day campaigning for their party candidates. Media reports have already suggested active campaigning for their parties by the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, and Federal and Provincial Ministers using official vehicles and protocols,