Islamabad, September 26, 2014: A peaceful polling process amid unlawful campaigning around certain polling stations marked the by-election held in Dera Ismail Khan on September 8, 2014.
By-election was held in PK-68 following the disqualification of independent candidate Javed Akbar Khan for submitting a fake degree. The ECP set up a total of 108 polling stations (27 male, as many female and 54 combined) for 127,698 registered voters (69,003 male and 58,695 female). FAFEN deployed 15 trained, non-partisan election observers in the constituency to observe the by-election and collected information from 22 male, 15 female and 41 combined polling stations. The polling process was observed at 78 polling stations, while the opening and closing processes were observed at 15 polling stations.
In general, the polling staff was cooperative with the observers. The polling process was well-managed to a large extent, with only a few disruptions and anomalies reported from a small number of polling stations. No incident of violence was reported from any of the polling stations observed by FAFEN. However, party camps and campaign material of political parties were seen near various polling stations while one polling station was not established according to the polling scheme. Moreover, voters were allowed to join the queue after the closing time at three polling stations. Some of FAFEN’s key findings are as follows:
- Party Camps and Campaign Material:
FAFEN observers saw campaign material of various political parties within 100 yards at 16 polling station and party camps within 400 yards at 18 polling stations, in violation of the ECP’s Code of Conduct for the political parties and candidates. The observers also reported seeing armed personnel other than security officials outside two polling stations. Also, there were two polling stations where security officials were not present.
- Pre-voting Preparations
According to Section 8(2) of Representation of People’s Act 1976, the polling scheme needs to be finalized 15 days prior to election-day. However, one of the observed polling stations (Government High School Kot Jati) was not established according to the polling scheme. Another polling station did not have a sign prominently displayed outside, while the signs outside three polling stations did not mention their names and numbers.
- Opening of Polling Stations
No violations related to the opening of polling stations were reported by any observer. One of the observers was initially barred from entering the polling station but was given permission to carry out the observation later.
- Unauthorized Persons in Polling Booths
The observers reported only one incident where an armed person was seen inside a polling booth. Apart from that, no unauthorized person was seen at any of the observed polling stations.
- Voter Identification
The observers reported 15 cases where security officials did not check the voters’ CNICs at the entrance. The officials at three polling stations allowed voters with expired CNICs to cast their votes; while voters with IDs other than CNICs were also allowed at two of these polling stations. The officials did not check the voters’ thumbs for indelible ink at one polling station and didn’t apply the ink at two polling stations.
- Ballot Paper Distribution
The Assistant Presiding Officers (APOs) at two polling stations did not stamp and sign the ballot counterfoils, while another APO did not get the voters’ thumbprints on the counterfoils.
- Privacy of Voters
There was only one incident where an unauthorized person was seen accompanying the voter behind the secrecy screen.
- Closing of Polling Stations
FAFEN observers saw voters being allowed to join the queue after the closing time at three polling stations. No other violation was reported from any of the observed polling stations.
- Ballot Counting
The polling officials did not create a separate pile for each candidate at two polling stations and did not count the challenged, tendered and rejected ballots separately at three polling stations. Furthermore, one of the Presiding Officers did not give a copy of the Statement of the Count to the FAFEN observer.
- Having observed the aforementioned irregularities, FAFEN recommends:
- Security officials deputed outside polling stations should be instructed to allow local as well as international observers to carry out their observation in order to ensure a transparent voting process.
- The ECP should ensure all campaign materials and party camps are removed from near the polling stations.
- Security officials should check the voters’ CNICs outside every polling station.