ISLAMABAD, March 22, 2011: Police presence was observed inside all the 63 monitored polling stations in PK-69 Tank by-election held on March 21, 2011. FAFEN observers also witnessed suspicious voting patterns as more than 45 votes per hour were cast 11 booths, according to FAFEN’s preliminary report on by-election observation.
Of 125,006 registered voters in the constituency, 50,211 were women (40%) and 74,795 (60%) were men, indicating a lower registration of women in proportion to population of eligible voters. The ECP had notified 276 polling booths – 115 for female voters and 161 for male voters – to be set up at 96 polling stations in the constituency. Of 96 polling stations, 23 were designated for female voters, 24 for male voters and 49 for both male and female voters.
While women voters did cast their votes, however, they came out in lesser numbers in proportion to male voters.
FAFEN deployed 12 trained observers on Election Day to monitor 63 of the 96 polling stations set up in the constituency. Observers spent between 45 and 60 minutes in each polling station to document their observations and findings on a standardized checklist that is based on the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1976, Conduct of Elections Rules 1977, and instructional handbooks that the ECP has provided to election officials.
This preliminary report is based on observation of 63 polling stations – 17 male, 15 female and 31 combined. Some of FAFEN’s key findings include:
Suspicious Voting Patterns
There were 11 polling booths at seven polling stations where FAFEN observers recorded suspicious voting patterns. If the polling is most efficient and each voter is taking approximately a minute and 30 seconds for processing (checking of name, checking of CNIC, issuance of ballot paper, going behind secrecy screen, stamping a ballot and returning of stamp to the assistant presiding officer), there can be approximately 45 votes that can be cast in an hour at a booth. However, the rate of voting was higher than possible at 11 booths of polling stations listed below. The following table gives booth-wise average of polled votes per hour. An average higher than 45 brings into question the speed with which the voters were being processed.
|Polling Station||Register Voters||PS Type||Average Vote per Hour at Booth 1||Average Vote per Hour at Booth 2||Average Vote per Hour at Booth 3||Average Vote per Hour at Booth 4||Total Votes Polled at Time|
At eight polling stations, FAFEN observers reported that additional counterfoils were filled before issuing the ballot paper.
Unauthorized Persons inside Polling Stations
FAFEN observers reported presence of police inside 63 polling stations and armed civilians in seven polling stations. Unauthorized people displaying party symbol/badges were also reported to have been present in 21 polling stations, and at 28 polling stations presence of people who had already cast their votes was reported by FAFEN observers. In addition, local influential persons were seen at four polling stations and a candidate was present along with bodyguards at one polling station.
At 12 polling stations polling agents were reported to be going behind secrecy screens to help voters. Furthermore, at seven polling stations armed civilians, at nine polling stations influential persons and candidates and their workers at 13 were persuading voters to vote in favor of specific candidates.
Campaigning and Canvassing around Polling Stations
FAFEN observers reported from 61 polling stations that the workers of contesting candidates were campaigning and canvassing in violation of election laws that bar the same within 400 yards of polling stations. Armed civilians were also observed to have been present at party camps around 10 polling stations. Such display of arms inhibits voters from turning out to vote and also compels them to vote under pressure.
An incident of firing took place on polling station No 34 between the activists of JUI-F and the supporters of an independent candidate on Election Day. As a result of firing six people were injured.
Having observed the aforementioned irregularities during the by-election, FAFEN recommends:
- The ECP should reprimand all election officials who failed to enforce the election rules and laws.
- The ECP and all provincial, district, and local election officials should administer each by-election with the same vigilance and attention to enforce the law and procedures as during any general election. The result of any by-election not administered vigilantly and according to set standards should be declared void.
- To eliminate the presence of unauthorized people in polling stations:
- Presiding Officers should be encouraged and provided adequate protection to use their magisterial powers.
- All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
- Polling officials should ensure that only one polling agent representing each political party – and carrying proper identification from their party – is permitted in each polling booth.
- Only people carrying proper identifications should be permitted inside polling stations and allowed to vote.
- Adequate security checks should be performed in order to prevent the presence of unauthorized and armed persons in and around polling stations.
- Adequate training of all polling officials must be ensured for all by-elections.
- Polling officials should ensure that all campaign materials and camps are removed from around the polling stations.More generally, given the consistent weaknesses in ECP by-election administration, by-elections should be minimized by restricting each candidate in general elections to contesting in only one constituency.
About FAFEN :The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), a coalition of 44 leading Pakistani civil society organizations, was established in 2006 to observe election processes, educate voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reform.