Over 140 violations of law observed in NA-249 by-polls: FAFEN

KARACHI: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has said more than 140 violations of election laws were observed during the NA-249 by-elections in Karachi on April 29.

The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) said in a detailed report FAFEN observed 143 violations, of which 55 related to the presence of party camps in the polling stations’ surroundings.

In 11 instances, the polling staff did not allow voters to cast votes and sent them back, the report said, adding that at 19 polling stations, the observers saw that COVID-19 SOPs were not implemented at all.

Although the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had ensured strict compliance to the COVID-19 standard operating procedures overall, the report observed.

“The other 58 instances of violations pertained to procedural irregularities, mainly in voting and counting processes. On average, the observers reported 1.3 violations per polling station,” FAFEN noted. Twelve political parties fielded their candidates in the NA-249 by-election while 18 candidates contested independently.

FAFEN in its report said the by-poll saw a substantial decline in voter turnout, mainly due to the hot weather and Ramadan. “Despite a spirited campaign, the poll reported a turnout of 21.6 percent of registered voters — dropping from 40 percent reported for the constituency during General Polls 2018,” it noted.

The FAFEN observers had asked voters how satisfied they were with the voting process, at which voters outside 98 polling stations — 18 men’s, 17 women’s, and 53 combined — expressed their satisfaction. “In contrast, voters outside the remaining polling stations said they were partially satisfied,” the FAFEN report said.

The observers found election material in enough quantities at all of the observed polling stations, except for two incidents of unauthorized individuals going behind the secrecy screens at two polling stations, it said.

“There were no other incidents that compromised voters’ secrecy. Except for two cases, the observers did not see party workers persuading voters inside the polling stations,” the detailed report said.

Regarding the polling arrangements, FAFEN observed that the polling process was generally well organized at the observed polling stations. Nearly 84% (94) of the monitored polling stations had polling booths in separate rooms.

“However, around 18 polling stations — five each male and female and eight combined — housed more than one booth in a single room,” the report said. The polling agents of contesting candidates were present at all the observed polling stations, it said, adding that all were seated perfectly and could easily observe the process.

Twelve political parties fielded their candidates in the NA-249 by-election while 18 candidates contested independently, noted the report. The party analysis shows significant changes in the vote shares of different political parties.

In the April 29, by-election Abdul Qadir Mandokhel of PPPP won by securing 22 percent (16,156) of the total polled votes (73,471). The party had secured only six percent (7,236) of polled votes during General Elections 2018.