FAFEN issues report on by-elections
Report says campaign violations persist in low turnout, largely peaceful by-elections
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The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on Monday issued a report on the by-elections on 8 National Assembly and 3 Punjab Assembly seats held yesterday.
The FAFEN report said with only 35 per cent of the registered voters turning out on Election Day, the by-elections (BE-2022) in eight National Assembly and three Punjab Assembly constituencies remained peaceful with scattered instances of irregularities primarily concerning unchecked campaigning inside and around polling stations.
Overall, the voter turnout remained low compared to the General Elections (GE) 2018. The male turnout declined from 57.3 percent in GE-2018 to 39.5 percent in BE-2022, while the female turnout dropped from 45.0 percent to 29.7 percent. In absolute numbers, 470,890 less voters turned out to vote as compared to 1,962,800 voters in GE-2018. The highest voter turnout (53.3 percent) was recorded in PP-209 Khanewal-VII and the lowest (14.8 percent) in NA-239 Korangi Karachi-I. The lowest female turnout remained at 10.4 percent, recorded in NA-31 Peshawar-V, raising the need for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to look into the reasons in the spirit of section 9 of the Elections Act, 2017. As many as four constituencies had less than 20 percent female turnout compared to one with a male turnout below 20 percent. (See annexure for the disaggregated turnout of GE-2018 and BE-2022)
The voters’ turnout remained especially abysmal in two Karachi constituencies (NA-239 Korangi Karachi-I and NA-237 Malir-II), where cumulatively 17.6 percent of the registered voters exercised their right to vote compared to 27.4 percent turnout in three Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) constituencies and 44.8 percent in six Punjab constituencies. According to the Provisional Consolidated Statement of Results of the Count (Form-47), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates won six National Assembly, and two Punjab Assembly (PA) constituencies, Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) won two National Assembly constituencies, and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) one Punjab Assembly constituency.
Women as candidates have remained a cause of concern observed by FAFEN in the recent elections. Only three of the total 118 contesting candidates of these by-elections were women, reinforcing the need for political parties to reach out to these and other marginalized segments of the population for their political education and emancipation.
Scattered irregularities were observed during the BE-2022, including the presence of unauthorized persons inside polling stations, potentially compromising the efficacy of the electoral process; unchecked campaigning and canvassing inside and outside polling stations – an irregularity that has persisted during the recent by-elections; and oversized polling stations that could have potentially led to overcrowding and disorderly polling.
FAFEN observed Election Day with 96 trained, non-partisan and accredited observers covering 364 (12 percent of the total 2,937) polling stations comprising 1,216 polling booths (12 percent of the total 10,233 booths). Each observer observed up to four polling stations during the day, including the opening processes at 94 and the counting processes at 80 polling stations.