ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is set to launch a nationwide citizens campaign to raise the demand for immediate release of polling station-wise vote counts and data for each constituency as a prerequisite to electoral transparency and to ensure that election disputes are settled on the merit of objective evidence.
Under this campaign, FAFEN will mobilize citizens on their right to access vital electoral information that forms the basis for the consolidated constituency level results. In addition, FAFEN will hold media briefings, citizen forums and signature campaigns across Pakistan with the primary purpose of requesting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to publically release the actual polling scheme implemented on the election day and documents from all 69,801 polling stations in 268 constituencies where elections were held, including Form XIV (Statement of the Count), Form XV (Ballot Paper Account), Form XVI (Consolidation Statement of the Results of the Count) and Form XVII (Result of the Count).
FAFEN believes that it is the duty of state institutions to provide complete and timely information on matters of public importance for the benefit of candidates, political parties, media and other stakeholders. It is also the responsibility of relevant state authorities to investigate reports from credible sources, to address election-related complaints through transparent processes, and to defend respected civil society organizations from political persecution and other forms of harassment.
The need for this campaign arises after FAFEN analysed preliminary evidence received from polling stations, which indicated weak enforcement of electoral rules and procedures on Election Day. FAFEN observers reported irregularities at polling stations, raising the possibility of rigging and vote fraud, the scale of which can only be ascertained by the vital information that ECP is withholding.
Irregularities reported so far based on preliminary data from polling stations include interference with voters, blocking observers and violence, which have the potential of creating a conducive environment for rigging and vote fraud. These problems were compounded by last-minute changes in polling schemes, which caused confusion for voters and may have deterred them from voting. More than 200 polling stations were not implemented as finalized by the ECP in polling schemes available on its website.
In addition, issues noted with the Statements of the Count sent to FAFEN by its observers indicate serious problems that need to be scrutinized in detail by ECP. These issues include sloppy recording and incorrect tallying of vote counts, inaccurate recording of the number of registered voters, and failure to note the number of ballots cast in male and female polling booths.
FAFEN appreciates and acknowledges some improvements made during General Elections 2013, including photographs on voters’ lists, an attempt to collect Pakistan’s first sex-disaggregated voter turnout data, and tamper-evident bags for transporting polling station materials. Nevertheless, FAFEN analysis indicates that Election Day enforcement of election procedures was weak, especially with regard to ballot and vote counting and consolidation of election results. These weaknesses are the responsibility of both ECP and judicial officials acting as District Returning Officers and Returning Officers.
In view of its findings, FAFEN recommends the following immediate measures:
Release of all polling station and constituency forms and data;
Transparency in ECP finalization of election results; and
Information about and expedited procedures for resolution of election disputes.