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Friday April 19, 2024

Election audit

ECP to conduct an audit of election results proposing a three-stage methodology

By Editorial Board
February 20, 2024
Election officials counting votes after polling ends during general elections 2024 on February 8, 2024. — APP
Election officials counting votes after polling ends during general elections 2024 on February 8, 2024. — APP

It has been almost two weeks since the general elections were held in Pakistan, yet all we have been hearing from several political parties and candidates are allegations of rigging. With allegations and ‘revelations’ and all manner of election-related suspicions being raised, the legitimacy of the 2024 elections results is definitely in play. Keeping this in context perhaps, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), an electoral watchdog, has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct an audit of the election results, proposing a three-stage methodology. Fafen has asked the ECP to scrutinize the results of constituencies that have been duly challenged by political parties and candidates at the appropriate legal fora using data analytics and forensics to establish the legitimacy of the outcome of the general elections. The organization says that such an audit must include representatives nominated by political parties as well as independent observers.

After all the ruckus we have witnessed over the last 10 days, it is important the ECP listens to Fafen and other such observer bodies so that rigging allegations after every election are investigated in a timely and transparent manner. Pakistan has seen enough political uncertainty over the last few years and it cannot sustain this if we are to move forward economically and as a nation. If a large part of the electorate feels its mandate has been stolen, regardless of whether these claims are true or false, the ECP has a duty to address their grievances with proper facts. Unless this is resolved, every election will have legitimacy issues. From 2018 to 2024, it seems we have not learned any lessons. A parliament cannot function properly if there is disruption due to credibility and legitimacy claims. We have seen how democracy has been served a blow in the last six years due to such (mis)adventures.

However, it is important that political stakeholders do not disrupt the system either. That does nobody any good, especially the political parties and their voters. and especially if the legitimacy of the entire democratic system comes under question. Pakistan has seen more than its share of undemocratic regimes and the struggle for the restoration of democracy has continued over decades. When the legitimacy of the democratic system erodes, democracy suffers as an inevitable consequence. And without democracy, there is no will of the people or accountability of their representatives in parliament. We cannot afford a ‘Bangladesh model’ or an ‘Egyptian model’ or any model that is anti-democratic. It is because of such experiments that today the country has a ‘hybrid model’ that seems difficult to roll back. Pakistan went to the polls after a long delay. No party is demanding re-elections. Many are only demanding a recount as is their right. Instead of denying them this right, the ECP should also address and resolve these issues as it is equally important for the ECP to restore its credibility. There have been enough controversies starting from the night of February 8 surrounding these elections and the ECP’s role in it. There is no denying that false propaganda in recent times has also tarnished the credibility of the elections but there are some questions too that need to be answered. Do we really need to be stuck in this limbo forever? Is it not time to move on as a representative democracy? The people of Pakistan at the very least deserve this much respect.