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July 1, 2018

A candidate needs 300 polling agents, large number of activists

National

July 1, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Thousands of polling agents of contesting candidates have been given a variety of critical roles by the Elections Act in blocking and foiling rigging and manipulations in the July 25 parliamentary polls.

Every aspirant vying for a National Assembly seat will need at least 300 polling agents, duly authorised by him, to oversee the entire polling exercise and intervene where obligatory to frustrate bogus voting and any other dubious activity.

The candidates will not only require a large bevy of trusted, watchful workers to serve as their polling agents, but will also need a huge number of activists, who will be deployed outside the polling stations to facilitate the voters by issuing them their numbers in the electoral rolls and render other essential guidance.

The law allows the contenders to appoint more than one polling agent where necessary to protect their rights during the polling and vote-count processes.

Under section 77, a contesting candidate or his election agent may, before the commencement of or during the poll, appoint for each polling station as many polling agents as may be prescribed [by the Election Commission of Pakistan or ECP] and will give notice in writing to the Presiding Officer (PO) communicating the nomination.

Such appointment may at any time be revoked by the candidate or his election agent and, when it is so rescinded or if the polling agent dies, another person may be named by the contender or his election agent and a notice of such appointment will be given to the PO.

Section 78 says that before the time fixed for the commencement of the poll, the PO will ensure that every ballot box to be used is empty; show it to the contesting candidates and their election agents or polling agents whoever may be present, and record their statements in this behalf and obtain their signatures; after the box has been shown to be empty, close and seal it with his own seal and with the seal of such of the candidates, or their election or polling agents present and may desire to put their own seals on it; and place the box so as to be conveniently accessible to the voters, and at the same time within his view and within the view of such candidates or their election or polling agents present.

If one box is full or cannot further be used for receiving ballot papers, the PO will seal it with his own and seals of the candidates or their polling agents who may wish to seal it and keep it in a secure place in the polling station and use another box in the same manner.

Section 82 says the PO will subject to such instructions as the ECP may give regulate the number of voters to be admitted to the polling station at one time and will exclude from the station all other persons except any person on duty in connection with the election; the contesting candidates, their election and polling agents; and such other persons as may be specifically permitted by the ECP or any other authority empowered by the ECP.

The PO will count the votes immediately after the close of the election in the presence of such of the contesting candidates, election and polling agents and authorized observers present. The PO will give them and authorized observers present reasonable facility of observing the count and give them such information with respect to the count as can be given consistent with the orderly conduct of the count and the discharge of his duties in connection with the count. The PO will not allow any person to be present at the count other than election officials on duty in connection with the poll, the contesting candidates, their election and polling agents or any other person authorized by the ECP.

The Elections Act further says that the PO, after preparation of the result of the count and the ballot paper account, will sign them and obtain the signatures of the senior-most Assistant PO and an accredited observer, a candidate or his election or polling agents present in token of these documents having been prepared in their presence and if any such person refuses to sign it, the PO will record a note on the result of the count and the ballot paper account to that effect.

The PO will give a copy each of the result of the count and the ballot paper account signed, stamped and thumb marked by him and the senior most Assistant PO to the candidates and their election or polling agents present and obtain a receipt for such copy and if any such person refuses to sign it, the PO will record a note to that effect.

The PO will obtain on each statement and packet thus prepared the signature of the contesting candidates or their election or polling agents present and, if any such person refuses to sign, the PO will record that fact on each such statement or packet.

Under section 185, an election official or any candidate, election or polling agent or a voter attending a polling station or any person present at the counting of votes is guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to Rs10000 or with both.

As per section 233, the ECP will in consultation with political parties, frame a Code of Conduct for political parties, contesting candidates, and election and polling agents.

Where any act or thing is required or authorized by this law to be done in the presence of the candidate, an election or polling agent, the failure of such person to attend at the time and place fixed for the purpose will not invalidate any act or thing otherwise validly done.