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November 30, 2015

Low voter turnout feared as today is not a full holiday


November 30, 2015

Islamabad: Low voter turnout is feared in Islamabad’s urban areas during the local government elections slated for today (Monday) as it’s only a half-day public holiday in what is popularly known as the city of government employees.
The local administration had announced closure of educational institutions on the election day but said its offices and those of the federal government and attached organisations would remain open and functional till 2 p.m. on the day.
The announcement goes against the tradition of the administrations declaring a full public holiday in their respective districts on the days when there are elections for public offices. As the polling day for the NA-48 elections in 2013 was a public holiday, the voter turnout was recorded at around 60 per cent.
However, the rate plunged to 32 per cent in the by-elections, which took place in the next three months due to the vacation of the seat by the winner, primarily because the polling happened on a working day.
A similar situation is being feared during the local bodyelections being held today on party basis as both the government as well as private offices in the city will resume work after a two-day weekend.
While the polling will begin at 7:30am and will continue until 5:30pm nonstop, the government offices will function from 8am to 2pm. In this light, many voters this reporter spoke to on Sunday were not much interested in exercising their right to vote this time around.
“After long, tedious duty hours, going to polling station instead of home is not easy, so there is little likelihood of me casting vote tomorrow,” Riffat Hussain, a Pak Secretariat senior official said.
Jansher Khan, an official of the education ministry, said his vote was registered at a polling station set up away from his house and that he didn’t own vehicle and therefore, he might not go there tomorrow.
“Had tomorrow been a full public holiday, he would have not only cast vote but

also taken other members of family, especially women voters, to the polling station to participate in the elections,” he said.
Shazia Murad, a housewife, said she believed more and more people would go to polling stations if Monday was not a working day. Many candidates also criticised the administration’s decision of not declaring polling day a full public holiday and insisted it would adversely impact on voter turnout.

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