Wednesday September 28, 2022

Enthusiasm among voters behind high turnout: survey

By Our Correspondent
July 19, 2022

LAHORE: Highly diverged political environment generated unprecedented enthusiasm amongst voters, which resulted into high turnout and also caused many upsets. Systemic interference, shifting of votes without the consent of voters and intimidation of rivals by authorities could not deter voters from going to polling stations.’

NGO PATTAN extracted these major findings after its surveys conducted on July 16 and 17 at 206 polling areas of 17 by-election constituencies.There appeared no disagreement between men and women respondents as far as choice of party candidate was concerned. For instance, 47 per cent respondents said they had opted for Tehreek-i-Insaf, 34 per cent mentioned Muslim League Nawaz and only 5% said they had voted for TLP. Interestingly more than 80 per cent respondents said every member of their families were to vote to the same party candidate.

The survey also investigated whether votes had been shifted without the consent of electorates. As many as 18 per cent respondents appeared to claim that it had happened to them. In this regard, NGO’s findings corroborates the media reports too. The survey also reveals phenomenon of vote buying and use of coercive methods as seven percent of the respondents observed or experienced personally in their neighborhoods. Those who said they had come under some forms of pressure were likely to point fingers at local influential i.e. landlords, employers, religious leaders and male family elders/husbands etc.

About eight percent of the respondents were likely to observe that someone inside the polling booth tried to influence them to vote for certain candidates. No wonder, seven per cent survey respondents were likely to believe that the by-elections were not held in a free and fair manner.

Role of polling agents has always been crucial in every election across the globe. What is the point of having polling agents if they were put away from the polling desk and name of each voter was not announced loudly - legal requirements. 34 per cent respondents of survey said their names were not announced loudly before issuing of ballot paper, while 15 per cent noticed that polling agents were not sitting at the right place - yet another legal requirement was violated.

Despite significant attempts before and on polling day to rig the by-elections, vigilant and well-informed polling agents appeared to have played an important role to keep polling process peaceful in most constituencies.

It is worth noting here that in a country including Pakistan where ‘first-past-the post’ electoral system is practiced; a candidate could lose or win even by one vote. Therefore, there is no need to overkill. Micro level rigging across many polling booths, practiced in a very discreet manner and shrewdly which is extremely difficult to trace is enough to obtain ‘positive’ results.