Independent observers call Fata’s first-ever election for Provincial Assembly largely free and fair
Independent observers of erstwhile Fata’s provincial assembly elections for 16 general seats see the polls as a good sign for democracy in Pakistan. Spokesperson for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sohail Ahmad, tells TNS that the ECP issued authorisation cards to 1,240 independent observers for monitoring the polls.
Out of the 1,240 observers, Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) contributed a total of 953 observers (858 men and 95 women) to observe the voting process at 1,617 (85 percent of the total) polling stations and counting (at half of them).
Azhar Ali, the FAFEN liaison officer tells TNS that their preliminary report was based on observations of 16 observers deployed to observe the campaign and the election process since the announcement of the election programme on May 6, 2019. They were mandated to report on the transparency of the voting and counting processes as well as the general environment in the constituencies where the elections were held.
In the preliminary report, FAFEN said that the elections remained peaceful and free from any major controversy.
However, the voter turnout was lower by 6.3 percent in comparison to the turnout for the National Assembly seats on July 25 last year. "Partly due to warm weather that discouraged people from coming out to vote, low turnout can also be attributed to an increase in the number of total voters registered in these districts by 285,976 in June 2019," the report states. One of the reasons, according to the report, for low turnout is that a majority of voters may be residing in other parts of Pakistan.
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"Supervised directly by ECP officials as district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs), the crucial election processes before and on Election Day was largely managed in accordance with the provisions of the Elections Act, 2017, with nearly complete access to all critical electoral processes to independent observers. The finding reinforces FAFEN’s long-term recommendation that ECP should appoint DROs from within its own cadre of officials to supervise all elections, including the general elections," the report says.
Almost 20 percent of women voters turned out to vote in this election as compared to 23.8 percent on July 25, 2018. Similarly, it says, around 33 percent of men voters voted in this election as compared to 40.3 percent on July 25, 2018.
According to LTOs, FAFEN observers were allowed to enter about 95 percent of the polling stations. Security officials stopped the observers at about 93 percent polling stations, citing technical issues with their ECP accreditation cards, a matter resolved by prompt intervention by the provincial election commissioner.
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The overall environment remained peaceful with FAFEN observers reporting three incidents of violence in Khyber, Mohmand and Kurram, leading to interruption in the voting process. In PK-105 Khyber-I and PK109 Kurram-I, FAFEN observers reported clashes between workers of rival candidates.
Two people were reportedly injured in an incident of firing outside a polling station in PK-103 Mohmand-I. The conduct of the polling staff and security officials was in line with the provisions of the law.