More than 100 violations observed in NA-249 by-elections, says FAFEN

People are queued up at a polling station waiting for their turn to cast their vote during by-elections in NA-249, in Karachi, on April 29, 2021. — Online/Sabir Mazhar/File

More than 100 violations of election laws were observed during the April 29 NA-249 by-elections in Karachi, the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) said in a detailed report on the polls on Friday.

“On election day, FAFEN’s trained citizen observers reported 143 violations, of which 55 related to the presence of party camps in the polling stations’ surroundings,” the report said.

In 11 instances, the polling staff did not allow voters to cast votes and sent them back, the report said, adding that at 19 polling stations, the observers saw that COVID-19 SOPs were not implemented at all.

However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had ensured strict compliance to the COVID-19 standard operating procedures overall, the report noted.

“The other 58 instances of violations pertained to procedural irregularities, mainly in voting and counting processes. On average, the observers reported 1.3 violations per polling station,” it said.

Twelve political parties fielded their candidates in the NA-249 by-election while 18 candidates contested independently.

Voter turnout

The by-election saw a substantial decline in voter turnout, mainly due to the hot weather and Ramadan, the detailed report said.

“Despite a competitive campaign, the poll recorded a turnout of 21.6 percent of registered voters — dropping from 40 percent reported for the constituency during General Elections 2018,” it noted.

Voter satisfaction

The FAFEN observers had asked voters how satisfied they were with the voting process, at which voters outside 98 polling stations — 18 men’s, 17 women’s, and 53 combined — expressed their satisfaction. “In contrast, voters outside the remaining polling stations said they were partially satisfied,” the FAFEN report said.

Voter secrecy

The observers found election material in enough quantities at all of the observed polling stations, except for two incidents of unauthorised individuals going behind the secrecy screens at two polling stations, it said.

“There were no other incidents that compromised voters’ secrecy. Except for two cases, the observers did not see party workers persuading voters inside the polling stations,” the report said.

Polling arrangements

FAFEN observers reported the polling process was generally well organised at the observed polling stations. Nearly 84% (94) of the monitored polling stations had polling booths in separate rooms.

“However, around 18 polling stations — five each male and female and eight combined — housed more than one booth in a single room,” the report said.

The polling agents of contesting candidates were present at all the observed polling stations, it said, adding that all were seated perfectly and could easily observe the process.

Changes in vote shares across parties

Twelve political parties fielded their candidates in the NA-249 by-election while 18 candidates contested independently, noted the report.

The party analysis shows significant changes in the vote shares of different political parties.

Muhammad Faisal Vawda of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won from this constituency during the General Elections 2018. He had secured 27 percent (35,349) of the total polled votes (131,190). Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Mian Shehbaz Sharif finished runner-up with 26 percent (34,626) of the polled votes.

In the April 29 by-election Abdul Qadir Mandokhel of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) won by securing 22 percent (16,156) of the total polled votes (73,471). The party had secured only six percent (7,236) of polled votes during General Elections 2018.

The NA-249 seat had fallen vacant due to the resignation of PTI MNA Muhammad Faisal Vawda, who became a senator in the election on March 3, 2021.

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