ISLAMABAD: Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has observed serious violations of electoral laws at Punjab Provincial (PP) 38 by-election in Sialkot, which was held on Wednesday.
A report on the PP-38 by-election released by FAFEN here on Friday said that serious violations of rules and codes of conduct were observed by FAFEN observers as an average of two violations per polling station were observed.
FAFEN observers had reported an average of one violation per observed polling station in the last by-election, which was held on a Sindh Assembly seat in Badin district (PS-70 Badin-I) on May 20, 2021.
Illegal campaigning and canvassing around majority of the observed polling stations for PP-38 by-election was observed.
FAFEN observers found candidates or contesting parties’ camps set up in the vicinity of 88 percent observed polling stations.
The compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Covid-19 prevention showed a varied trend across the constituency with nearly 50 percent of the observed polling stations partially enforcing the SOPs.
Although lower in number, if compared with the constituency turnout during general elections 2018, by-election on PP-38 Sialkot attracted a large number of voters, despite, rainy weather and ongoing fourth wave of Covid-19 pandemic with 55.3 percent voters- 56.6 percent men and 53.9 percent women- coming out to vote for Wednesday’s by-election.
During general elections, the constituency had witnessed a cumulative turnout of 59 percent. However, PP-38 by-election turnout is greater than the recent by-election for NA-249 Karachi West-II, PS-70 Badin, and PP-84 Khushab-II, which registered a turnout of 22 percent, 35 percent, and 53 percent, respectively.
FAFEN deployed a total of 33 non-partisan, trained and duly accredited observers- 25 men and eight women- to observe the polling processes at 126 polling stations.
As for polling arrangements, election authorities had assigned more than 1,200 voters to a polling station, which is a legally recommended limit of voters on a polling station, at more than two thirds of the polling stations (114 or 69 percent).
FAFEN observers reported more than one polling booth in the same room at 48 polling stations – 11 male, 18 female, and 19 combined – making the polling space congested for voters.
The seating arrangements for the candidates’ polling agents at 122 (97 percent) observed polling stations, however, were observed to be proper enabling them to observe the polling processes firsthand and raise objections or make challenges.
The observers found election materials in adequate quantities at all observed polling stations except one.
Moreover, all due arrangements were made at the polling stations to protect the secrecy of voters except for five polling stations where secrecy screens were placed improperly compromising the secrecy of voters’ choice.
FAFEN observers interviewed at least three voters outside every observed polling station about their satisfaction with the polling processes and the overall environment of the by-election. Voters outside 104 (83 percent) polling stations expressed their satisfaction with the entire polling process. Voters outside 16 (13 percent) polling stations were partially satisfied. Only one interviewer expressed complete dissatisfaction with the polling process.
Three political parties i.e. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had fielded their candidates for PP-38 Sialkot-IV by-election, while five candidates ran independently.
A comparison of votes polled to two main contenders (PTI and PML-N) during GE-2018 and recent by-election shows a marked increase in the PTI’s vote share, which rose from 32.8 percent in 2018 to 48.5 percent in 2021, while the PML-N’s vote share slightly decreased from 46.6 percent to 43.6 percent.
The PTI candidate has returned from the constituency, as per provisional result, by securing 62,657 votes.
The by-election was necessitated due to the death of PML-N Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Chaudhry Khush Akhtar Subhani, who had won this constituency during the GE-2018 by securing 57,617 votes.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021