FAFEN calls for urgent partnerships to increase voter registration
ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), on Wednesday, urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to forge collaboration with political parties and civil society organizations in order to register more voters, especially women, on the Final Electoral Roll (FER) 2012.
Political parties, in particular, were urged to cooperate fully with the ECP in the effort for shared national interests. Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-2012 estimates the current adult population in Pakistan at 104.64 million while the FER 2012 lists 84.3 million voters, implying that as many as 20.3 million eligible citizens were not included in the list.
According to estimates based on FAFEN’s assessment of Preliminary Electoral Rolls 2012, as many as 3.6 million of these unregistered voters had acquired CNICs till May 31, 2012. The FER 2012 included 22 percent fewer voters in Balochistan and seven percent fewer voters in Sindh compared to the FER 2007. The number of women voters on the lists decreased more than 600,000 in Balochistan and almost 400,000 in Sindh from 2007 to 2012. More than 300,000 of these women already had CNICs, but had not been included on the new voters’ lists. Although the voters’ lists were incomplete, the information they included was highly accurate, according to FAFEN’s technical study. An important exception was that 11 million voters were registered to vote according to the address on their CNICs, where they did not reside and therefore would not be able to vote.
For these reasons, FAFEN recommended that ECP host a series of meetings with political parties and civil society to provide transparent, detailed information about FER 2102 and to enlist their help, especially in localities where ECP knew that voter registration was low. FAFEN also requested the ECP to make the voters’ lists available at every union council office across the country, since district election commission offices were too far away for most citizens to have meaningful access. The ECP should amend voter registration rules so that each union council office was a “one-stop-shop” for additions and corrections to the list, in order to avoid the current time-consuming multi-step process. Other rules should be changed to enable citizens to give consent to register as a voter at the time of acquiring a CNIC, according to FAFEN.
This change would especially help women getting their CNICs for the first time and people who are turning 18 years of age. While welcoming the NADRA’s appeal to the political parties to come forward in identifying the people who have not yet got CNICs, FAFEN emphasizes that citizen and voter registration should concentrate more on remote areas where the deficit in voter registration was comparatively higher. The ECP also has the responsibility to motivate eligible voters with a public education campaign on radio and television that provides the location, procedure, and deadline for adding and correcting names on the voters list, FAFEN said. FAFEN encouraged political parties, civil society and media to give their full cooperation to this public education and mobilization efforts.