Long-term reform stressed: Electoral process -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Long-term reform stressed: Electoral process

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: A coalition of 40 prominent NGOs working for free and fair elections has called for long-term electoral reform in the country.

Releasing a post-election day report at a press briefing here, the secretary general of Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) Sarwar Bari said the new government should include electoral system reform high on its agenda, including all legal and administrative aspects, adding the 2007 computerised voters list should be improved by addition of all eligible voters missing on the list and deletion of all duplicate and other fictitious records.

He stressed that the Election Commission must be independent of politics and bureaucracy. It must have full control and accountability over all aspects of election administration.

He said the EC should introduce time-bound complaint and appeal redressal mechanisms. Political parties must educate their candidates on the need to adhere to election rules and codes of conduct.

He aid the elections were held in an environment marred by security fears, the assassination PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and a boycott campaign by some political parties.

He said Fafen had raised concerns about a broad range of irregularities in the pre-election phase.

Procedures relating to nomination and appointment of election officials and identification of polling station locations were unevenly implemented.

Another area of concern was the widespread violation of the election expense limits by contesting candidates. Absence of election expense limit on political parties also led to a glut of campaign advertisements. He said use of government resources was more prevalent in districts where nazims were supporting PML-Q candidates.

Meanwhile, another cluster of civil society organisations said that in Karachi, Tharparkar and Khushab several incidents of rigging were reported.

“Observers are puzzled how huge numbers of votes have been cast in sectors where the number of voters seemed to be small.” It was also reported that in several constituencies polling agents from major parties other than MQM were not allowed into the polling stations and election camps set up by the opposing parties were removed.

Insani Haqooq Ittehad, which includes Human Rights Commission of Pakistan), Actionaid, Woman Action Forum, Strengthening Participatory Organisation, Aurat Foundation, etc., said observers in NA-249 reported very low turnout – around 100 voters or so at each polling station – but final results announced that over 100,000 votes were cast.

In NA-252 polling stations of Bahadur Yar Jung School and KMC Education Office, it was reported that the number of actual voters was very small but the MQM workers laid siege to the place and stamped ballot papers themselves. Presiding officers were threatened and warned not to interfere while ballot papers were being stamped and stuffed into the ballot boxes. Observers claimed that this could be verified by checking the thumb imprints as the polling agent was putting his own thumb print on the counterfoils of all the ballot papers.

In NA-240, the PPP candidate was in the lead throughout but unexpectedly the seat was won by the MQM’s candidate.

In NA-253’s Sachal Goth, the polling station was shifted to another place on the day before polling.

In NA-250, journalists and observers were not allowed to enter. This is the seat that was won by an MQM candidate whereas trends had shown that she was trailing her opponent a short while before close of polling.

In NA-249, a popular MQM candidate suddenly won a trend that until 10pm had shown him to be losing.

Source: Dawn
Date:2/20/2008