NA-249 Karachi by-elections-FAFEN reported 143 violations on polling day

 58 procedural irregularities committed during polling and counting process

The election observers of Free and Fair Election network (FAFEN) observed nearly 143 violations of election laws committed during the NA-249 Karachi bypolls. FAFEN released its detailed report on Saturday May 1, 2021. The violations include procedural irregularities, violations of coronavirus SOPs and others.  

55 violations were 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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). 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 Mandokhail 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.

                                                            Khalid Bhatti 

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