Low Turnout By-Election Marked by Campaigning Violations, Inconsistent Procedural Compliance — FAFEN

ISLAMABAD, April 19, 2022: Abysmally low turnout, inconsistent procedural compliance, and widespread campaigning and canvassing on the polling day marked the NA-33 Hangu by-election, which remained peaceful and free of any controversy.

With only 14 percent of the registered voters – 19 percent male voters and six percent female voters – exercising their right to vote, the Hangu by-election witnessed the lowest voter turnout among all by-elections held since General Election (GE) 2018. Women turnout made up almost 20 percent of the total polled votes. The constituency had recorded a 29 percent voter turnout in GE-2018.

The campaigning and canvassing in the close vicinity of polling stations remained the most widespread violation of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) code of conduct for contesting candidates and political parties. Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) observers found camps setup by candidates or contesting parties in the vicinity of 76 percent of the observed polling stations.

FAFEN observers found election materials in adequate quantities at most of the observed polling stations. Inside the polling booths, necessary arrangements were made to protect the secrecy of voters except for 12 percent of the observed booths where secrecy screens were placed in a manner that compromised the voters’ secrecy.

The voting process was largely compliant with the legal and procedural instructions. However, sporadic instances of procedural irregularities were documented across the observed polling stations. At 24 percent of the observed polling stations, FAFEN observers reported instances of voters being turned away as their names were not listed on the electoral roll, indicating issues with either the polling scheme or lack of voter information particularly regarding the use of ECP 8300 service. According to observers, the security officials were allowing voters to enter the polling stations only after checking their National Identity Cards (NICs) outside 81 percent, and voter parchis outside 57 percent of the observed polling stations, a responsibility that is not assigned to them. The Election Commission may clarify the role of the police and security officials on guard outside the polling stations in their code of conduct.

The compliance with the due procedure for closing of the poll and ballot counting process was noted to be varied across the polling stations. The ballots at 39 percent of the observed polling stations were counted with open doors, compromising the security of the process. Following the preparation of results, the polling officials provided copies of Form-45 (Result of the Count) to the polling agents in 83 percent of the observed polling stations, but they did not paste it at a conspicuous place outside the polling station building for public inspection in case of 44 percent polling stations, an area which needs further emphasis in the training of Presiding Officers. Moreover, the polling agents/candidates refused to sign forms 45 and 46 (Ballot Paper Account) each at 11 percent of the observed polling stations.

The ECP had set up 210 polling stations, assigning more than 1,200 voters to 156 (74 percent) polling station, which is a legally recommended limit of voters assigned to a polling station. Moreover, FAFEN observers reported more than one polling booth in the same room at 35 (39 percent) polling stations making the polling space congested for voters.

FAFEN had deployed a total of 33 non-partisan, trained and duly accredited observers including 24 men and nine women. This report is based on the observation of polling process at 222 polling booths of 89 polling stations and the counting process at 18 polling stations.

Three political parties i.e. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan (JUI-P) and Awami National Party (ANP) had fielded their candidates for NA-33 Hangu by-election while two candidates ran independently. According to the ECP result, the largest votes share (48.7 percent) was bagged by PTI candidate, followed by the JUI-P (42.8 percent) and ANP (7.8) percent. The independent candidates secured 0.7 percent of the polled votes. A comparison of votes polled to two main contenders (PTI and JUI-P) during GE-2018 and recent by-election shows a marked increase in PTI’s vote share, which rose from 36.9 percent in 2018 to 48.7 percent in 2022 while JUI-P’s vote share also increased from 36.0 percent to 42.8 percent in 2022 by-election. According to FORM-47 (Provisional Consolidated Statement of the Results of the Count), a total 537 votes were excluded from the count.

During the General Election 2018, Mr. Khayal Zaman had won this constituency on PTI’s ticket by securing 28,819 polled votes while the JUI (P) Attiq-ur-Rehman was declared as runner-up candidate by securing 27,968 polled votes. The seat had fallen vacant due to the death of Mr. Khayal Zaman on February 14, 2022. The winner in the by-election is son of the deceased legislator.

Download the full report here: "Low Turnout By-Election Marked by Campaigning Violations, Inconsistent Procedural Compliance"

FAFEN-NA-33-Hangu-By-Election-Observation-Report

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