ISLAMABAD, April 18, 2017: At least three polling stations in Dhurnal, Dhaular and Mogla villages in Chakwal reported zero turnout of women as the people went to polls in the by-election for a Punjab Assembly constituency (PP-23) on Tuesday, observes Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).
Copies of the Statements of the Count (Form-XVI) for polling stations nos. 182 (Dhaular), 159 (Dhurnal) and 190 (Mogla) confirm that no women had voted. As many as 1,164 women voters are registered at these polling stations. Media reports in the past also highlighted barriers to women voting particularly in Dhurnal.
FAFEN is confirming similar reports from other polling stations in these three villages. As many as 15 polling stations – 13 combined and one each for male and female – have been established in these three villages where 9,543 women are registered as voters.
Notwithstanding issues of women’s participation in some polling stations, the by-election proceedings were peaceful amid heavy deployment of security. ECP officials were successful in dissuading election day canvassing at a majority of polling stations. The party camps were seen within the prohibited prescribed limits of 400 yards around 15 (23%) polling stations. Similarly, the provision of transport to voters by candidates and political parties was also observed to be curtailed with only a quarter of polling stations reporting this activity.
The issue of bar on accredited FAFEN observers, however, persisted. FAFEN observers, duly accredited by the ECP, could not observe the proceedings at six polling stations as they were denied entry by security personnel deployed outside the polling stations.
FAFEN observers reported a total of 70 incidents of violations from 65 (33%) out of 198 polling stations with an average of 1.07 violations per polling station. This average is lower than the average violations recorded in the last by-election held in PB-7-Ziarat for a Balochistan Assembly constituency in March 2017.
Reports of unauthorized persons accompanying voters behind voting screens were received from two polling stations, and armed civilians’ presence in the party camps at one polling station. Voters were seen carrying vote vouchers with election symbols of contesting candidates at 16 polling stations.
PP-23 seat fell vacant due to the death of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N) Malik Muhammad Zahoor Anwar. As many as eight candidates – six representing political parties and two independents– contested the by-election.
For the observation of this election, FAFEN trained and deployed 21 non-partisan citizens – two women and 19 men – to observe the polling processes at 103 polling stations. However, this preliminary report comprises of information acquired from 65 polling stations. Observers underwent a day-long comprehensive training to observe the opening, voting, closing ad counting processes at polling stations.
The constituency registered a 12% increase in the number of registered voters for by-election as compared to 2013 General Elections. There was an overall increase of almost 14% in the number of women voters in constituency between 2013 and 2017.