ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan must take immediate and effective measures to address critical discrepancies in voter registration especially of women voters, timely finalization and adherence to polling schemes and consolidation of results to improve the quality, legitimacy, transparency and effectiveness of elections.
The FAFEN has put forth these recommendations on the basis of findings compiled in its first detailed report titled “National Assembly Election Result Analysis” based on data gathered through citizens’ observation of General Elections 2013 and Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) official documents.
Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT), turnout trends, voting patterns and an in-depth analysis performance of political parties, are the key features of this report, which analyzes the results of 266 out of 272 National Assembly constituencies.
FAFEN says that the issue of voter registration is of primary concern as the number of registered voters in General Elections 2013 decreased in 100 NA constituencies compared to the General Elections 2008 despite a considerable increase in the issuance of Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs).
The under-registration of women voters continued to undermine universal suffrage, equal representation and their constitutionally-promised measures to enhance participation of women in national life. Of the 86.2 million voters, 43.6 percent were women compared to 80 million voters in 2008 with 44 percent women voters.
The finalization of polling scheme by the ECP two weeks before the Election Day is a legal requirement and it cannot be changed by the Returning Officers (ROs) without prior permission of the ECP and a subsequent notification to that effect. FAFEN found that the number of registered voters in 93 NA constituencies was recorded differently in final polling scheme, election results accruing an absolute discrepancy of 246,858 voters.
The disproportionate and significant increase in the number of rejected votes emerged as one of the major discrepancy - the number increasing from 775,720 in 2002 to 973,694 in 2008 and further increasing to 1,502,717 in 2013 - an increase of 64% compared to 2008 elections.
The issue is critical not merely due to the numbers but also given the skewed distribution across constituencies and regions - the numbers range from 0 in NA-53 to 25,908 in NA-266.
From the results’ perspective, the issue is highlighted further by the fact that the number of rejected votes exceeds the margin of victory in 35 of the 266 constituencies analyzed in this report.
The 2013 elections witnessed returns for parties that varied across regions and provinces. While Sindh largely produced similar results - PPPP dominated rural Sindh while MQM urban areas, particularly Karachi - the other provinces underwent a significant change.