The case of rejected votes

The number of rejected votes is a major talking point post the July 25 vote

Editorial July 31, 2018

The number of rejected votes is a major talking point post the July 25 vote. Of the 54,319,922 votes polled across the country, 1,663,039 votes stood rejected. At a little over 3 per cent, the number of invalid votes may not be too big an issue, given that elections even in developed countries generally produce around this much. But what has stirred controversy is the fact that in a big number of National Assembly constituencies — besides many more in the four provinces — the number of rejected ballots is higher than the margin of victory.

Consider the case of NA-21 (Mardan-II). Amir Haider Azam Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP) won the election in this National Assembly constituency bagging 78,911 votes and Mohammad Atif of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was the runner-up with 78,878 votes. While the margin of victory is a mere 33 votes, the number of votes that were turned down stood at 5,790. This very low margin of victory amid this high number of invalid votes is understood to expect the trailing candidate to ask for a recount. There are at least two National Assembly constituencies, according to the ECP data, where the number of rejected votes is in excess of 15,000.

The matter of rejected votes may well be rooted in poor election day arrangements, besides the lack of voter education. But a smaller victory margin, in comparison with higher number of rejected votes, has provided room for the losing candidates in many constituencies to raise allegations of partiality. And since recount requests have been approved only in selected cases — despite the law clearly allowing a recount if the margin of victory is less than 5% of the total votes polled in the constituency or 10,000 votes — it is adding to the complaints of rigging and fraud. Whether the allegations fit the definition of partiality or election fraud is a matter of probe, but a question mark hangs over the credibility of the Election 2018. The ECP needs to at least take the recount requests seriously and dispose them of to the satisfaction of the complainants.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2018.

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PakPukudenguta | 3 years ago | Reply The results will be different if elections are held again now.
cautious | 3 years ago | Reply When PTI lost by a landslide they tried to close down Pakistan over questionable election fraud claims. Now that the shoes on the other foot I wonder how they will respond if opponents decide to do likewise.
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