EU mission downplays election-day malfeasance

Final report on July 25 polls blames ECP for making limited efforts to improve transparency, accountability


Our Correspondent October 26, 2018
Michael Gahler, chief observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM), speaks during a news conference in Islamabad on October 26, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The European Union on Friday downplayed opposition allegations of election-day malfeasance, saying that a days-long delay in the delivery of official results was caused by technical failures.

This was stated in the European Union Election Observation Mission's (EU EOM) final report on the July 25 general elections.

The news conference was chaired by the mission's chief, Michael Gahler, who was accompanied by EU's Ambassador to Pakistan Jean-François Cautain to discuss the report's findings.

The opposition had refused to accept the election results, alleging widespread rigging in the vote and cried foul over the failure of the Result Transmission System (RTS) on the election night.

The RTS controversy came to the surface when results of the elections were abruptly stopped around midnight after the daylong polling and later ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad appeared on TV screens and informed the perplexed nation that the RTS had "collapsed" and that the ECP was now returning to the traditional and manual method of tabulating the results and, therefore, there could be an inordinate delay in the announcement of the unofficial results.

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While the use of the technology was hailed by the mission, it expressed overall dissatisfaction with the performance of the RTS. "The lack of contingency planning and of testing the RTS application resulted in the delayed and non-transparent transmission of election results," the report states.

In its findings, among other things the report however observed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) made "limited efforts to improve its transparency and accountability during the electoral period".

According to the mission's observations in the report, while the top election body "met key operational deadlines" and "administered the technical aspects of the election process generally well", it made little headway in ensuring it's transparency and accountability during the electoral period.

"The lack of regular communication with civil society and political parties, as well as timely information to voters on key stages of the electoral process, such as the failure to announce provisional results on time increased the level of distrust between the stakeholders and the ECP, and damaged the institution's reputation," the report noted.

The mission also observed that voter education was severely lacking and "was not implemented in a timely manner". Moreover, information on voting procedures and actions forbidden inside polling stations were not conveyed properly.

Gahler stressed that the ECP should prepare unified electoral rolls by removing the requirement for any supplementary list of voters and ensure greater participation of women on the general seats of parliament.

The observers suggested 30 reforms regarding the election polling system in their final report. Giller said copies of the report are being dispatched to all the institutions including the election commission. "The government and the relevant organisations should consider our recommendations."

EU observers satisfied with poll conduct

He said the observers had faced difficulties during the elections and all the political parties' candidates did not have equal opportunities for election campaigns.

"Media and impartial organisations faced restrictions. Reservations on the electoral results and polling process were also observed."

The European observers suggested that the officials should not have been appointed inside the polling stations as their job is to provide security. "Questions arose on the transparency of the election because of the security forces' personnel inside the polling station."

The observers said that their job was to review the elections in light of the Pakistani and international laws and present recommendations. "The election commission failed to provide information to voters. All party agents should have been provided Form-45."

He said the media was denied access to polling stations at many places and that they have presented 30 recommendations for reforms in the elections. "No reports of expelling polling agents from polling stations were received."

Earlier, mission's chief, Michael Gahler, and EU's Ambassador to Pakistan Jean-François Cautain arrived at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) central secretariat, where they were welcomed by the party's General Secretary, Arshad Dad.

The EU delegation extended their congratulations to the party leadership for their success in the general elections.

The EU delegation also met with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, including Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Raja Zafarul Haq, party spokesperson Marriyum Aurganzeb, and party leader Musaddiq Malik.

The EU EOM was in Pakistan from June 24 to August 23, during which it undertook the task of "observing all aspects of the electoral process and assess the extent to which the elections complied with international commitments for elections, as well as with national legislation".

With additional input from agencies, News Desk

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