EU mission should have consulted ECP: official

Top election body reviews EUEOM final report on July 25 polls

Our Correspondent October 31, 2018
A soldier keeps watch as voters line up to enter at a polling station during general elections 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday told the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) that its report could be more comprehensive by getting opinion or feedback of the commission at the time of its compiling.

The ECP reviewed in detail the final EUEOM report over the July 25 general election. The meeting was held at ECP headquarters with the EU Election Observation Mission. The meeting was chaired by Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad.

The EUEOM in its report had called for limiting the presence of security personnel to outside polling stations and guaranteeing civilian ownership of the conduct of elections.

Unveiling the EUEOM final report at a news conference last Friday, the chief observer of the mission and member of European Parliament, Michael Gahler, had said that the mission observed undue presence of military inside the polling stations and stressed that “elections are a civilian exercise”.

The report said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had asked the army to provide security for the distribution of election material and allowed their deployment inside as well as outside polling stations. There were 370,000 army personnel deployed on election day -- including many from the reserves -- as compared to 70,000 in 2013. In addition to the army, 450,000 police officers were deployed, it added.

The mission appreciated the ECP on holding of the general election, 2018 in an organised and peaceful manner. The meeting discussed different aspects of the mission report and had an in-depth discussion on the mission's recommendations and suggestions, which were presented in its final report on general election.

The secretary briefed in detail the mission about legal framework of the ECP, election arrangements and holding of general elections 2018.

Drawing attention of the mission on some unnatural points mentioned in the report, he said the report could be more comprehensive by getting opinion or feedback of the commission at time of its compiling.

The mission was informed that the commission had been reviewing the recommendations and suggestions of the mission's report and it will be sent to the parliamentary committee for further reviewing these recommendations.

The European Union had deployed its mission to witness general election-2018 under its international agreements with Pakistan like ICCR, ICER.

“The code of conduct for security officials issued by the ECP on July 6 increased the powers and role of security personnel posted inside and outside of polling stations, including the provision of a parallel structure to report irregularities if the presiding officer did not take action, thus negating the civilian ownership of the electoral process. While a secure environment for voters, candidates and polling staff is essential, the deployment of large numbers of soldiers, and their presence inside polling stations with expanded powers, can result in voter intimidation,” the report stated.

It said various EUEOM interlocutors raised concern over the role of the military inside polling stations, particularly their interventions during the vote count and transmission of the results. “Others described the presence of the army inside polling stations as intimidating and that, in a few cases, it was the security official rather than the presiding officer who was in charge,” it added.


With additional input from APP.


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