Lessons from LB polls

Legal and procedural irregularities observed during the first phase of Sindh’s LB polls last June repeated themselves

January 21, 2023

The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), a well-regarded election monitor, has raised several questions over the recent Sindh local government polls, while also noting that the weaknesses exposed during the local elections do not bode well for general elections, which are expected sometime this year. Fafen notes that weaknesses in the legislative framework that governs elections are to blame for most of the problems seen during the polls, and it would require concerted and sincere efforts by all political parties to rectify the issues.

Fafen’s report says that continuing political instability will erode public trust in democracy and also lower the ability of the winners of the next elections to govern effectively. The also notes that one of the ways the Election Commission of Pakistan can restore public trust in the electoral process is to talk with political actors and actually address their concerns, rather than brushing them aside. The report also contains observations about the variations in turnout and how the elections were generally peaceful, although these may not have much significance in the context of the next general elections, since turnout is usually higher during nationwide polls.

But legal and procedural irregularities that were observed during the first phase of Sindh’s local polls last June repeated themselves this time around, despite the ECP having about seven months to rectify the situation. Instead, polling staff at some locations were seen violating several rules, including improperly filling out results and other forms, while some polling stations lacked staff and facilities, or were otherwise poorly set up, including improperly spaced voting booths and lax enforcement of campaigning and canvassing restrictions around polling places.

Meanwhile, despite similar controversy during the 2018 general elections and most polls since, the ECP still can’t offer accurate schedules for when results will be forthcoming, only telling people to ‘be patient’ and accept inexplicable delays.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2023.

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