FAFEN urges ECP to take notice of violations by ROs in results tabulation

FAFEN election audit

ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has called on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to investigate instances of non-compliance by returning officers (ROs) in 135 out of 265 constituencies during the general election.

“These instances contravened legal provisions mandating complete transparency in the election results process, including the preparation of provisional and consolidated results in the constituencies. This lack of compliance has cast a shadow over an otherwise largely controversy-free voting and counting process at polling stations,” the FAFEN said in a statement.

It said that Section 92 of the Elections Act, 2017 requires ROs to prepare and announce the provisional consolidated statement of the results of the count (Form-47) in the presence of contesting candidates, their election agents, and authorized observers.

Similarly, Section 95(1) mandates ROs to conduct the consolidation of results in the presence of contesting candidates and their election agents, while Section 95(9) stipulates the provision of copies of Form-48 and Form-49 (final consolidated result). Section 238 also permits accredited observers to witness the consolidation of results, it said.

“However, in 135 out of 260 National Assembly constituencies, ROs did not adhere to these provisions, undermining the ECP’s efforts to ensure electoral transparency. ROs in these constituencies prohibited FAFEN observers from observing the tabulation process, with 80 in Punjab, 23 in Sindh, 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 in Balochistan, and all three in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) being affected,” it said.

Among these constituencies, candidates and/or their election agents were barred from participating in the tabulation proceedings in 65 constituencies, with 25 won by PML-N, 24 by PTI-backed independents, five by PPPP, four by unaffiliated independents, three by PML, and one each by IPP, BNP, and PkMAP. One constituency remains undecided.

In 80 out of 125 National Assembly constituencies where FAFEN observers were allowed to observe tabulation proceedings, discrepancies were noted. These discrepancies included the opening of tamper-evident bags containing Form-45 (Results of the Count) and Form-46 (Ballot Paper Account) without the presence of candidates and/or their election agents, it said.

According to Rule 84(3) of the Election Rules, 2017, ROs are required to identify arithmetic errors in Form-45 and request Presiding Officers to correct them before electronically resending a copy of the corrected Form-45 to the Commission. However, in 53 National Assembly constituencies, ROs pointed out such errors but failed to ensure correction by the presiding officers concerned, FAFEN said.

Furthermore, inadequate arrangements were made by ROs for the numerous Presiding Officers arriving at their offices to submit election results and materials. Long queues of vehicles, particularly in the winter nights, without proper seating and food arrangements, led to chaotic and crowded environments at tabulation centers in 66 constituencies, as reported by FAFEN observers.

It demanded that the ECP must investigate the non-compliance of ROs to ensure electoral transparency and take action against erring election officials and public servants.

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