While the PML-N bagged the largest share of approximately 27.7pc of polled votes in the recently-held cantonment board elections, the PTI has emerged as the largest party in 13 cantonment boards, reports the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).
According to data collected by FAFEN observers from the respective ROs, the PML-N bagged the largest share of approximately 27.7pc of polled votes, closely followed by PTI with 26.9pc, independents with 20.9 percent, PPP with 6.3 percent and TLP with 6.1pc of the votes polled.
But the PTI emerged as the largest party in 13 cantonment boards, followed by PMLN in 10, PPP in three, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in two and Awami National Party (ANP) in one. In two cantonment boards, the mandate is equally split between PTI and PMLN, while in the remaining eight cantonment boards, independent candidates figured as the largest entity.
According to the provisional results released by the Returning Officers (ROs), out of 2,197,441 registered voters in 39 cantonment boards, as many as 699,298 (32 percent) exercised their right to vote. The voter turnout was particularly low in cantonment boards in Sindh (21 percent), while it remained the highest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (43 percent).
Around one-third of the registered voters in Pakistan’s cantonment boards cast their vote on September 12, 2021 in largely peaceful, orderly and noncontroversial election in an otherwise competitive but highly fragmented political environment. The acceptability of election outcome by major political contenders is a positive first that will help strengthen democratic traditions.
The cantonment boards have taken lead among the four provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to elect the local governments for the second term under the new LG laws. This will also set an example for the provinces to hold the long overdue LG elections, which they have been delaying over one pretext or the other. Elections were held in 205 wards of 39 (of a total of 42) cantonment boards, while those in Cherat, Murree, Galliyat and Kamra were decided unopposed.
The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) had deployed 120 trained, non-partisan and duly accredited observers at 392 polling stations to generate independent information and analysis about the electoral process.
According to these observers, the election day was efficiently managed and remained largely peaceful. Observers reported an average of seven violations of law, rules and code of the conduct from each polling station.
Although, many of these were minor in nature, but some were serious violations such as illegal campaigning and canvassing around polling stations, bar on legally-accredited observers, instances of breach of secrecy of voters and few incidents of minor violence.
The Election Commission deployed 30 District Returning Officers (DROs), 51 Returning Officers (ROs) and 81 Assistant Returning Officers (AROs). As many as 11,650 personnel including Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers were deputed at 1,648 polling stations with 5,001 polling booths.
The participation of women candidates remained disconcertingly low with only 19 women (one percent) out of 1,499 contested these elections. Of these 19, nine contested independently, while three were awarded tickets by PPP, two by PTI and one each by PMLN, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JIP) and PML.
Despite Section 206 of the Elections Act, 2017 warranting political parties to ensure a minimum five percent quota for women on elective seats including candidates for the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, it remains unclear whether and how it may be applied upon for the local government elections.
A little less than two-thirds of the 1,499 candidates that contested elections on 205 general wards represented 20 political parties, while around one-third of the candidates ran independently. On an average, seven candidates contested in every ward within the cantonment boards of Punjab. This ratio was eight each for Sindh and Balochistan, and five for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to the Cantonments (Amendment) Act, 2015, the directly elected members of the ward will serve as Electoral College for election on reserved seats of women, peasants, workers, youth and non-Muslims. The ECP-accredited FAFEN observers were barred from at least seven polling stations. Similarly, they were not allowed to observe the counting processes at three polling stations. FAFEN observers reported 125 instances of partially disorganized voting due to overcrowding of voters at 82 polling stations.
As many as 112 instances were recorded where voters were turned away as their votes were not registered at 50 polling stations.
In 13 instances from five polling stations, voters were allowed to vote without the original National Identity Card (NIC), and instead they produced other identity documents. In 18 instances at seven polling stations, contrary to Section 26 of the Elections Act, 2017, the polling staff did not allow the voters to vote because due to expired NIC.
In breach of voters’ privacy, FAFEN observers witnessed 41 instances where unauthorized persons accompanied voters behind the secrecy screens, and stamped ballots on their behalf. At 13 polling stations in six cantonment boards, the polling agents were not provided copies of statements of the count. Almost half of the observed polling stations were accessible to the persons with disabilities (PWDs), while 198 polling stations were not wheel-chair friendly as they were either not established on the ground floor nor they had ramps. At 198 polling stations, the election and security staff extended preferential treatment to PWDs by allowing them to enter first.
As part of its observation methodology, FAFEN observers interviewed a total of 1,197 voters, of which, 1,039 voters in 38 cantonment boards expressed their satisfaction with the polling process, while voters 158 were either indifferent or dissatisfied.
Similarly, during the campaign period, FAFEN representatives interviewed 51 candidates in 13 cantonment boards to gauge their level of satisfaction with the electoral operations. With an exception of a few, the majority expressed satisfaction with the process. The PTI candidates or its allies in federal and provincial governments were generally satisfied while nine candidates of PMLN and JI complained about the 'lethargic' attitude of the ECP.
Three candidates – JI, PPP and an independent – claimed to have filing complaints over the delimitation process, transferring votes from one area to another, and the alleged misuse of administrative and official resources by the treasury lawmakers and ministers of federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments. A majority of 45 candidates complained their opponents were spending beyond the permissible limit of Rs200,000 during the campaign period. None of the interviewed candidates, however, mentioned any incidence of intimidation.
This was despite the fact that PMLN was not in the government and people had little hope for allocation of resources for their well-being from PMLN.