Home Blog

FAFEN Urges ECP to Maximize

ISLAMABAD July 3, 2007: Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) welcomes the two-week extension announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the public display of computerised draft electoral lists, but notes with concern the low level of voter enrolment so far recorded over the past three weeks.

According to data from FAFEN observers nationwide collected through a statistical sample of 506 randomly selected Election Commission Display Centres, an average of 4.33 voters per day filled out Form IV for inclusion of their name on the new, computerized, draft electoral roll in each Display Centre.  Drawing from this data, a total of only about 3.54 million new voters might have been added to the voters’ list from all 45,000 Centres by July 3.

However, the number of voters who might have been registered is only a fraction of the estimates of the number of “missing” voters from the list that range between 33 and 38 million.

The present situation posses a dilemma for the Election Commission of Pakistan which has no option but to resort to discretionary powers vested in the Chief Election Commissioner by the Electoral Rolls Act 1974 to register millions of voters who otherwise will be disenfranchised.

FAFEN reiterates its recommendation offered in an Open Letter to the Chief Election Commissioner on June 22 that every citizen who has been issued a Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) and is on the NADRA rolls should automatically be included on the new electoral roll without having to file any form to the Election Commission.  The NADRA and ECP databases should be reconciled.

Extension in the outreach of Display Centres is also required, particularly to female eligible voters. This can be done by recruiting and training urgently as many female DCIOs as possible, establishing separate Women’s Display Centres, and making some male and female DCIOs mobile. Moreover, the ECP should also encourage political parties and civil society organizations to mobilise more voters to the display centres.

FAFEN believes that one of the factors that led to the low turnout of voters at the Display Centres could have been inefficiencies in the management of the Display Centres. The way the Display Period was mismanaged raise concerns for the capacity of the ECP to train more than 600,000 polling officials to manage as many as 70,000 polling stations and 200,000 polling booths for the upcoming general elections.

FAFEN data reveals that 39.7% of Display Centre Information Officers interviewed in 4,064 Display Centres in all provinces never received any training, and 12.8% did not receive the ECP Manual of Instruction.

The lack of clear instructions by the Election Commission to its Display Centre Information Officers led DCIOs to insist that voters must present their NIC or CNIC card in order to register to vote and that voters must attend a judicial hearing to confirm their registration, which are both contrary to ECP procedures in the DCIO Manual of Instruction.

DCIOs also violated several other basic procedures regularly, including 23.7% not allowing members of the public to look directly at the electoral roll to check their names, 17.9% not helping eligible voters to fill out forms, 34.3% not drawing a diagonal line across the bottom of each log page to prevent false names from being added, and 39.6% not attaching the top copy of the log around the relevant forms.

These details in procedure are significant for any electoral administration, which must be technically sound to be legitimate.  They are particularly important in advance of Pakistan’s next general elections since polling officials will need to learn new procedures related to new, transparent ballot boxes and their numbered security seals.  The investment in these important election commodities will be wasted if care is not taken to train all polling officials in their correct use for the integrity and security of the election.

FAFEN urges the CEC to issue an immediate instruction/clarification to all DCIOs through the Assistant Election Commissioners (AECs), Registration Officers (ROs), and Assistant Registration Officers (AROs) to allow eligible voters to fill out ECP Form IV for inclusion on the electoral roll even if they do not have their CNIC/NIC with them, as long as they have their CNIC/NIC number.

Moreover, DCIOs must also be instructed to tell eligible voters that a Revising Authority might call them for a hearing about their request for inclusion on the electoral roll, but that Revising Authorities will review the requests with a summary inquiry that in most cases will not require a hearing.

At the same time the ECP needs to put in place effective monitoring mechanisms now to alert it to problems in electoral administration in a timely and effective way, potentially engaging civil society in this effort.

About FAFEN:

The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is a coalition of thirty leading Pakistani civil society organizations. It was established in 2006 to observe the election process, educate voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reform.