Election Observation Report (Opening Process) NA-154 (Lodhran-I)
Monday (February 12, 2018)
This report is issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the by-election at NA-154 (Lodhran-I). Total number of Registered voters in the constituency is 4,31,002 including 2,36,496 male voters and 1,94,506 female voters. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 338 with 1043 polling booths, 566 for male voters and 477 for female voters. This report presents the observation of the opening process of polling in the constituency.
The observation teams reached the designated polling stations at 7:30 am to assess the preparedness of the polling staff and to observe the opening process. At 17% of the sampled polling stations the security staff obstructed entry of the observers. This matter was taken up with the returning officer and at majority of polling stations issue was resolved. At polling station #193 and #49 the situation prolonged further. Finally, on intervention of a senior security official the matter was resolved at PS#193; but permission was not granted to the observation team deputed at PS#49. It is pertinent to mention here that all CED observers have been duly accredited by the ECP.
Before entering the polling stations the observers assessed the environment outside the polling station. Voter enthusiasm was observed to be moderate in the morning and observers reported queues of voters outside the gates of 9% polling stations before start of the voting. Situation outside the polling station before the start of the polling was generally calm and no incident of violence was reported, the security forces were in good control of the security arrangements.
The observers reported violation of election code outside 27% sampled polling stations. At all of the reported polling stations voters were being transported by the candidates while 50% of these polling stations had the issue of voter 'parchi' distribution by parties.
Starting time of the polling is 8 am however 36% of the sampled polling stations started late. Out of those polling stations that started late, the delay of 11-30 minutes was observed at 25% and 1-10 minutes at 75% polling stations. Major cause of delay was unpreparedness of staff; however, at polling station # 139 the delay occurred because polling staff waited for polling agents to arrive before opening the polling station for voting.
The polling station lay out at the start of the polling was found to be suitable for voting at 80% sampled polling stations while from 20% polling stations observers reported issues of insufficient space for instance polling set-up established in the corridor of the building instead of rooms or in congested place.
Sufficient essential polling material i.e. ballot boxes, secrecy screens, seals, indelible ink, voters' lists etc. was present at all the sampled polling stations at the start of the polling.
The CED observers reported that the ECP staff followed opening procedure at majority of the sampled polling stations. The empty ballot boxes were shown at 91% polling stations while 100% ballot boxes were sealed in clear view of polling agents and observers. At 9% polling stations the presiding officer did not count the received ballot papers before start of the polling while at 22% instances they did not make record of this counted number. The polling started at all polling booths in presence of the polling agents from major political parties.
The CED observers noted that the opening process generally remained calm and no untoward incident was reported at the sampled polling stations; no formal complaint was lodged during the opening process. However, the observers noted presence of unauthorized persons inside some polling stations before start of the polling. For instance, at polling stations #139 office bearers of a major political party were seen inside the premises and the polling staff did not ask them to leave, reported the CED observers.
The observers also reported about presence of party polling agents at the start of the polling. PML (N) had largest number of polling agents at male sampled polling booths with presence at 69% booths, while PTI polling agents covered largest number of 71% female sampled polling booths during the opening process. PPPP polling agents were present at 38% sampled male booths during the opening process.
About CED: CED is a civil society coalition for voter education, election observation and strengthening democratic institutions. Its secretariat is based at CPDI